Icelandic Youth Mark One Year of Weekly Climate Strikes

Climate Strike Iceland

Students demonstrated in Austurvöllur square on Friday, demanding that the government take action on climate issues. Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the first weekly School Strike for Climate in Iceland. To mark the day, primary, secondary, and college students gathered in front of Hallgrímskirkja just before noon and marched to Austurvöllur square, in front of the Icelandic Parliament, where student leaders delivered speeches demanding action on climate change.

Vísir reports that young Icelandic activists involved in the ongoing #FridaysForFuture school strikes say the government has yet to take meaningful steps towards addressing climate issues in the country. This was the 52nd Friday that young people in Iceland have demonstrated in support of climate change action.

Jóna Þórey Pétursdóttir, the president of the University of Iceland’s Student Council, told reporters that she believed students’ ongoing protests have had a measurable impact thus far, particularly in terms of making the topic of climate change a public debate and raising awareness about climate issues. “…[W]e’re showing that young people are ready to take matters into our own hands. The goal, of course, was to demand increased measures from the government and we’ve yet to see those. Which is why we’re going to continue,” she remarked.

“We want a bright future,” Brynjar Einarsson, a student at Háteigsskóli primary school, told reporters. “A future that isn’t polluted. One where we can live without needing to be worried that we’re going to die because of climate change.”

Brynjar’s 13-year-old classmate, Jökull Jónsson, has been involved in the school strikes for climate from the beginning, and expressed a certain amount of pessimism about the future, although he did have specific ideas about ways in which Iceland could meaningfully address climate change issues.

“Really, we just need to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible and try to be environmentally friendly.”


Three Avalanches Fall Outside Flateyri

Three avalanches fell near the village of Flateyri in the Westfjords on Friday, RÚV reports. Luckily, all three took place away from residential areas. The Icelandic Met Office issued a red alert for avalanches in the area on Saturday and orange alerts for Sunday and Monday.

The smallest of the reported avalanches occurred in the Ytra Bæjargil ravine; the other two were of medium size and took place in two ravines not far away. The Met Office also recorded four very small avalanches elsewhere in the area before noon on Saturday. These took place in Seljadalur valley (near, but outside of, the village of Bolungarvík), Rauðagil ravine (near Ólafsfjörður – two occurrences), and Oddsskarður ski area near Eskifjörður.

Avalanches are not an uncommon occurrence in the Westfjords and Flateyri, in particular, has a tragic history with them. Just this January, two large avalanches fell on the town, flowing over two protective barriers that were built to prevent just such an occurrence. The slides incurred property damage and completely destroyed the town’s small harbour, but thankfully, no one was seriously injured.

This was unfortunately not the case in the case of the avalanche that fell on the town in the early hours of October 26, 1995. Forty-five people were buried by the immense wave of the snow. Twenty-one individuals managed to dig their own way out and four were saved by rescue services, but 20 people – ten men, six women and four children – lost their lives in the event.

The January avalanches in Flateyri ignited criticisms of the government’s allocations of funds from the Landslide Fund to be used for avalanche protection throughout the country. Former Ísafjörður mayor Halldór Halldórsson estimated that the fund has roughly ISK 23 billion ($1.8 million/€1.66 million), which could be used to improve avalanche protection throughout the country.

According to Halldór, plans were initially drawn in the early 2000s that called for the completion of avalanche mitigation measures by 2010. Later regulation pushed this deadline to 2020; current plans assume that the measures won’t be finalised until 2050.


Orca Completes 8,000km Swim from Iceland to Lebanon

A male orca whale belonging to an Icelandic pod was sighted around Beirut, Lebanon, on February 19 and 20. Per a press release issued by Orca Guardians of Iceland, this is a journey of just over 8,000 kilometres (4,970 miles) and is the longest known one-way distance travelled by any ‘killer whale’ to date.

The whale identified as SN113, or “Riptide,” started his journey off the coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland, where he was last seen in June 2018. He and his pod were later spotted around Genoa, Italy in December 2019 before moving on to Lebanon. Orca Guardians say this is also the first confirmed sighting of an orca in Lebanese waters. RÚV reports that Riptide’s marathon swim has broken the previous record for longest documented distance travelled by an orca by 2,500 km (1,553 miles).

IDENTIFICATION OF SN113 IN LEBANON CONFIRMEDWe hereby confirm the identification of the male orca sighted on 19th and…

Posted by Orca Guardians Iceland on Thursday, February 20, 2020

Orca Guardians head Marie-Thérèse Mrusczok was able to identify Riptide by markings on his dorsal fin and head using photographs of the wandering whale and comparing them to her organisation’s catalogue of 300 individuals. Orca Guardians has some concern for Riptide’s health at this point, as the whale is reported to appear emaciated and is travelling without the other members of its pod, who had been his companions both in Iceland and in Italy.

Orca Guardians report that there are 29 known orca whales that migrate Scotland and Iceland, but that this is the first time an orca has travelled this particular route, from Iceland to Italy to Lebanon. In an interview with RÚV, Marie-Thérèse said that it is, in fact, unusual for an orca to swim into Mediterranean waters at all.

“Orcas have never really been seen before in Lebanon,” she explained. “There were sailors who said they saw them swimming there in the 1980s, but nothing was confirmed. So this is unusual. It was also strange when they were seen in Italy. Orcas don’t usually swim so far into the Mediterranean.”

Fríða Ísberg and Bergsveinn Birgisson Nominated for Nordic Council Literature Prize

The Nordic Council has announced the 13 nominees for its 2020 literature prize. This year’s two Icelandic nominees for the prize are Fríða Ísberg, for her short story collection Kláði (‘Itch’), and Bergsveinn Birgisson, for his novel Lifandilífslækur (‘Vitality Brook’).

“The short story collection Kláði…is a beautiful example of the breath of spring that young writers can bring to literature” the committee wrote in their rationale. “The narrator considers old subjects with new eyes, and the stories are in many ways different from what they were. Renewals and changes are among the most important conditions of life for literature; sometimes they arise when new people take the stage and look at topics in a different light. The narrative method is both realistic and modernist. The value of the work lies first and foremost in a strong emotional approach, which requires the reader to relate to attitudes and values in the present time.”

The committee also commended Bergsveinn for his historical novel, which “…plays out in the borderland between two worlds: the realism and scientism of the 18th century stand opposed to the forces of nature and mysticism. It is hard not to see the work’s reference to modern times, where dangerous dogmatic interests threaten human and emotional intelligence.”

The Nordic Council Literature Prize has been awarded since 1962. It is given to a literary work (poetry, prose, or drama) written in one of the Nordic languages and is meant to “raise interest in the Nordic cultural community and Nordic co-operation on the environment, as well as to recognise outstanding artistic and environmental efforts.” Eight Icelandic authors have previously won the prize: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (2018), Gyrðir Elíasson (2011), Sjón (2005), Einar Már Guðmundsson (1995), Fríða A. Sigurðardóttir (1992), Thor Vilhjálmsson (1988), Snorri Hjartarson (1981), and Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson (1976).

The winner of this year’s prize will be announced on October 27 in Reykjavík in conjunction with a meeting of the Nordic Council. The winner will receive a Northern Lights statuette and DKK 350,000 (ISK 6.49m/€46,856).