Such is the nature of the news that it often focuses on the negative; bad things tend to happen quickly – and large-scale trends are overlooked. As Swedish author Hans Rosling once pointed out, if newspapers would only be published every 100 years, the messaging, in all likelihood, would be very different, e.g., highlighting how many people were raised above the poverty line, the gradual decline in infant mortality rates, etc.
“We’ve cut the number of people living in extreme poverty by half over the last twenty years, but there was never a morning when “POVERTY RATES DROP INCREMENTALLY” dominated newspaper headlines,” Bill Gates wrote in 2018, summarising the ideas of Rosling.
In this edition of our year-in-review, we highlight a few positive news stories, intended to balance out the negative – and to remind readers that there is still a lot of good in the world:
Last summer, a consultation team was established in order to better ensure the safety of visitors to Reynisfjara beach, a popular travel destination near the town of Vík in South Iceland. As noted in an article in Iceland Review from 2019, the tides that lap the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara possess “an immensely strong undertow, and waves that creep quickly upon travellers.”
As of last summer, five travellers had died on Reynisfjara beach since 2013.
As noted in a press release from the Icelandic Tourist Board earlier this month, the consultation team recommended the installation of informatory signage on the beach, which has now been completed. In addition to the signs, a 300-metre long chain was strung alongside the parking lot, guiding visitors along a path and past the signs. Cameras were also installed on a mast on the beach ridge, which will stream live video from the beach to the police authorities in Selfoss.
The deportation of Hussein Hussein, a refugee from Iraq who uses a wheelchair, in November caused widespread outrage; footage surfaced on social media of authorities forcefully removing him from his wheelchair, in addition to airport authorities attempting to suppress media coverage.
In December, however, the District Court of Reykjavík ruled that Hussein’s deportation had been illegal. Following the decision, Hussein and his family returned to Iceland from Greece.
Although Hussein and his family have won their suit against the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board, it is still possible for state representatives to appeal the case to the Court of Appeals. At this time, state representatives have made no comments with regard to this possibility.
The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration launched a new website in October, offering more detailed information on road and weather conditions. This was good news in light of the often hazardous conditions on Icelandic roads, especially during winter.
According to a press release from IRCA, this new website – which replaces the previous road-conditions map on the administration’s site (www.road.is) – is “more advanced, more accessible (especially on smart devices), and will offer greater opportunities for development going forward.”
If you’re planning on a road trip, we recommend consulting the website prior to leaving.
The Geysir area was originally protected by law in 2020, but its status was officially recognized with a signing ceremony in September.
In addition to being a popular tourism destination – and the namesake of all other geysers – Geysir is home to many unique geological features, plant life, and microorganisms, meaning that the area is also important for scientific research. In addition to conserving the Geysir area, the new management plan hopes to place increased emphasis on education on Geysir’s significance.
At the ceremony, Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated: “The conservation of the Geysir area is an important step in nature conservation in Iceland, given its unique natural beauty. The conservation plan confirmed today ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy the area as we do today.”
Over a dozen rams with scrapie-resistant genes were sold for breeding this fall. Bred in Reyðarfjörður in East Iceland, the sheep carry a special gene, and it is hoped that they will help form a more resilient stock in Iceland.
The gene, called ARR, is not found anywhere else in Iceland. It has been recognised internationally as scrapie-resistant, and herds with the ARR gene have already been bred in Europe for some two decades.
Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease found in sheep and goats, the ovine equivalent of mad cow disease. There is no cure, and even one case of scrapie can be a death sentence for an entire agricultural community. If a sheep tests positive for scrapie, the entire herd is culled, the entire farm’s hay must be destroyed, and the entire farm and its implements must be sanitised, either chemically or through fire. Even after this deep-cleaning, farmers are not able to raise sheep for a set time, and the scorched-earth policy may even affect neighbouring herds and farms.
For the full story on the fight against scrapie and the efforts to breed this new, resistant stock, read more in our article: Good Breeding.
In June, spokesperson for the Hellisheiði Power Station announced the construction of a new plant, capable of capturing 36,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere, increasing the direct air carbon capture at Hellisheiði Power Station tenfold.
Named Mammoth, the new facility adds to the existing 4,000 tonnes captured by the plant Orca, which commenced operations at the same location in September 2021, the first of its kind in the world. The plants are a project of Swiss company Climeworks, in collaboration with Carbfix and ON Power.
Construction is expected to last 18-24 months before operations commence.
As of June of this year, victims of sexual assault in Iceland were granted increased rights: receiving information on the proceedings of the police investigation of their case and permitted to be present at the trial, thanks to legislative amendments passed by Parliament.
A spokesperson from Stígamót, a centre for survivors of sexual violence, stated that the changes were a step forward but more needed to be done:
“I think this is a turning point and shows that there is will within the system towards victims of violence and there is a strong need for that. As we know, many cases are dismissed and victims are often unhappy with how they are received in the legal system and feel their need for justice is not fulfilled,” Steinunn Gyðu- og Guðjónsdóttir, a spokesperson for Stígamót, stated.
In May, a curator of the Akureyri Museum announced that they had likely discovered a 19-verse poem by celebrated poet Davíð Stefánsson (best known for his volumes of poetry). The style of the poem and the handwriting offered a strong indication of its origin, suggesting that it may be among the very first poems that Davíð composed.
“We believe that Davíð composed the poem during his school years,” Haraldur Þór Egilsson, curator of the Akureyri Museum, told Fréttablaðið. “It was probably written before Svartar fjaðrir (Black Feathers) was published.”
Svartar Fjaðrir (Black Feathers) was Davíð Stefánsson’s first book of poetry, published in 1919. As noted on the website of the Akureyri Museum, the book was “accorded immediate acclaim and established the young author’s reputation. His poems captured the feelings and longings of the general public in crisp, clear and picturesque writing.”
In late March, the Icelandic Forestry Association (IFA) held a conference to celebrate an important milestone, namely that forests and bushes had increased to cover over 2% of Iceland.
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%.
“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.
In 2006, 36% of Icelandic girls in the 10th grade stated that they had had intercourse, and 29% of boys of the same age. In March of this year, a new survey indicated that those figures had fallen to 24% among girls and 27% among boys.
The data originated from an international survey called Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, which has been carried out in Iceland since 2006.
“Decreased alcohol consumption is likely a big factor,” University of Iceland Professor Ársæll Arnarsson, who is a director of Icelandic youth research, told Fréttablaðið. “Drinking among Icelandic teenagers has decreased sharply in recent decades and the same can be said of other countries to which we compare ourselves, though the development there has not been as decisive as here in Iceland.”
On midnight February 25, All COVID-19 social restrictions were officially lifted.
Individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus were no longer required to quarantine, and all disease prevention measures at the border were abolished.
To celebrate this milestone, Iceland Review hit the Reykjavík nightlife to interview partygoers on the new reality. Read the full article here.