The end of the summer is upon us, and concluded as per tradition with the festivities at Culture Night, which had a reported 120,000 attendees. That’s almost half the country, so we imagine that any part of Iceland that wasn’t Reykjavík was a barren wasteland. In the aftermath of the massive, car-free festival: much grumbling about the use of drones (the non-lethal kind). Apparently seven drones were buzzing over Culture Night, and there are as yet no safety regulations for their use, much to the consternation of the Icelandic Drone Association. In related news, there is an Icelandic Drone Association.
If you were upset about the recent killing of a baby seal at the Reykjavík Family Park and zoo, Húsdýragarðurinn, you weren’t alone. In fact, even the zoo’s directors believe it’s a dumb practice, but claim they are bound by law to put down wild animals that have been raised by humans. And they’re actively petitioning the government to have this law changed. Many Icelanders, and all baby seals in captivity, eagerly await such changes.
In more serious news, word of Iceland’s participation in international sanctions against Russia has finally reached the country, resulting in Russia imposing its own embargo on Icelandic products. As Russia buys a lot of fish from us, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from our captains of industry in the field of fish export. However, in an extensive and pretty blunt interview, Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson basically told the haters to deal with it and “have a sense of social responsibility,” rather than “thinking foremost about their own profits.”
Things could be getting slightly better for people who seek asylum in Iceland. First of all, because the town of Akureyri has announced to the government that it wants more asylum seekers. Iceland’s second city up north is requesting to host up to 50 of them, noting that their past experiences with asylum seekers have been very positive. On a broader level, new legislation soon to be introduced could end the practice of arresting asylum seekers who arrive with false documentation—which is pretty much what international law requires. Yay us! We’re doing the bare minimum!
The national church has been pretty unhappy lately. They’ve complained they cannot function if the government doesn’t raise their budget—which amounted to about 4 billion ISK last year. Meanwhile, the bishop makes over a million ISK each month, and regular parish priests about half a million. Just as the Bible commands. Nonetheless, some priests have taken to accepting under-the-table payments for weddings, confirmations and baptisms—tasks that are actually legally classified as “extra work” for priests. Like, when you go to work at your office, you get paid extra for showing up, using a computer, changing the toner in the printer and the like.
Remember last month when a huge swath of water in Lake Mývatn turned white? Cynics that we are, many Icelanders were all but certain this was due to some kind of mysterious chemical pollution, or possibly some prick dumping a whole lot of unwanted paint in the water. Turns out it was due to hypoxia—a form of oxygen depletion, in this case caused by iron reacting with colloidal particles in the water. Maybe not the happiest news, but at least we know it wasn’t due to yet more pollution.
Finally, you know when Icelanders get angry with people who think we live in a corruption-free elfin paradise? Well, here’s yet another reason why: there once was a mayor of Norðurþing, Bergur Elías Ágústsson, who fought hard to facilitate the company PCC Group building a silicon metals plant in his district. He fought so hard, in fact, that he pushed to give this giant company all kinds of financial concessions and tax breaks, amounting to about a billion ISK, while taxes from local and national treasuries paid the company about 4 billion ISK. Then one day, he decided to leave his job as mayor, and then— surprise!—he scored a job working for PCC Group. And, as he told reporters, there was absolutely no arrangement made ahead of time. PCC Group was simply so grateful for all the money, and wanted to do something nice for dear Bergur. No corruption here, folks!