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Environmentalists Not Elf Lobby

Environmentalists Not Elf Lobby

Published December 23, 2013

“Elf advocates” have joined the fight to protect the Gálgahraun lava field on the Álftanes peninsula, The Associated Press reports, but RÚV and several other Icelandic news outlets contend that the article contains “numerous misrepresentations.”

The AP article is ostensibly about the construction of the road Álftanesvegur, which, as reported, was opposed from the start by environmental activists who point out that the area was designated as a protected natural area in 2009. Cobbling together quotes from notable figures, such as author and environmentalist Andri Snær Magnason and University of Iceland folklorist Terry Gunnell, the AP article presents a picture of environmentalists who “see the elf issue as part of a wider concern for the history and culture of the very unique landscape,” and of a country in which “elves are no joke,” even while our Scandinavian neighbors “haven’t taken them seriously since the 19th century.”

RÚV lists several main misrepresentations in the AP article, starting with the idea that members of the environmentalist group are all elf believers. But RÚV isn’t the only news outlet which is taking issue with the AP text.

Alda Sigmundsdóttir—writer, translator, and blogger at the Iceland Weather Report—commented on the article, stating that “an earnest effort to conserve some pristine lava is turned into something trite and superficial.”

At Iceland Review, publisher Benedikt Jóhannesson (“Who still believes in the Yule Lads, but no longer puts his shoe in the window”) had this to say:

“The story is false. It is probably written by someone who learned about it in a bar. Or else a freelance journalist, trying to make a quick buck before Christmas, wrote about something that everyone loves reading about, the mixture of myth and reality by an odd nation on the fringe of civilization.

In reality the “elf lobby” is a group of environmentalists. It has not “regularly mobilized hundreds of people to block bulldozers building a direct route from the tip of the Álftanes peninsula, where the president has a property, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer.“

There have been many people protesting in the lava, but not hundreds. One of them is the self-confessed elf believer mentioned in the story, the others are environmentalists. The road is not from the tip of the peninsula, but rather a new connection from the main road to the existing road in the peninsula. The president does not have a property in Álftanes any more than Obama has the White House. Bessastadir, the official residence of the President of Iceland, is on Álftanes.

The road has not been blocked. Work continues on it and the lava has already been crossed by bulldozers.
My opinion of the Guardian (and the Associated Press) plummeted this afternoon.”

Since its publication yesterday afternoon, the AP story has already been republished by myriad international news outlets, including The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Salt Lake Tribune, Australia’s news.com.au, and The Independent.



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