A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Eruption Pollution Likely To Hit Whole Country

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson Founds The Arctic Circle

Words by

Published April 23, 2013

President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced the formation of a new institution designed to facilitate global discussion about the arctic at a National Press Club luncheon in downtown Washington D.C. last Monday afternoon.
Ólafur hopes the group, called the Arctic Circle, will become “the preeminent event every year where all those major players that have an interest in the arctic can come together through dialogue and discussion.”
He said the name was intended to be “a play on words” that alludes to the geographical focus of the group and “the democratic tradition of everybody coming together around the table in the same way,” and said the group will play host to different governments, think tanks, universities, public associations, and non-government organizations “with their own agenda.”
The reason for the group’s foundation, Ólafur said, was that demand for such a forum was increasing.  With the climate rapidly changing—with the melting of the arctic ice freeing up shipping lanes and resources—countries relatively far from the north pole have recently expressed an interest in joining the Arctic Council as permanent observers.
Such countries, Ólafur said, include India, China, Singapore and South Korea. They would, however, be unable to have a speaking role with the Council, an intergovernmental group founded in 1996 that includes the Nordic Countries, the United States, Canada, Greenland and Russia.
But, appropriately, for an institution whose foundation was announced in a city that, officially, is home to about 12,000 lobbyists, the Arctic Circle could end up amplifying industry concerns, further elevating the corporate agenda above the public interest.
“Also the big corporations involved, whether they’re oil companies or mining companies, or the others – they can come to present their case,” he said.
And the rules governing the meetings themselves, he implied, will follow the golden rule–those with the gold make the rules.
“Many of those who will come to the Arctic Circle will come through their own funding,” he said. “They will host their own meetings, their own sessions, and be responsible for the agendas of those sessions and for those meetings.”
He added that the group will look for financial contributions “from nations and from others who have an interest in the arctic,” and said that there has been a “very positive response” from prospective donors, thus far.
“For example, we know from a meeting this morning that Google is interested in being present,” he said. He added that those interested in “polar law” have expressed an interest in participating, and that the Northern Research Forum, another “international platform for an effective dialogue” whose foundation was inspired by Ólafur in 1998, “has already agreed to organize meetings and sessions within the Arctic Circle.”
Ólafur added that he did not expect the Arctic Circle to have “a particularly big budget compared to many other initiatives because it hopes to be a facilitator.”
Despite the possibility that the institution could advance the interests of foreign governments and multinational corporations, Ólafur, seemed sanguine about the prospects of Iceland defending its sovereignty.
Ólafur shrugged off the idea that the free trade agreement with China, which was announced earlier in the day, would enable Chinese companies to exploit Icelandic resources.
“No, I’m not afraid of that. We are a pretty independent lot in Iceland,” he said with a grin, as the crowd laughed. “I think we can be trusted to govern our own resources. It’s one of the main stumbling blocks in our negotiations with the European Union,” referring to fishing rights.
He claimed that in his meetings with Chinese Presidents –from Jiang Zemin to Xi Xipeng – he had never encountered any desire, on their part, “to control Icelandic resources”; a claim that might queried by Icelanders skeptical of former Communist Party propagandist Huang Nubo’s efforts to buy around 300 square kilometers of land near Grímsstaðir.
Whatever their intentions, Ólafur cited the Cod Wars, and Iceland’s struggle for independence as evidence that Icelanders wouldn’t roll over to a country with a population larger by a factor of over 4,000.
“So we are not going to surrender these rights to the Chinese,” he said.
But Ólafur did mention that he wanted President Obama involved. He said that the announcement was being made in Washington D.C. – under half a mile from the White House – because the presidency of the Arctic Council will be in North American hands for the first time ever; first with Canada and then the United States.
He said that it would be “very interesting” if Obama turned up to more symposia on the arctic.
Soon, he will have additional opportunities to do so.
The inaugural meeting is set to take place in Reykjavík this October. Board members thus far include Ólafur, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Greenlandic Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov.



Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Independence Is Not A Disaster:

by

After decades of discussion on the political and economic details of a theoretically independent Scotland, the Scottish citizens finally face the vote that could bring this country into reality. The vote on the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, asking “Should Scotland be an independent country?” will take place this Thursday, September 18, 2014. “We have a shared interest” As part of the discourse on their potential independence, Scottish political leaders are looking to the Nordic countries as models in developing their social and economic policies. In addition to potentially modelling welfare and taxation on Nordic systems, other involvement ranges from applying

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Funding Dries Up at the Library of Water

by

This year marks the first and only year since its opening in 2007 that VATNASAFN/LIBRARY OF WATER has been unable to fund a writer-in-residence. While one writer, American architect and poet Eric Ellingsen, used the free space this year, the position did not come with its usual stipend. This is due to a familiar story within arts communities in Iceland and abroad: a lack of funding. Housed in the building that was once Stykkishólmur’s public library, it was converted into a public art installation by American artist Roni Horn in 2007. The finished space includes three collections: a rubber flooring

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Didaskophilia

by

The Biophilia project has extended its tendrils into many unexpected areas. Its accompanying education outreach programme aims to encourage creativity, whilst using new technology as a gateway to science and music learning. This approach combines the use of cutting-edge apps based on Björk songs like “Virus,” “Crystalline” and “Moon,” with simple exercises designed to be engaging and fun, such as marking a baloon with dots and then blowing it up to illustrate the Big Bang. The education programme went on the road as part of the Biophilia city residencies—runs of three to ten shows that took place in cities like

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

News In Brief: Early September

by

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

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Why You Can’t Go See The Eruption

by

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

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

A Volcano Bigger Than Timberlake

by

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

Show Me More!