A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Eruption Pollution Likely To Hit Whole Country
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What A Load Of Old Rubbish!

What A Load Of Old Rubbish!

Published September 10, 2012

While some consider Reykjavík to be one of the greenest cities in the world, generating electricity and heating houses with geothermal energy, it appears that locals have forgotten how to use the dustbin.
“We in Iceland are in many respects quite far behind our neighboring countries when it comes to environmental awareness,” said Valgerður Matthiasdóttir, a member of the Green April group, when the initiative was launched in 2011. “We are so used to being close to clean and wild nature and our water is so good. But we are very bad in all areas concerning waste and refuse which are a part of all modern societies.”
The National State Broadcasting Service RÚV reported earlier this year that the problem with trash was getting out of hand, and that people have been complaining about the lack of public rubbish bins in the city. But is there really a scarcity of bins?
Well, there are 1,069 bins in the city, according to Reykjavík City’s website. This means that there is in fact one bin to every 111 people in the capital. That’s almost five times as many as in Vancouver and loads more than in London, where bins have all but disappeared with IRA bomb scares in the ’90s.
So, if the lack of bins isn’t the problem, why is there trash all over the place? Reykjavík City employee Guðný A. Olgeirsdóttir told RÚV this April that while rubbish blows out of dumpsters, people are also simply littering on the streets and throwing trash out of car windows. It’s as if people don’t notice the mess, she said. Unfortunately, the rest of us do.



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News In Brief: Early September

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Remember last issue when we complained that the Bárðarbunga volcano was a huge disappointment for not having the decency to erupt? Well, apparently the volcano gods read the Grapevine, because a huge fissure opened up in Holuhraun and began spewing forth some very photogenic magma. Icelanders were quick to ask the most important question: What are we going to name the new lava field when all is said and done? The jury’s still out on that one, but for now, this is proving to be the ideal volcanic situation: pretty lava, no airplane-choking ash clouds and no one hurt or

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Why You Can’t Go See The Eruption

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In the middle of the night on Saturday, August 16, an intense swarm of seismic activity began in the area of Bárðarbunga—one of many central volcanoes nobody can pronounce—under Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Since that day, my co-workers and I at the Icelandic Meteorological Office (aka the IMO) have been working day and night to monitor the activity, holding daily meetings with the Civil Protection services, and trying to figure out the possible outcomes of these events, which might just be the start of something a lot bigger. When the activity began, it was incredible how we could follow the

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A Volcano Bigger Than Timberlake

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The most prominent, truly devastating volcanic eruption in Icelanders’ public memory is arguably the late-18th century eruption in the volcanic ridge Lakí, followed by the Móðuharðindi, two years of all-over brutal hardships. The sky went dark, and the sun faded, while ashes destroyed pastures, and temperatures sank, leading to the death of an estimated 75% of the country’s livestock and a fifth of its human population. Then there was the late-19th century eruption, after which a fifth of the island’s populace moved to Canada. The ashes from the sudden 1973 eruption in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago destroyed 400 homes. One person

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“What A Hard Life Is That Of The Poor Icelanders!”

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One day in August 1888, the British steamer ‘Camoens’ docked in the town of Akureyri in Northern Iceland. The ‘Camoens’-for some reason named for Portugal’s national poet, Luís de Camões- sailed regularly between Scotland and Iceland with passengers and cargo. Debarking the ‘Camoens’ that day was a group of British friends, three young men and two women, on their annual autumn holiday, fresh from a busy summer of high society parties and picnics. They came to Iceland looking for adventure and experiences, and—not the least—to be different from their friends and acquaintances, who mostly chose the more fashionable Switzerland and

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Iceland On The Brain: 1200 Years Of Tourism

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Everyone knows that Ingólfur Arnarson (that chap with the spear thing on the hill overlooking the city centre) was Iceland’s first settler. But, he was not the first person to set foot upon it. A few years before the settlement, which is assumed to have started in 874, a Swede named Garðar arrived, naming the place Garðarshólmur before abruptly leaving again (thankfully, modern-day Swedish tourists no longer feel entitled to go around naming the country after themselves). Not long after, a Norwegian named Hrafna-Flóki (“Raven-Flóki”) arrived to spend an entire winter on the island and, not much impressed, subsequently re-named

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Workers Unite!

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Earlier this month, a news story broke in the Icelandic media that a young Icelandic woman working at Lebowski Bar was fired after she asked to be paid minimum wage—effectively a pay rise over what she was getting. The story sparked shock and outrage amongst many. To others, it was merely par for the course. Restaurants, bars and clubs in Iceland are notorious for the use of what is known as jafnaðarkaup (“median pay”)—a form of wage offsetting. By most collective bargaining agreements in the service industry, a worker is supposed to receive a base hourly wage, plus an extra

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