Winter bringt Schnee und Sturm

Wer in dieser Woche Fahrten geplant hat, sollte vor allem für heute und morgen einen Plan B in der Tasche haben. Das Wetteramt meldet, dass ab heute mit Schneefall, Sturm und Frost bis zu -14 Grad zu rechnen ist.

Wind und Schnee ziehen von Südwesten her über das Land, die Sicht verschlechtert sich zunehmend. Die Strassenverwaltung meldet, dass im ganzen Land winterliche Fahrbedingungen vorliegen.

Der Wind frischt heute bis auf 18 m/s auf, er bringt zunächst Schnee, bevor es im Südwesten dann wärmer wird und der Niederschlag in Graupel oder Regen übergeht. Dann besteht die Gefahr von Strassenglätte.

Morgen wird es recht windig, vor allem im Nordwesten und Norden, der Wind kommt aus Nord und kann je nach Temperatur Niederschläge mitbringen.

Die aktuellen Wettermeldungen finden Sie auf vedur.is, die Strassenzustandskarte auf road.is, und Warnmeldungen gibt es stets aktuell auf safetravel.is.

Icelanders Have Longest Working Life in Europe

Icelanders work longer than people from any other country in the EU, RÚV reports. These findings support a growing call from labour unions to shorten the existing work week in Iceland. Shortening the work week is thought to be labour unions’ highest priority issue during ongoing wage negotiations.

According to data from Eurostat, the office which provides official statistics for the EU, Icelandic men work on average for almost 49 years and Icelandic women around 45, whereas Swedish men, for example, work 42 years and Swedish women work 40 over a lifetime. On average, Icelandic men work about a decade longer and Icelandic women work five years longer than their peers throughout the European Union.

Icelanders work an average of 45 hours a week. People like Guðmundur D. Haraldsson, a board member of Alda, the Association for Sustainable Democracy, say it’s clear that it would be possible to shorten the work week in Iceland, and not just for people working day shifts, either.

“It’s perfectly realistic for us to work our way towards a 32-hour work week,” Guðmundur remarked. “It would take a long time. But it would not bring productivity down or [have a negative effect on] the economy. It would run its course. There’s every reason to focus on these issues now. There’s a lot more stability than there used to be.”

Adrian Harper, a researcher at the New Economics Foundation, agrees, and told RÚV that there was no doubt that the work week should be shortened, particularly in a country like Iceland, which has so many natural resources.

“A good economy shouldn’t revolve solely around creating more wealth and a higher GDP,” he said. “Rather the economy should revolve around producing more leisure time so that we can better enjoy life. At the end of their lives, no one wishes they’d spent more time working. We shouldn’t just aim for shorter working hours; we could also make it so that we better enjoy life immediately. Particularly in a place like Iceland, which has such wealth and such robust technical know-how, the transformation can begin right now. Working less is good for everyone and for the economy in general.”

Drivers Face New Fines for Children Not Wearing Seat Belts

Route 1 Iceland

As of this weekend, Suðurnes police in South Iceland will be issuing tickets to drivers traveling with children in their vehicles who are not in car seats or wearing seat belts, RÚV reports.

Police spent part of last week at preschools in the Reykjanesbær municipality, monitoring the child safety measures that drivers had in place in their cars. According to a post on the Suðurnes police Facebook page, the “situation was…not good.” In fact, police found that one in ten children encountered during their rounds were neither wearing seat belts nor in car seats.  As such, police have decided to “take a different approach” and fine drivers who are not in compliance with existing child safety laws.

Police were adamant that it didn’t matter if the car trip was a short one, or if parents were running late. No matter the reason, their post read, “[n]ot putting children in the safety equipment required by law is not okay, and having examined this issue and seen the state of things over the last few days, we’ve got to put our feet down and apply sanctions.”

The new fine for not putting a child in a car seat or seat belt in a car is ISK 30,000 ($250/€217).

 

No Prison Psychiatrist in Five Years

Litla hraun prison Iceland

There hasn’t been a psychiatrist working in Icelandic prisons for more than five years, despite that fact that prisoners are guaranteed mental health services by law, RÚV reports. Three individuals incarcerated in Icelandic prisons have committed suicide in the last two years, a fact that is being linked by some to the increasing disarray of prison mental health services.

Three suicides in two years

An Icelandic man just over the age of 40 committed suicide at Litla-Hraun prison last Tuesday. According to DV, the man was sentenced last January to 12 months in prison after repeatedly driving under the influence of drugs. According to the court judgement, the man had previously violated traffic, but not criminal, law.

Anna Gunnhildur Ólafsdóttir, the managing director of Geðhjálp, the Icelandic Mental Health Alliance, says that mental health services in Icelandic prisons are in shambles. “There are four psychologists that have to care for over 1,000 prison clients, and it goes without saying that this is, of course, all too few and there’s a several-week wait for a psychological appointment. There’s no psychiatrist working at Litla-Hraun and in light of the fact that 50-75% of prisoners serving time have mental illnesses, this is a completely unacceptable situation.”

While Anna Gunnhildur was unable to comment on the particular case of the man who recently committed suicide, she affirmed that treatment for incarcerated individuals who struggle with both mental illness and drug addiction is also lacking.

Shortage of mental health services throughout the country

The Ministry of Justice has commented on the current state of mental health services in Icelandic prisons, saying that the human rights of prisoners in Iceland are not guaranteed in this respect as there is a shortage of mental health services throughout the country overall, not just within prisons.

In a radio interview in December, Páll Winkel, the Director-General of Prison and Probation Administration, said that sometimes, prisoners with mental illnesses do not receive parole because there aren’t any accommodations for them outside of prison. Páll pointed to the cases of two prisoners who had committed the same offense: one, who did not struggle with mental illness, received parole, while the other, who did have psychiatric problems, served his full sentence.

“At any given time, there are two to three people in prison who should by rights be in a mental health institution,” remarked Anna Gunnhildur, but for one reason or another, the hospital has often not been confident in admitting seriously ill prisoners in spite of the completely clear legal basis in that regard.”

Southern Iceland Beset by Barnacle Geese

Barnacle geese

A dramatic influx of barnacle geese in South Iceland is raising concern among farmers whose crops are being compromised by these winged invaders, RÚV reports. A recent study shows that the geese are reducing hay harvests by as much as 24%, leading some to call for a longer hunting season to better control the birds’ population.

Last spring, the South East Iceland Nature Research Center investigated the effects of goose grazing on hay harvesting and found that on average, farmers whose fields are beset with barnacle geese are losing three hay bales per hectare (2.471 acres).

“…The fields are just completely stripped by those creatures when they leave at the start of May,” complained Björn Borgþór Þorbergsson, a farmer in Suðursveit. “For example, the thing that was worst about the spring was that there was double the amount of manure and half the harvest on part of the fields.”

GPS trackers show that barnacle geese typically stop over in South and Southeast Iceland in the early part of spring, before continuing on to Greenland where they lay their eggs. The geese have increasingly started nesting in Iceland, however. In 2014, 360 barnacle geese nests were found on Skúmey island in the Jökusárlón glacial lagoon. This went up to 970 in 2017 and last summer, there were over 1,100.

“There’s very little you can really do about it yourself,” said Björn. “Shooting them always returns the best results, but as you know, you’re not allowed to do that in the spring.” Currently, the hunting season for geese begins on September 25, which according to Björn, isn’t early enough.

“[The barnacle goose] is haunting us over the summers, too. He’s become a local here.”