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Issue 6 — 2013


seriously. In an edition of Morgunblaðið from March 1987, one can read a prediction of the impending evolution of local fur farming until 1996. At that time, thirty fur farms were operated in Iceland. Morgunblaðið cites a report that predicts Iceland will foster 600 mink farms by 1996. They assume a twenty-fold growth in ten years, as if nothing were more natural. A month later, this optimistic story ran: “The mink stock will double this year.” Only three years later, in April of 1990, we find this dramatic headline in a copy of Morgunblaðið: “Fur

“In this country everything is considered normal if a “local” wants it” farming: The industry is on its last legs. Many farmers on the edge of despair.” In this country everything is considered normal if a “local” wants it. Nothing in Iceland is as crazy as the holy local is when he wants a smelter or an oil refinery, no matter how large or out of proportion. He has the sacred right to that, especially if he uses “job creation” as an argument. Numbers that would be considered sizeable in large nation’s economic statistics, energy

resources and infrastructure that are earmarked by the world’s superpowers as being “strategically important” are subject to “the will of the locals.” The nation’s energy resources and nature are in the hands of a smattering of district councils that have no staff and no expertise while the majority of Icelanders that reside in the capital area seem by default “local” to nowhere. So, the locals of the east destroyed their highlands, the locals of the south want to dam the wonders of the Skaftá area, the lower part of the Þjórsá river and the locals of the southwest are ready to harness almost every single geothermal area. And this seems to be a global problem—rural communities losing their youth and talents to the cities of the world are willing to sell off their forests, their mountains, their rivers and valleys for some hope of development and a future. It is strange to see that one of the major driving forces behind this development resides within our labour leaders, who have been demanding extreme leverage and risk on behalf of public energy companies. If there should be a hesitation in the risk taking, the responsible parties are “dragging their feet.” The labour unions’ “stability agreement” with the former government entails that “every obstacle be removed” that somehow hinders the proposed Helguvík aluminium plant. It is exactly this kind of thinking that lead to almost 200 foreign workers being left disabled and unemploy-

able as a result of working on building the Kárahnjúkar dam. Conditions of workers were severely compromised to make the dam construction process cheap enough. Every obstacle was removed to provide Alcoa with energy prices that save them 200 million USD annually. That amounts to the combined yearly wages of more than 10,000 teachers. The noble cause of creating jobs becomes quite grim if it involves harming the work capacity of so many. The PR people talk about a ‘multiplication effect’ of every job in a smelter—but wouldn’t it be polite to subtract the disabled workers? People will go so far to satisfy their prince charm-

The Reykjavík Grapevine

ing that they behave like the ugly stepsister in the fairy tale, cutting their toes off to fit the glass shoe.

HOUSE OF CARDS The Helguvík aluminium smelter close to Keflavík Airport is a symbol of how poorly run Iceland can be; the Helguvík aluminium smelter is already being built, even though nobody knows where we can scramble together its required 600 MW of energy. The Helguvík smelter is a symbol of how weak the nation’s administration can be, of how shattered professionalism and long-term thinking can become, and how the media

Photo: Ari Magg

The Reykjavik Grapevine, Issue 6, 2013  

The Reykjavik Grapevine, Issue 6, 2013

The Reykjavik Grapevine, Issue 6, 2013  

The Reykjavik Grapevine, Issue 6, 2013