The newest tourist attraction in Iceland

On March 19th…at 8:45 P.M., a six-hundred-and-fifty-foot-long fissure opened near Fagradalsfjall—which means the Mountain of the Beautiful Valley. Svanur Snorrason and his daughter were two of the first people to witness a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula since the thirteenth or fourteenth century…

Scientists kept changing their estimates of the anticipated life span of the eruption—from a few days to hundreds of years. The last time the Reykjanes Peninsula became active, it remained so for about three centuries. In the nine weeks since the fissure first opened, the site had rapidly and abruptly changed in appearance and behavior. In the first month, eight vents had opened; they were given such nicknames as Norðri (Northie) and Suðri (Southie). In early May, a fissure known merely as Vent 5 transformed into a spectacular fire geyser, shooting lava as high as a thousand feet into the air. Since then, everything but Vent 5 had become inactive…

The eruption is certainly better-mannered than many others that have marked Iceland’s geothermic history. Unlike the 2010 eruption at the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, the Fagradalsfjall eruption isn’t hosing the atmosphere with lethal gas and ash, upending international air travel and forcing Icelanders to flee their homes. Unlike the 1973 eruption on the offshore island of Heimaey, it threatens to eradicate no town or fill a fishing harbor with land. Unlike the 1783 eruption of the Laki fissure, it’s not powerful enough to cause a worldwide extreme winter, leading to crop failures and famines. And it doesn’t pose the ongoing hazard of Mt. Hekla, a still active volcano that, after it erupted in 1104, became known as the Gateway to Hell. Fagradalsfjall had thus far caused no deaths and, temporary traffic jams aside, it had barely even proved an inconvenience. But I knew that, given the unpredictable nature of volcanic eruptions, it was foolish to bank on good manners.

Been reading my stuff long enough, you know I love Iceland. This tale is just one of the reasons. Read it all. Go visit. Enjoy the snow and ice, volcanoes, fish and fishing. Meet hardy folks.

Is Iceland the Tip of a Vast Lost Continent?

A vast sunken continent called “Icelandia” may exist under the North Atlantic Ocean, a finding that, if proven, could upend long-standing assumptions about the region’s geological history and inform the search for other submerged continents around the globe.

The proposed continent is estimated to extend for at least 230,000 square miles, reaching Greenland to the north and potentially Europe to the east. Iceland is the uppermost tip of this hidden continental mass, according to researchers led by Gillian Foulger, emeritus professor of geophysics at Durham University…

“The existence of Icelandia needs to be tested,” Foulger and her colleagues said…adding that Icelandia is “a convenient example” to pioneer new methods and hypotheses that ”could be applied to other candidate sunken continents that are common in the oceans.”

With its dramatic landscapes and frequent volcanic eruptions, Iceland is a geological hotspot that has attracted attention from Earth scientists for centuries. The island is located on top of the divergent boundary of the North American and Eurasian continental plates, which cause tectonic turbulence on the island as they move apart.

This small nation, potentially atop a vast submerged continent, is a beautiful place. One of my favorite travel destinations in decades past. It’s been way too long; but, any trip abroad that could be routed through Iceland automatically decided my choices. It’s fierce and wild climate is matched by the independent culture of the folk who live there.

Volcano in Iceland returns to life


Vilhelm Gunnarsson/Getty

After a series of earthquakes in Iceland, the long-dormant volcano Fagradalsfjall erupted on Friday night. The volcano is located nearly 40 miles outside of Reykjavik, the nearest city and the country’s capital, and didn’t threaten any lives or infrastructure damage.

Images of the eruption immediately flooded social media as Iceland residents saw lava and ash from the volcano light up the sky.

The country’s Minister of Justice, Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, took a trip to the volcano as the eruption began to monitor the situation. Sigurbjörnsdóttir posted photos and a live video from the helicopter showing lava oozing down from the eruption.

RTFA. Lots more photos and video. I love Iceland. Haven’t been there in years…and always loved every hour in that beautiful land.

Green Dragon in the Sky over Iceland


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A gargantuan green dragon hisses in the sky over Iceland. Either “Game of Thrones” really upped its production budget for its final season, or the sun belched a barrage of charged particles into our atmosphere again.

As much as any of us would like to see a real dragon breathe flames into the winter sky, buzzkill NASA blames solar activity — as usual — for the writhing, “fire-breathing”- aurora that loomed over Iceland earlier this month.

Of course, I like the GAME OF THRONES scenario.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

How Iceland radically cut teenage drug use

❝ Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”…

❝ In 1991, Milkman was invited to Iceland to talk about this work, his findings and ideas. He became a consultant to the first residential drug treatment centre for adolescents in Iceland, in a town called Tindar. “It was designed around the idea of giving kids better things to do,” he explains. It was here that he met Gudberg, who was then a psychology undergraduate and a volunteer at Tindar. They have been close friends ever since…

Milkman started coming regularly to Iceland and giving talks. These talks, and Tindar, attracted the attention of a young researcher at the University of Iceland, called Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir. She wondered: what if you could use healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol as part of a programme not to treat kids with problems, but to stop kids drinking or taking drugs in the first place?

A useful read. Could be a guide to programs in many countries including the GOUSA. Not that I’m optimistic about any science and reason-based programs getting anywhere – here – in the near future. But, this sounds worthwhile and adaptable to local and regional priorities.

