Tag Archives: Iceland

Just another volcano eruption: watch online

 

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Bruce McAdam

It may have caught your attention that a volcano has erupted, yet again in Iceland. That island can’t seem to stay out of trouble. The name of the troublemaker this time isn’t any easier to pronounce than last time,  the volcanos name is ‘Bárðarbunga’, good long pronouncing that!

At this moment it the effects of it do not seem to be disturbed flight traffic, but the final effects are still unknown. The eruption is believed to go on for another week, or up to a month.

Icelanders are staying calm and even put up a camera for the their residents to watch the volcano erupt live. You can take a look at it here.

You can follow up on newest videos and photos from the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences Facebook page.

Your holiday almost got cancelled yesterday. It still might.

Jón Ragnarsson’s photo. Fimmvörðuháls eruption in Iceland in 2010.

THE ERUPTION OF Iceland’s volcano Eyjafjallajökull (the one world didn’t seem to be able to pronounce) in 2010 stopped half of Europe’s flight traffic. Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímson later warned Europe about Katla, one of Iceland’s most powerful volcanoes, with these words: “The time for Katla to erupt is coming close“.

Well he might be right on that. Yesterday, Katla – which is in fact one of the world’s most powerful volcanoes and known locally as being the most dangerous volcano in Iceland – let its residents know it was still there.

A sudden glacial flooding in the Múlakvísl and Jökulsá rivers originating from Katla occurred yesterday. Sulphur pollution that rises from the glacial flood can be dangerous – if exposed to people it can cause them to lose consciousness.

The government declared an “uncertainty level” for the Katla volcano and people were advised to stay away and ‘keep their cellphone very close’.

Glacial floods like this can be caused by various factors, such as eruptions, rising lava, steam vents or newly opened hot springs. All of these can cause glacial ice to quickly melt, accumulate under the glacier and then release – in this case, the effects seemed only to be flooding.

Fortunately, there are currently no signs of an impending eruption at Katla.

However, Katla has been showing signs of unrest since 1999. Geologists predict it will erupt in the near future. It is being closely monitored. An eruption could have ramifications for both the locals and the wider international community.

There’s no smoke on the horizon yet, but there might well be soon. Watch this space, and the skies, for signs of Katla’s might.

Words: Svanlaug Arnadottir

That’s why vegans go to Iceland

 

LollyKnit

 

While in most European countries veganism is widespread, in Iceland it is just starting to be accepted as a lifestyle. But what can be learnt from the vegans themselves? 

Harpa Sif Arnarsdóttir, a 27-year old Master student in public administration and Sæunn Ingibjörg Marinósdóttir who is head of trading for health and organics at Samkaup. Both of them have been vegans for three years and believe a change of attitudes is taking place in Iceland towards veganism. Icelanders have increasingly turned to them for advice on the vegan lifestyle instead of judging them, which was the norm until now. Looking ahead they are positive about the future and believe Iceland has the potential to become a centre of organic farming.

What does it mean to be a vegan?

M: Veganism is a vegeterian who eats no animal products, no dairy, eggs and honey and tries to minimise the harm and suffering for the animal.

A: It varies how far people go with this, vegans are people who don’t wear fur, leather or wool or use cosmetics that have been tested on animals or contain animal products. Whoever identifies themselves a vegan tries to avoid animal products as much as possible – you do your best, but animal products are hidden everywhere and sometimes it takes an expert to spot them.

How is the general attitude toward veganism in Iceland?

M: It has changed a lot in the past one to two years. People didn’t even know what veganism was before. The reactions were a little harsh but it has changed and today people are getting more curious.

A: We think of raising awareness about it in a positive way, but sometimes it can be hard when people are disrespectful towards it. It is such a far-fetched concept to some people, the vegan lifestyle, some feel that it is diminishing to their own traditions, the christmas tradition for example when most people eat meat. In the beginning people made a lot of fun of it and said I was crazy. It felt a little like people were waiting and looking forward to see me fail but as time passed and people saw this was possible and their attitude changed.

What needs to happen for this to become more acceptable in Iceland? 

M: It is necessary to inform people. First of all, there is no need for everybody to become vegetarians but it is necessary for people to increase the amount of vegetables in their diet, that’s certain. There are also the moral thoughts, you ask yourself if it is for ethical reasons you don’t eat dogs but eat chicken. Last but not least the United Nations are in order to turn around negative impacts on the earth by pushing people to reduce meat consumption and increase the consumption of vegetables.

A: Vegetarianism and veganism are becoming more popular in Iceland, people are coming to us and asking for advice.

What do you consider the biggest misconception about veganism?

A: I have a very good story about that. In the cafeteria at my workplace there was once a discussion about someone who was a vegetarian and how this person along with all the other vegetarians were grey in colour, weak looking and losing their hair. The discussion went on how that particular person had lost all spark of life from her eyes. I sat still and listened while the discussion went on for half an hour. At the end of the discussion I said I was a vegan and asked if I was missing the spark in my eyes? The whole room was in shock, everybody apologised to me although I didn’t take it personally. I don’t know where this stereotype comes from, but whenever people get ill people say it’s just the flu but when a vegetarian becomes ill it is said to be because of a lack of nutrition.

People also think this is a lot of hassle and expensive but that is a big misunderstanding. This is cheaper than most other diets and not more complicated than other cooking. And the claim that we don’t get enough proteins or nutrition is a big misconception.

