Forests Now Cover 2% of Iceland

Elliðárdalur Reykjavík

Forests and bushes now cover over 2% of Iceland, Vísir reports. That number may not seem like much, but since 1990, the surface area covered by forest or shrubs in Iceland has increased more than six times over – from 7,000 hectares to 45,000. In 20 years, the number is expected to be 2.6%.

The Icelandic Forestry Association (IFA) held a conference last week where the milestone was celebrated. “This is big news,” stated Arnór Snorrason, a forester at the IFA research station at Mógilsá. It’s not only forestry efforts that have increased these numbers, but also Iceland’s remaining natural birch forests, which Arnór says have finally begun expanding for the first time since Iceland was settled.

Read More: One Man Reforestation Project

As much as 40% of Iceland’s surface area was covered by forest before permanent settlers arrived in the ninth century. They chopped down wood for kindling and cleared land for grazing, and their livestock later prevented trees from growing back.

Read more about the history of reforestation in Iceland here.

Vesturbær Residents Come to Aid of New Ukrainian Neighbours

Residents of Reykjavík’s Vesturbær neighbourhood rallied together this weekend to assist Ukrainian refugees who had been given accommodation in Hotel Saga. Residents arranged deliveries of food, clothing, and other essential items to the group of around 100 refugees who had been moved to the hotel on short notice. Nearly 600 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Iceland since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, more than one-quarter of them children.

Hotel not prepared

Gylfi Þór Þorsteinsson, who oversees the reception of Ukrainian refugees in Iceland, acknowledges that the facilities at Hotel Saga were wanting when refugees were moved there, but that the situation has been rectified. “There are beds in the rooms that have been taken into use. The cooking facilities are ready, were ready immediately on Friday. But it is quite right that cleaning and other such things were deficient in the common areas of the [hotel], which we fixed and completed over the weekend,” he told RÚV reporters.

Some of the refugees at Hotel Saga were relocated on short notice from Ásbrú, near Keflavík Airport, the roaring sound of nearby airplanes conducting NATO exercises caused children in the group to panic. Atli Viðar Thorstensen, director of the international department at the Icelandic Red Cross, points out that Iceland has never taken in as many refugees in such a short time, and “the scope is such that [efforts] may not always be as successful as they should be.” He says he believes authorities are doing a good job overall when it comes to receiving refugees from Ukraine, though situations like the one at Hotel Saga may come up.

Residents rally to provide clothing and food

Vesturbær resident Markús Már Efraim created a Facebook group to connect the refugees staying at Hotel Saga with others living in the neighbourhood. Locals have answered the call, arranging food for the group, donating clothing, and providing entertainment for the children at the hotel. Markús has asked would-be helpers to avoid emptying their storage lockers and simply dropping things off at the hotel, rather check first what is needed, either by looking at posts in the group or an online document that has been created where refugees can write down what they need.

As of the time of writing, residents are requesting bicycles or scooters for children and adults, as well as working to set up play dates between children at the hotel and other children living in the neighbourhood.

Icelandic Singer Dísella Lárusdóttir Wins Grammy

Dísella Lárusdóttir

Classical singer Dísella Lárusdóttir was awarded a Grammy last night in the Best Opera Recording category. Dísella snagged the award for a live recording of Philip Glass’ opera Akhnaten. The opera was written in 1983 and is about the life and religious convictions of Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten.

Dísella (b. 1977) is a critically-acclaimed soprano, who has performed in New York’s Metropolitan Opera as well as in Italy. The New York Times has used the words “beauty, ease, and artistry” to describe her singing, as well as calling it “reliably breathtaking.”

Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds was also nominated for two Grammies this year, in the categories of Best Arrangement, Instrument and Vocals, and Best Dance/Electronic Recording.

Dísella Lárusdóttir / Instagram.

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In 1899, American ragtime composer Scott Joplin – living in Sedalia, Missouri – composed The Maple Leaf Rag and hoped to get it published. He took the sheet music to John Stark, one of the leading publishers in town, who looked at it and scoffed.

“There are too many notes!”

Disappointed, Joplin aired his grievances to a young lawyer and a fan, who managed to convince Stark to buy The Maple Leaf Rag on the terms that the composer would receive one penny for each copy sold. Joplin may have thereby become the recipient of the first royalty payment in history.

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