Iceland ignored “too big to fail” – and won!

Iceland found another way to clean up the financial crisis…Unlike the U.S., the country let its banks fail and bailed out lots of consumers.


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❝ Last week, I was at an ETF conference in Reykjavík. As I was flying there, it dawned on me I know practically nothing of Iceland. What little understanding I had, had come second-hand, via Michael Lewis’ epic tale of Iceland’s financial collapse, “Wall Street on the Tundra.” His 10,000-word Vanity Fair missive is practically a Norse Saga of its own.

Lewis explores the Icelandic bubble in delicious detail. The short version is that the Icelandic banks scaled up their debts from a mere few billion dollars to over $140 billion, without growing the asset base at the same time. To quote Lewis quoting an economist, it was “the most rapid expansion of a banking system in the history of mankind…”

❝ Unlike here in the states or in Europe, the Icelanders told the bankers to piss off. Instead of bailing them out, they were sent into bankruptcy. The results were a fast and sharp decline, followed by a rapid, post-crisis economic recovery — faster and stronger than any other country in the world.

Excerpted from notes posted, today, on Barry Ritholtz’s blog…The Big Picture. At the end, he links to a larger piece he wrote for BLOOMBERG…Iceland Found Another Way to Clean Up a Financial Crisis. An interesting, educational read about an alternative solution to the Great Recession – that worked.

Completely separate; but, culturally important. Images of Iceland by Om Malik.

Iceland installs fast chargers for EVs on island nation’s ring road

❝ A network of 20 of ABB’s high-speed 50kW DC fast chargers for electric vehicles has been installed across Iceland as the island nation looks to electric vehicles to cut petrol imports and reduce emissions…

The 20 ABB fast chargers were installed around the island by the local electric utility, Orka Natturunnar. The network in Iceland is very exciting because the electricity they push out is already 100% renewable, which means another big step toward zero-emissions life in the country.

❝ The new charging network was installed in support of a nationwide push to ramp up electric vehicle adoption that continues to find traction. In 2014, there were only 90 electric vehicles in Iceland compared to more than 6,000 plug-in vehicles in the country of just over 330,00 residents today.

RTFA. If you’ve ever spent time in Iceland none of this will surprise you. Probably the global leader in democratic participation in social processes, Iceland is as much a political gem as a center for natural beauty.

Happy Nations Don’t Focus on Growth


Roman Gorielov/Istockphoto

❝ The Socialist candidate for the French presidency, Benoit Hamon, says he doesn’t believe in the “myth” and “quasi-religion” of growth — it’s part of the “consumerist, productivist and materialist model” of development, he argues. That’s outside the economic mainstream, and many see those views as a symptom of the meltdown of the global left. But the recently-released Global Happiness Report 2017, produced under the auspices of the United Nations, shows that Hamon just may be ahead of the curve.

❝ Since the project’s inception five years ago, small, rich Western European nations have led the list. In this year’s ranking, compiled using the last three years of data, they make up the top six, with Norway, Denmark and Iceland leading the world. In terms of growth, these nations have long lagged behind the global level…

Meanwhile, China, which has one of the highest sustained growth rates in the world, is not progressing in terms of happiness. The happiness report contains an entire chapter on that, written by Richard Easterlin, Fei Wang and Shun Wang. They pointed out that based on previous studies, China should have seen an increase in well-being of one full point on the ten-point Cantril Scale. Instead, Chinese people are just about as happy as they were in 1990.

❝ The team of respected economists Jeffrey Sachs, Richard Layard and John Helliwell suggests six variables explain the subjective well-being levels: wealth expressed as per capita GDP, the level of social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity (the prevalence of giving to charitable causes), and perceptions of corruption…

❝ …The experience of the small European nations at the top of the table shows that once a certain level of wealth is achieved, growth isn’t as important to happiness levels. As long as per capita GDP is relatively stable, the other factors do their job, and if there’s a problem with them — for example, health care becomes less accessible or deteriorates, the social fabric starts fraying, people grow more selfish or freedom erodes — people tend to feel unhappy despite an unchanged comfort level.

The happiness-related findings are politically important. In 2015, George Ward of the London School of Economics analyzed European election data to show that subjective well-being was a stronger predictor of the vote for the incumbent government than GDP growth or the unemployment level. It’s hard for technocratic elites to acknowledge that the relative electoral success of nativist parties could be dictated by a yearning for social cohesion that they believe is undermined by immigration and globalization; it’s even harder to come up with ways of fixing the problem.

❝ Far left politicians such as Hamon at least give it a try. The French presidential candidate wants to shift the focus from growth to the social support network, primarily health care and education. He also proposes a universal basic income and a shorter workweek, made possible by higher taxes on the rich. It could help or it could backfire…

❝ …Regardless of whether their specific recipes are workable, the left-wing radicals are right in trying to shift the rich world’s policy focus. There’s plenty of wealth, that goal is already achieved. Good policy is a matter of directing it toward the determinants of happiness.

I’ll second that emotion.

This is Iceland

this-is-iceland
Click the image to visit the site

❝ I am one of the many people who are in love with the sparse, hypnotic and majestic landscape of Iceland and its wonderful people. In case, you need more convincing, check out this website and some stunning photographs. Then pack your bags and go visit. It might be cold in winters, but still stark and amazing. Iceland haunts me!

Om Malik