Heroes & Villains - The 14th One - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Heroes & Villains – The 14th One

Heroes & Villains – The 14th One

Published September 8, 2016

Photos by
Paul Fontaine

Our new hero is the Icelandic volcano. Iceland is riddled with volcanoes, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and types. Some of them bellow giant plumes of ash into the sky, some of them sputter and roar with photogenic magma, but all of them serve as a reminder of who’s really in charge here. It’s difficult to forget just how precarious human existence really is when you’re looking at melted rock from not-so-far beneath the Earth’s crust rushing forth, and when you consider that in some cases there are mere minutes between knowing an eruption will happen and it actually happening. Better still, volcanoes continue to defy human attempts to know exactly when they’ll erupt, leaving timeframes of anywhere between years and decades between blasts. Volcanoes humble us, reminding us that we are but mere insects clinging precariously to the face of the Earth, and it’s for that reason that volcanoes are our new hero.

Our new villain is Icelandic volcano reporting, especially when it comes to the international press. Any time there is anything remotely resembling seismic activity around one of our volcanoes, you can count on the non-Icelandic press to start churning out lurid headlines about how said volcanoes are set to pop any second now, and that when they do they will destroy us all. This kind of reporting is frustrating to the scientists who actually study and monitor volcanoes. Granted, a lot of science reporting is hyperbolic and oversimplified, but overstating the imminence of an eruption doesn’t do anyone any favours in the long run. It’s alarmist, creates a kind of “cry wolf” effect, and undermines the veracity of volcano reporting as a whole. It’s not too much to ask that reporters observe a degree of nuance when reporting on unpredictable geological phenomenon, but the clickbait just keeps rolling on, and it’s for that reason that Icelandic volcano reporting is our new villain.

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