Published January 12, 2007
It is a new year, a time to wipe the slate clean. A time to start over. There is a full year ahead of us, full of exciting new opportunities and second chances. Chances to right some of the wrongs from the previous year. There were enough of those made last year. We are revisiting some of them in this issue.
The most inexplicable of those may have been the government’s decision to resume commercial whaling. I believe everyone has realised by now that this was a wrong decision. The backlash from the international society has been even more than we could have expected, and Icelandic companies abroad as well as the tourist industry at home is suffering. You can argue until you are blue in the face for our rights as a sovereign nation to decide for ourselves whether to hunt whales or not, or quote statistics regarding fish stock, whatever. There is no way around the fact that there is no market for whale meat, thus commercial whaling is economically unviable. Usually, that would be enough to wake authorities from their slumber, but so far, they are hitting the snooze button, reinforcing my belief that the decision was prompted by foolish pride, against a better judgment, and against our best interest.
Another wrong is the way in which some elements in our society have chosen to approach the discussion of immigrants in Iceland. While there is a lot left to be desired in that department, the discussion is not furthered by pointing out immigrants as a problem and trying to establish a segregation in our society by continuously discussing the “Immigrant problem” from the perspective of us vs. them, instead of shaping the discourse around solutions to the only real problem with immigration in Iceland; our lack of effort in assisting foreigners in integrating in to Icelandic society. The way the discussion of the “immigrant problem” has been directed lately, all that is left is for someone is to suggest a “final solution.”
The fact is that Icelandic society was, and is, in desperate need for immigrants. There has been a steady need for workforce in the country, and if foreign labour had not been readily available in the recent past, our society would have suffered badly. The idea that Iceland should, or even could, be kept “pure” and free of foreigners with a stricter immigration policy is not only erroneous; it is anachronistic in a world that is actively shrinking and becoming ever more globalised. And as Trausti Valsson points out in this issue, it might soon be immoral as well, if global warming will rise as predicted, we could soon be faced with the problem of environmental refugees.
Environmental issues is another ball we dropped. A pretty costly turnover in my mind. Despite growing opposition from every corner of our society, the government so far remains undeterred in its commitment to building up heavy industry in this country. Environmental issues are a secondary thought in these parts. We pride ourselves of our beautiful nature, our clean water and our fresh air. If we continue on the path we are on, those words will soon amount to the empty echo of a good memory.
There are many wrongs to right. Thankfully, this is an election year. So, what better place than here? What better time than now?