Iceland as the Corn Belt


My mom used to say that certain things in my life would happen "When hell freezes over." She was encouraging like that.

Today the Artic Council is meeting in Reykjavík to discuss polar warming. If you've been reading just about any periodical you know what the concern is.

Morgunbladid, the most established newspaper in Iceland, mentioned one of the headlines: the idea that Iceland could be Europe's corn-belt someday. Check your almanac and you'll see that at present, Iceland has one percent arable land.

The idea is that with Greenland melting at the rate it's going, things could change quickly.

This summer, for example, a sun fish, an enormous, ancient species usually found in warm water, showed up at a local dock. I let word out to some Americans about this, and was asked to write reports as this is the perfect example of global warming.

I noticed also that when we had record heat waves this summer, a large number of environmentalist sites reported it. I wasn't complaining, as they were publishing stories I wrote with my name on it. But in certain contexts, it looked like the heat wave caused by weather fronts from hurricanes in Florida which came here slowly through the gulf stream was instead just hard evidence that we were all too late and the world had given up on us.

The pure water, the pure air, the pristine landscape here. It doesn't take much of an argument to convince people to stop polluting if it means they can enjoy this. But I have to point out that for many the doomsday global warming complaints don't quite scare.

The narrator of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle explains that he decided he wasn't an environmentalist because he felt Mother Nature wasn't an environmentalist. He studied a couple volcano blasts and couldn't believe the damage. Iceland had the perfect example in 1783, when volcano's caused a nuclear winter-type scenario.

Of course this doesn't mean the country should be pro-pollution. But nature sure seems less at the whim of man here. Take this into consideration: I just visited Skalholt, the famed home of Iceland's first bishop and church. Records there discuss the oxen used to bring enormous logs up frozen rivers to build the famed church there. Makes sense, except that oxen can't survive easily here. It's not warm enough, and there aren't resources to house them well. At one point, they weren't necessary.

Things change here. And it's entirely out of our control, it feels.

To return to my mother's comment, there is a town here called Hell. The state run television station recently aired a documentary on Hieronymus Bosch stating that Iceland was his influence for hell. (Though the biographical details seemed to make this a little.impossible.) Anyway, if you start with hell freezing over, are you really going to be surprised by anything? BC

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.