People have different passions. Some people are enthusiastic about coffee, others adore shiny things, yet others are passionate about nature and wildlife. Passion for nature makes people chain themselves to trees, parade naked to protest the fur trade, sail in rough seas to stop whale killing, climb oil rigs to protest drilling etc.
Now in Iceland, a group of environmentalists (lead by the NGO “Friends of the lava” are passionate about protecting a lava field, close to Reykjavík called Gálgahraun (Gallow-lava), from being dug up and buried under major roadworks. Some people might think this very odd. Why protect a small piece of lava since Iceland has so much of it? There is lava pretty much everywhere! There are a number of reasons why this particular lava field is unique and should be kept unspoiled. This lava was formed in the eruption of Búrfell, 8000 years ago and is protected by law. This beautiful lava field is mostly intact, and contains amazing geological features and old historical paths used by our ancestors. It also has a strong resonance for cultural reasons, as our best known painter, Jóhannes Kjarval, used scenes from the Gálgahraun lava field as inspiration for some of his famous paintings. Furthermore, it is one of the last unspoiled lava fields within the greater Reykjavík area. What upsets people about the situation is that the planned (and possibly illegal) road construction is completely unnecessary. It will only serve a low number of people (Álftanes has a population of 2.484) and the road construction will cost a fortune (approx 6 million Euros). The argument put forward for the new road layout is that the old road has caused accidents because of icing but out of 44 roads within the greater Reykjavík area, 21 roads were considered more dangerous than the Álftanes road, and of 1427 roads in the whole country, 301 roads have more accidents than Álftanes road. The road could be improved and made much safer for a fraction of what the new road would cost. I don’t know exactly what drives the municipality of Garðabær and The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration to pursue this insane road construction but something about the whole thing stinks very badly.
Four nature NGO’s have sued the municipality to halt the road construction, but have not been able to change the planned work and the lawsuit is still being processed in court. In the last weeks hundreds of people have been protecting the lava field and they set up a rota to make sure there was always someone in the lava field protecting it from the bulldozers. These brave people are making a human shield to protect something they love. Today, the police started dragging them away and are carrying them handcuffed like they were the criminals. On days like these it doesn’t feel like Iceland is a country of law and order anymore.
If you want to help in any way, you can either show up in Gálgahraun and protest or transfer a donation to their bank account number: 140 05 71017, kennitala. 480207 – 1490. All help is greatly appreciated.
Addition at 13:30 on 21st of October: I just came from Gálgahraun and the bulldozers are already ruining this amazing lava field. Dozens of people have been arrested, there is police everywhere and we all (even the police) stood there horrified watching the screaming bulldozer tear down delicate lava features. The people responsible will stop at nothing, their greed has no limits.
Very interesting about the lava field! How big is it?
And how frustrating to hear about Icelandic police behaving like that. I guess it’s the same story everywhere… 😦
Good luck to the lava defenders!
And I just saw the update 😦
Is there anywhere non-Icelandic people can contact about it (email, FB, Twitter)?
Hey thank you for your input Ruthi, the Gálgahraun lava field is small, only about 108 hectares, its the most northern of part of a much larger lava field that is now partially under the city already. There was a campaign on http://alftanesvegur.is/ but you need an Icelandic kennitala number for that… and now unfortunately its too late. They are destroying it as we speak, their aim is to destroy it as much as they can, as fast as they can… and the police force will keep arresting people who step over the boundaries… So now we just hope the whole fiasko gets as much media attention and public awareness as possible.
Keep up the fight! I hope you manage to save something!!
Very disheartening. Perhaps this matter could be brought to a more global audience by getting avaaz.org and similar organizations involved. Don’t know if there is time enough to halt what is already happening but there ought to be more vocal opposition. Some politicians are shamed by world-wide attention.
Thanks for your efforts to spread the word.
Thank you Vaishali, you are so right, we probably should have acted globally sooner. I guess we didn’t think they would actually go ahead and destroy it while it was still being dealt with in the court. There will be a big protest tomorrow, hope many people show up, so for those of you in Iceland tomorrow, please show up in front of the Ministry of the Interior tomorrow at 12:30. https://www.facebook.com/events/656070847757390/?previousaction=join&source=1