Tourism, Consumption Main Culprits in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increase

tourists on perlan

The release of greenhouse gases increased in Iceland by 2% between 2016 and 2017 according to a new report by the The Environment Agency of Iceland, RÚV reports. Elva Rakel Jónsdóttir, a director at the agency says the results of the report are a disappointment, although not unexpected.

“This is obviously not the results we’d like to see,” Elva says. “We’d like to see these numbers lowering, everybody does. However, we are taking action that we expect to bear fruit in the coming years.”

Elva says that a big part of the increase in greenhouse emissions is the increase in tourism in Iceland and their consumption. She would like to see a change in the rate of consumption among locals and tourists.

“I’m allowing myself to be optimistic in saying that a lot will change in the coming years, especially considering the attention these matters have been getting lately,” Elva says. According to her, people are appalled at how much greenhouse gases are released as a result of their own consumption and how temporarily they use the stuff they buy. “The situation is very serious and we need to take it seriously.”

Elva says that quickest and most effective way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions would be a switch to electric cars, a project the government in Iceland could play a decisive role in making a success. “In Norway we see that their implementation of electric cars has been very fast and that there is a high correlation between government intervention and the popularity of electric cars in the market.”

Mysterious Illness Descends on Icelandic Horses

Horses have been falling ill recently in Iceland, Skessuhorn reports. According to Kristín Þórhallsdóttir, a veterinary physician in Laugaland, Borgarfjörður, the nature of the disease has not been determined and therefore no statement has been made yet by the The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority.

Kristín says the illness that’s making the rounds in stables across the country is characterised by a general sickliness and a lack of appetite in the horses. In most cases the symptoms are manageable and pass in around three days without special treatment. Some horses, however, come down with high fever and are visibly unwell. In such cases Kristín recommends the horses be taken in for treatment at the nearest veterinary hospital.

“If their temperature goes over 38.5 degrees celsius, a vet should be consulted. Most of the sick horses we’ve encountered have low appetite and are a little down, but they don’t have a fever,” Kristín says. “Those animals who are sicker than the average horse have been given antibiotics and painkillers, but while we don’t know if they’re dealing with bacterial- or viral infections we’re not sure if antibiotics are of any help.”

Furthermore, Kristín says it’s very different how many horses in a given group will fall ill. In some stables all of the animals are infected, but in others only one horse will come down with something. Kristín hasn’t heard of any deaths related to the mysterious illness and expects that samples taken from sick animals will have been fully diagnosed by the end of this week.

Purveyor of Baked Goods Forced to Raise Prices

Vilhjálmur Þorláksson, the manager of Gæðabakstur, one of Iceland’s biggest manufacturers of baked goods, says the company has been forced to raise their prices, Vísir reports. Vilhjálmur says that intended pay raises are partly to blame, but also a raise in the price of raw materials. Less than half of the company’s expenses are salaries and Vilhjálmur has said he’d rather raise prices than lay off workers.

Many were outraged yesterday when ÍSAM, a wholesale and manufacturing company declared that they would have to raise prices of their materials by 3.9% should intended pay agreements go through. Consequently Gæðabakstur revealed they would have to raise the price of their products by 6.2%.

“Last year our flour prices went up by 30% due to a poor harvest that year,” a disappointed Vilhjálmur says. “Now salary increases are imminent. Costs of transporting our products around the country have increased by 6%, and then we have an increase in the price of raw materials. We are forced to take desperate measures”.

Vilhjálmur says his company hasn’t raised the price of their products in about 15 months. “Over the last few years we’ve been streamlining our factory procedures, but we’ve hit a wall.”

Asked whether it would be possible to lower prices and find other ways to cover for costs Vilhjálmur isn’t optimistic. “I’m afraid we need this. We don’t have any deep pockets to rely on, I’m sorry”.

A White, White Day to Premiere at Cannes

A White, White Day, the newest movie by director and screenwriter Hlynur Pálmason, has been chosen to participate in the Critics’ Week program at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, RÚV reports.

The movie will have its premiere at the film festival, which will be held between the 15th and 23rd of May this summer. A White, White Day tells the story of Ingimundur, a police chief that goes on sabbatical after losing his wife in an accident. Grief-stricken, Ingimundur focuses on building a house for their daughter and grandchild. But soon his attention is directed at a man who Ingimundur suspects had an affair with his wife, his suspicion turns into obsession leading him down a radical path.

The movies’ main roles are played by Ingvar E. Sigurðsson (Trapped, Justice League, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) and Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir. A White, White Day is the second full length film by director Hlynur Pálmason, who directed the movie Winter Brothers in 2017.

Two Icelandic movies have previously been a part of Cannes’ Critics’ Week. Woman at War, directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, had its premiere there last year and Ingaló by Ásdís Thoroddsen back in 1992.

Closure at Dettifoss

The area around Dettifoss waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park has been closed off from traffic due to flooding, according to a post on the park’s Facebook page. Thawing of ice and snow in the area have caused excessive water flow, which has now cowered road 862 that leads to the waterfall.

Furthermore a river of freshwater has formed under the snow in Sanddalur, which can create conditions life-threatening to passerby. Due to this, the area’s park ranger in cooperation with local police and The Road and Coastal Administration has decided to temporarily restrict traffic in the area.

It is unclear how long the closure will last, but back in 2016, similar conditions caused closures for up to 36 hours.

Whaling Company Hvalur Ignores Permit Stipulations

The Directorate of Fisheries hasn’t received copies of diaries of whaling vessel captains working for the company Hvalur in 2014, 2015 and 2018, despite repeatedly asking for them, Vísir reports. The head of the Directorate of Fisheries says they do not have the legal wherewithal to force the whaling company to hand the information over.

