Stories written by Lowana Veal
Lowana Veal reports extensively on environmental and conservation issues from Iceland. She has also written for IPS on pioneering development of renewable energy. Lowana was born in Britain, but wrote her first article on environmental issues for a student newspaper in Australia in 1974 while studying for a biology degree in Melbourne. After returning to the U.K., she became involved in various magazine collectives in which she wrote, edited and designed material. She moved to Iceland in 1996 and started writing for IPS in 2004. She balances her writing work by taking people out for horseback rides.
Although fin whaling by Icelanders has encountered increasing opposition over the last year, Icelandic whaling boats headed off to sea again in mid-June for the first hunt of the summer and by August 14 had killed 80 fin whales.
Although most of Iceland already uses renewable energy for its heating and electricity, a handful of places are still reliant on oil. But, at least on Grimsey island in the north, this could change in the future.
Posters with the words “Do you know who caught your seafood?” are now appearing on buses, trains and other venues in Boston. They are part of a campaign organised by a coalition of U.S. environmental groups called Whales Need Us, to draw attention to the links between Icelandic whalers and fish sold in the U.S.
The new Icelandic government was only a day old when it announced in mid-May that it would do all it could to push ahead with the Helguvik aluminium smelter. Construction for the smelter began in in 2008 but since then has met with a variety of problems, mostly energy-related.
With an unprecedented number of political parties contesting Iceland's latest elections, Icelanders are discovering that if they are passionate about a particular issue, they need simply to find like-minded people and establish a political party.
Since the controversial Karahnjukar dam in East Iceland was brought into operation in 2006, conditions in the downstream Lagarfljot lake have become much worse, according to information gathered by the energy company Landsvirkjun. Some of the changes are irreversible, scientists say.
A speeding ticket for driving an electric vehicle may seem at first a far-fetched possibility, but no. The director of Northern Lights Energy – a company specialising in promoting electric cars – was recently fined for driving 124 km per hour in a 90 km zone in Iceland in a Tesla Roadster vehicle.
With rising energy prices and stringent requirements for producing a higher proportion of energy from renewable sources in the near future, long-distance electricity cables are increasingly thought of as a viable option for providing electricity.
"With the fuel from the agriculture project, we are encouraging farmers to look at possibilities they might have to produce their own energy, while at the same time getting the Agricultural University and Farmers’ Association to work towards supporting and encouraging the farmers," says Haraldur Benediktsson, chair of the Icelandic Farmers’ Association about the campaign to reduce energy bought by farmers by 20 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020.
"We want to hear each others’ stories on how we have coped with changes, how we have got to where we are now and thus how we can be an inspiration to others," says Anna Loa Olafsdottir, one of the people behind a group of women in southwest Iceland who call themselves SKASS.
Three years ago, thousands of Icelanders were standing outside Iceland’s parliament building chanting "incompetent government" in an attempt to bring down the conservative government that had been seen as responsible for the collapse of the country’s banking system.
Down by the old harbour in Reykjavik, a small group of volunteers in pale blue T-shirts can be seen handing out leaflets that say "Meet us don’t eat us". Beneath the slogan is a picture of a whale, followed by "Whales are being killed to feed tourists. Don’t let your visit leave a bad taste in your mouth."
Public health authorities in Reykjavik have criticised plans for the expansion of the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant. They say that levels of the gas hydrogen sulphide could increase by 40 percent if a new geothermal field, Grauhnukur, is developed and nothing is done to ensure that the levels of the gas remain below maximum permitted levels.
Iceland’s national power company, Landsvirkjun, has announced that it intends to double its generating capacity over the next 15 years, with a blend consisting mostly of hydroelectric and geothermal plants but potentially using wind and tidal energy as well.
In the northwestern Icelandic town of Isafjordur, milk is causing pandemonium. A local milk marketing board recently tested one farm’s milk for the presence of harmful chemicals. Dioxin, and dioxin-like compounds, were found to be present in amounts higher than the recommended maximum levels, threatening the future of local farmers, and angering residents.