So: there’s good news and bad news.
March picked up where February left off with a series of protests in front of parliament calling upon the government to allow the public to vote on whether or not to continue EU accession talks.Some of these protests got a bit creative: about 15 protesters wielding bananas lined up outside of the Prime Minister’s Office and created a tunnel for government ministers to walk through, symbolising the accusation that Iceland is being run as a “Banana Republic,” or a corrupt and nepotistic state. Nevertheless, the EU Ambassador at the helm of the Delegation of the European Union to Iceland issued assurances that Iceland is free to resume accession talks should the country want to.
In other sustenance-related protests, the North American seafood company High Liner Foods announced that it would no longer purchase products from Icelandic companies connected to whaling. Independence Party MP Jón Gunnarsson called this campaign “nothing other than a form of terrorism,” while Sigursteinn Másson, a representative for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said that the government’s response to anti-whaling pressure has been “fanatical,” arguing that “it’s completely obvious that whale hunting is harming Icelandic interests.”
Icelandic environmentalists, represented by Björk and American film director Darren Aronofsky, had a lucrative success this month: the “Stopp!” concert benefiting protection efforts in the Icelandic highlands raised 35 million ISK through donations and ticket sales. The concert featured performances by Patti Smith and Lykke Li and opened with the world premier of Aronofsky’s film ‘Noah,’ which was partially filmed in Iceland. The ‘Noah’ crew apparently took great pains not to create any lasting environmental damage. Let’s hope that the crew filming background scenery for Star Wars Episode VII in Iceland this April will be equally attentive.
In less galactic news, the bones of an Icelandic Viking were found in a mass grave in Weymouth, England. Dating back to somewhere between 970 and 1025, the remains were part of the Ridgeway Hill Viking Burial Pit, the final resting place of 50 men of Scandinavian origin whose bodies and heads were buried separately. Slightly less grisly, but nevertheless unsettling, was the subsequent discovery of a human skeleton in a previously uncharted cave on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The skeleton was sent abroad to be analysed by specialists.
We’ve also seen interesting trends in the realm of the living this month, not least the finding that some Icelandic mothers request to keep their placentas following childbirth. Although this goes against regulations about taking human remains or body parts away from a hospital, several doulas have anonymously admitted to assisting patients in preserving and taking these home. “I think we have a right to our own placentas,” one said. Meanwhile, more Icelandic men than ever have been getting vasectomies: 483 men were sterilised in 2013, up from 37 men in 1982.
Icelanders living in the UK were surprised to find that many Icelandic websites are being automatically blocked by the UK’s “Great Firewall,” which is intended to prevent children from accessing pornography. The news aggregator and blogging website Eyjan.is is among several innocuous websites deemed not to be “child-friendly.”
Social media justified its continued existence when an Icelandic man used Facebook to find a kidney donor for himself, just a day after posting his petition. Kristján Kristjánsson was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy ten years ago and has been on a transplant waiting list for two years. Twenty people came forward, none of who knew Kristján directly. “They are just good Icelanders who are ready to help a guy out,” he said. “I think it’s incredible that people are prepared to do something like this.”
It’s also been a particularly good month for Grapevine cover star Gunnar Nelson, Iceland’s only MMA fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Gunnar defeated Russia’s Omari Akhmedov in the first round of their March fight. He remains undefeated after three UFC fights.