From Iceland — Organizing For the Future

Organizing For the Future

Organizing For the Future

Published June 30, 2006

The Framtíðarlandið (The Future Country) organisation was formally established at a big meeting held in Austurbær on Iceland’s Independence Day, the 17th of June. The building was packed with a cross-section of the society: businessmen, environmentalists, scholars, artists and individuals with a common interest in Iceland’s future.
Framtíðarlandið is a cross-political organisation, aimed at both enlightening and criticising government policy that has been characterised by heavy industry plans and irredeemable destruction of nature. Framtíðarlandið is a voice for those who want to fight for visionary, positive ideas by making politicians realise how important it is to preserve the environment and illustrate other options for development. Only 13 days after the meeting, more than 2,000 individuals have logged onto the website and signed a petition to demonstrate their interest in these important matters. Ósk Vilhjálmsdóttir, one of the founders, told the Grapevine more about Framtíðarlandið.
/// Why did you found the organisation Framtíðarland?
– Primarily, we didn’t want to sit idly by and watch Icelandic nature being destroyed by dams and aluminium smelters. We are scared that while Iceland is being thought of as a trademark, the country will suffer a great setback in the future. By establishing a powerful organisation, primarily concerned about Iceland’s future we are hoping to sustain a critical voice, pointing out to the government that there are so many other options right in front of us in all the incredible human capital and creative individuals who inhabit the country. In our opinion the government should place emphasis on that rather than dwelling on one mindless industry policy.
/// What is your goal?
– Our goal is above all to make the government trust its own people. A policy, like the one we have witnessed for far too long, based on aluminium smelters scattered around nature, is just intolerable. The politicians seem to believe they have to fix the “unemployment problem” by building some big power plants but the reality is that fresher and more exciting ideas would help so much more. You can gain economic growth in other ways than relying on heavy industry of cause. The country was built by inventive and hardworking individuals, filled with ideas and we think that those angles are lacking in the governments strategy. Just take the whale-watching tours for example. Those tours started as a small idea and have expanded, not to mention all the musicians and artists making a name for themselves abroad. Those people can help find a solution. They should have the initiative to build up the country’s future. Rather than taking that away from them, the government should support different trades and emphasise education and creativity instead of selling the country as a quick solution.
/// Do you think that the majority of Icelanders are aware enough about this issue?
– They are starting to be. A lot has changed in recent years, especially the atmosphere. Today we feel a strong sympathy among a varied group of people that has had enough of all these rash decisions, don’t want heavy industry to become a reality and are getting together to discuss those matters.
/// Isn’t that exactly the point? Icelanders are always discussing what they are unhappy about, but usually in their own private sphere and nothing ever happens.
– We want to stop people from hiding their opinions and encourage them to make a difference. We want to create a platform for new ideas and help the government to do the right thing. We have to stand together. I think that can have quite an influence.
/// What are the plans for now?
– In the fall we will meet again to review the situation and look for all possible ways to press the government to change its policy. We will do whatever it takes; maybe even form a party for the next elections. As the reality has been, the majority of Icelanders have never gotten the chance to vote for any of the ideas concerning the power plants approved by the parliament. Those decisions were never put to a vote and we definitely don’t want to see that happen again. We want to strengthen the democracy.
/// Finally, how do you picture Iceland in the future?
– I think of it as a paradise island, where creative individuals live in harmony and the emphasis is on the individual himself, education, culture, knowledge and ingenuity.

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