Musings, politics and environmental issues

Posts tagged ‘Al jazeera’

Arctic issues discussed at major gathering in Reykjavik

I like the Arctic Circle Gathering. It has now happened for the fourth time in Reykjavik, and takes over most of the impressive Harpa concert and conference centre. Indigenous artists also perform and/or display their art.

This year,  over 2000 participants from about 50 countries attended the three-day event, which is the largest event of its kind. People seem to use the event for networking as well as gaining more knowledge (or disseminating more knowledge) about Arctic matters. Lectures, plenary sessions, seminars and information stands cover a wide range of issues, from economics and investment issues to shipping and renewable energy. There are also sessions organized by a particular country, e.g. Switzerland and the Arctic.

This year I wrote a short piece about the North Atlantic Energy Network (underwater energy cables) for the European environmental news bulletin ENDS Europe, and a longer piece on sustainability and the Arctic for InDepthNews/ International Press Syndicate. Last year I wrote about permafrost and climate change for Al Jazeera. Interestingly, last year there were very few media outlets covering the event, but this year the number seemed to have tripled or even quadrupled (but we were allocated less working space than last year…). Clearly, interest has spread.

There are smaller Arctic Circle forums during the year: in Singapore, Alaska, Greenland and Québec. The latter will be held for the first time December 11-13 and will focus on renewable energy. Québec ranks second to Iceland in the proportion of its energy derived from renewables, in its case hydro. The blurb for the Québec forum includes: Discussions will focus on the sustainable development of northern regions, including Alaska, Greenland as well as northern areas of Norway and Sweden.



Fluoride poisoning in horses confirmed

I wrote an article almost two years ago for Al Jazeera on fluoride pollution from accidents at aluminium plants in West and East Iceland and their effects on horses and sheep respectively. The horse owner, Ragnheidur Thorgrimsdottir, had been saying for almost 10 years that her horses were affected by the nearby Century aluminium plant but her concerns were dismissed by the smelter officials as well as by the Food and Veterinary Authority staff.
Nevertheless, a specialist group was set up to investigate the matter by the Ministry of the Interior of the previous Icelandic government and they have just come to the conclusion that fluoride pollution was probably to blame for the horses’ health problems. Seventeen horses have had to be destroyed because of health problems stemming from the pollution.
However, Century officials and the FVA still stand by their previous convictions and say that fluoride is not to blame.
Hmm… I think they won’t change their beliefs, no matter what the evidence.

One of the affected horses

One of the affected horses

Permafrost not accounted for in global warming

I’ve just had another in-depth article published on Al Jazeera, this time on permafrost and its effects on climate, buildings, landscape, etc. The article came out of presentations at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik last month. New research is constantly coming to light regarding permafrost and global warming, and the US has suggested that the IPCC compile a separate report on the issue. At the moment, permafrost is unaccounted for in global warming calculations, partly due to lack of data.

Nevertheless, twice as much carbon is stored in permafrost than in the atmosphere. So we should be taking it into account.

UPDATE: The article was also published by the NGO Fair Planet, though the stories were edited differently.

Articles galore

Sometimes I spend most of my time editing English, sometimes it’s translating from Icelandic into English, and sometimes it’s writing articles. This week it’s definitely the latter. News items for ENDS Europe Daily on sulphur content of fuel oil in Denmark and Norway’s objection to implementing EU legislation on plastic bags, then publication (finally) of my article for Al Jazeera on  Russia banning fish from Iceland. I’m also developing pitches for ENDS and Al Jazeera on topics which will be discussed at the Arctic Council forum at the Harpa conference centre and concert hall from October 16-18, which has some very interesting themes (and some less interesting too). Interesting times.

Stay tuned – I’ll probably update this article with coverage of the Arctic Council.

Icelandic women, social media and rape culture

My article on how young Icelandic women are using social media to protest against sexual violence and rape culture was published by Al Jazera two days ago. It’s an exciting initiative that hasn’t stopped yet and has created considerable media coverage of the issue. I suspect that the record turnout for Saturday’s Slut Walk (Drusluganga) was partly to do with the women’s actions and the ensuing publicity.

IMG_1419 IMG_1417

The photos above were part of an action on June 19, when Iceland celebrated 100 years of women’s suffrage, and was organized by a group called Activism against Rape Culture which had arisen out of the Facebook group Beauty Tips. The organizers were appalled that the Icelandic government was celebrating the centenary with virtually no mention of the battles women still face, such as lower wages. The placard held by the young girl translates as “Onwards, women” and is the title of a song which was originally composed for the 1975 women’s strike but was sung on a number of occasions on June 19 this year too.


Article on fluoride pollution in Iceland published on Al Jazeera

My article on abnormally high emissions of fluoride from two aluminium plants in Iceland has now been published here. The article looks at the effects on farm animals and is a subject I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.
After I had submitted the article to Al Jazeera for their features section, I was given some queries to answer in relation to the article, so I phoned the sheep farmer near the Alcoa plant who I had talked to earlier. Up till now, sheep jaw bones and teeth have been monitored for fluoride but he told me that soft tissue from the left hind leg of sheep will also be monitored for fluoride from now on (he sent sheep to slaughter the day I filed the article). On the other side of Iceland, Ragnheidur Thorgrimsdottir had wanted soft tissue samples to be taken from her sick horses when the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority had monitored her horses for signs of fluoride poisoning in 2011, but they did not do that. In future maybe they will.

Al Jazeera shortened my article somewhat, which they were perfectly entitled to do considering that it was 40% longer than intended. I can provide the original if anyone wants it.