When Hvalur obtained a permit from the directorate for the hunting of fin whales back in 2014, it came with the clear stipulation that captains of whaling vessels keep a diary pertaining to the extent of their whaling. This was done so that the directorate would be able to accurately observe Hvalur’s practices between 2014 and 2018, the years the company’s permit extended to.

During that time Hvalur hunted 436 fin whales without handing over any diaries to the Directorate of Fisheries.

Eyþór Björnsson, the head of the directorate, says that they have been in contact with Hvalur’s lawyers in hopes of securing the diaries, without luck. The government agency has previously rescinded permits of fishing vessels in breach of contract, but according to Eyþór, it can’t do so for whaling vessels as they fall under another legislation.

“We can only ask for the data,” a disappointed Eyþór says. “We can’t force them to hand it in and we can’t cancel their license.”

Despite this infraction, Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, has extended Hvalur’s whaling permit to the year 2023.

Children of Asylum Seekers to be Schooled at Háaleitisskóli

The city of Reykjavík has decided that a special school department for the children of asylum seekers be created at Háaleitisskóli, RÚV reports.

A report by the city revealed that between 2017 and 2019, around 57 children of asylum seekers ages 6 to 16 years old received education in Iceland. Up until now, however, these children have been divided amongst 12 different schools. Conversely, the new department hopes to secure proper education for the children under one roof.

The report also suggests that Háaleitisskóli is a prime location for the project, as it is located in the middle of the city of Reykjavík and is close to public transportation.

As Iceland Review reported back in February, the new department was originally proposed at Vogaskóli, but those plans met with some opposition. Helga Helgadóttir, director of special education at Vogaskóli school was not happy with the committee’s proposal, saying it was counter to how Vogaskóli works, and as far as she was concerned, not in compliance with elementary school laws nor The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

However, the staff of Háaleitisskóli is reportedly thrilled with this new department, whose main objective is to secure social and educational well-being of the children of asylum seekers, even if they only stay in the country for a short period of time.

The department will include a department manager, three teachers and one assistant. The estimated cost of the new project is 14.4 million ISK.

Crowdfunding Site Aims to Resurrect WOW air

A new crowdfunding site, hluthafi.com, went online last week, claiming to want to involve the Icelandic public in a national fundraising effort to help resurrect WOW air or help finance another low cost airline in Iceland, RÚV reports. Skúli Mogensen, former CEO of the now defunct WOW air, says he is in no way connected to the effort but is following closely.

The site claims to be run by a group of former WOW air customers, who recognise the importance of a strong low cost airline in Iceland. The group says in a statement that tourism “has stimulated economic growth and increased quality of life in recent years and we want to make sure that quality remains.” The site urges the public and business to pledge small amounts of money that would help to finance a new airline, should one be started within the next 90 days.

The site was originally anonymous but has now been revealed to be upheld by a carpenter named Friðrik Atli Guðmundsson. Friðrik said in a recent interview with Vísir.is that he and the group behind the effort originally wished to remain anonymous, and hopes that “the public and the media respect our privacy.”

“We plan to secure a spokesperson, but otherwise intend to keep people informed through the website,” Friðrik says.

Glulam to be Made from Icelandic Lumber

Over the last few weeks the Icelandic Forest Service, Límtré/Vírnet and Innovation Center Iceland have been conducting research into the possibility of using Icelandic lumber to produce glue laminated structural beams, sometimes called glulam, RÚV reports. Imported wood has hitherto been used for the application.

Glulam is a type of engineered wood, made from lumber that is bonded together with structural adhesives. It is commonly used as structural beams in all types of man-made structures, such as sports halls, glasshouses, gazebos and even bridges.

“We’re very excited about this. It’s great that we’re embarking on this journey,” says forester Trausti Jóhannsson. “Finally we’re creating real lumber from our trees, people are saying. Not just cutting them down, putting them in the wood chipper and then burning them. We’re now thinking towards the future.”

“The through line in this project is environmentalism,” says Logi Unnarson, advisor at Límtré/Vírnet. “We are well aware of the importance of this project. Now there are plans to increase forestry in Iceland, so it’s obvious that we’d benefit greatly from using Icelandic lumber. We’d spare us the transportation of heavy goods from Europe and be able to concentrate on building up a strong lumber industry here.”

The Icelandic glulam will soon be tested at the Innovation Center Iceland with first result being expected by spring.

Paid Internships for Student Teachers

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir is one of the people nominated for Person of the Year.

Minister of Education, Science and Culture, Lilja Alfreðsdóttir introduced new measures today in accordance with the government’s policy statement on education, RÚV reports. This means that come next fall, master students in their final year of teaching studies for elementary school and kindergarten will get paid for their internship. They will also be able to apply for a study grant, with the government planning to spend up to 250 million ISK on the study grants alone. Furthermore, the University of Iceland and the University of Akureyri will both receive grants to increase the number of teachers who specialise in job-related guidance

The ministry is also looking into possibilities to support students in other teaching fields, such as would-be high-school-, music- and art teachers, as well as looking into how to further stimulate the growth of teacher numbers, for example through the Icelandic Student Loan Fund, LÍN.

According to a press release by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, only 28% of those workings in kindergartens now are certified teachers. Around 1.800 positions need to be filled in order to fulfil legal obligations of the proportions of educated teachers in kindergartens in the country.

Numbers of elementary school and kindergarten teacher students reduced by 40% between 2008 and 2018. The measures of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture are designed to change this development. At the current rate, however, elementary schools will need to fill around 1.200 teaching positions with unschooled teachers in four years, meaning that their percentage would rise from 8.6% in 2017 to 25%.