M: People also think this is a lot of hassle and expensive but that is a big misunderstanding. This is cheaper than most other diets and not more complicated than other cooking. And the claim that we don’t get enough proteins or nutrition is a big misconception. The diet doesn’t become less diverse, there are so many options with vegetarian diet. People tend to look at the typical dish showing the percentage of food you should eat and expecting that when the meat is taken away, there is a hole they believe won’t be filled.

A: Many believe it is a diet and it is very important to erase that misunderstanding, it creates a prejudice towards veganism. People are vegetarian for various reasons, some do it for animal welfare and then smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. Then there are others who do it for health reasons and don’t care about the animals. I think most people start for some of these reasons and than feel all the benefits from it. I started for ethical reasons but soon realised how beneficial it was for my health and finally I realised how vital it is for environmental reasons and economically important for the society. Iceland has the opportunity to become the centre of organic farming because we hardly use pesticides and we have enough energy to build up a food industry based on organic production. Sometimes you don’t understand why more people aren’t interested in this and that you can in general receive negative feedback for this.

Do you expect any awakening in this matter?

M: I think it has just begun, I think it is in the air. People have become much more acceptable to this.

A: I have so much faith in this, I have so far not found any counter arguments against being a vegan.

M: There are many vegans who speak of a general better mental well-being after the changes, people become somehow peaceful.

A: I completely agree, there is so much pride and joy that comes from having achieved this, it makes you want to continue and it brings you to some inner peace.

Only the future will tell if Iceland will be the centre of organic farming, it may have a long way to go, but a change is in the air for certain according to these two vegans.

Written by Kristrún Kristinsdóttir

Protests and Strikes – Iceland Fast News

Við viljum kjósa #vor14

Iceland was in the midst of an application process to join the European Union. However now Iceland’s government has decided to pull out. This has not pleased the Icelandic public and Svanlaug Árnadóttir gets to the heart of the matter for Pandeia.

Iceland’s government recently decided to withdraw the application to the European Union, without consulting the people of Iceland. In last spring’s elections, the government promised in a public referendum, that such decisions would not be made unsupported by public opinion. The Icelandic people will not stand by silently and for the past three Saturdays, Icelanders have gathered outside of Austurvöllur, a public square in Reykjavík.

They are protesting the decision made by the current government, which is a coalition between the right wing Independence Party and Centre-left Progress Party.

Prominent Protesters

Up to 8.000 people have been gathering for the protests and a number of famous people have attended to show their support. Amongst those are Ólafur Stefánsson, a former national handball player, who spoke to the crowd last week asserting that the government was no longer doing what was ‘right’ and suggested that it changed its path.

A matter of principle

The protestors said that they might not even want to join the EU, but it was mainly a matter of a principle, to have a say on the matter and to make sure the government keeps its promises. Around 50,000 Icelanders have already signed a petition against the decision to withdraw the application.

Við viljum kjósa #vor14

 

According to Bergrún Helga Gunnarsdóttir, a 53-year old nurse, who has already attended eleven protests, the demonstrators come from all political parties, or sometimes are not even affiliated to one. “It is just normal people, who were fed up and started a Facebook group, which is funded by free donation.” Bergrún describes how people are walking around the protests with plastic barrels to gather money for audio equipment and necessities in order to keep the protests going.

 

 

 

Armed with bananas

The demonstrations took a fruity turn as protesters showed up armed with bananas last Friday. They greeted the government with the bananas held up to the air or taped to their foreheads calling Iceland the “Banana Republic” – indicating that Iceland is loosing its status as a serious democracy.

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Við viljum kjósa #vor14

 

Teachers strike – students suffer

There is even more evidence that its the time of protest in Iceland: University students recently protested planned cut-downs by the government for student loans and high school teachers just started a strike last Monday. The strike has left high school students in the dark about their future. Their final exams were supposed to start in a month and some students have already applied for further education abroad, relying on their exam results to get accepted. Other students have already dropped out to work during the strike, and plan to return to school next fall.

University teachers intend to follow this example and have planned a strike from the 25th of April to the 10th of May. This is in the middle of students’ final exams. The timing is no coincidence as the exam period is characterised by a heavy workload for the teachers, and the results of the exams will affect the school’s funding. If the strike actually happens, it will severely harm the student. In Iceland students do not get their student loans until having passed their exams. With no exams – student’s pockets will be empty.

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Við viljum kjósa #vor14

Mayoral Elections: Icelandic Fast News

Among other things, Icelandic nature is known for its characteristic "Geysers".

Among other things, Icelandic nature is known for its characteristic “Geysers”.

 

Everyone wants to experience Iceland’s beautiful nature. However a major increase in tourism is creating new problems in Iceland. In the capital city Reykjavik the mayor is taking a stand against NATO, and Iceland’s airport Keflavik deals with mischievous youngsters. Pandeia’s Svanlaug Árnadóttir gives a brief account of what is going on in Iceland. 

 

Tourism is booming right now in Iceland. The amount of tourists visiting Iceland every year has increased by 20 % from 2012 to 2013.

This requires accommodation for the visitors, and around 1100 new hotel rooms are being built Reykjavík. Since tourism is expected to increase even more in the coming years, it is estimated that around 1600 hotel rooms need to be built before 2020, in order to accommodate the geyser-seeking visitors. Recently the American news company CNN selected Iceland’s capital Reykjavík as part of its list of winter vacation ideas.

 

A heated debate has now started in Iceland on whether to start charging tourists a fee to see Icelandic nature’s gems. Up until now, access has been free of charge and with the increase in tourism, some of the sights require maintenance. From now on, every adult will be charged a fee of 3 Euros to see the ‘Geysir’ – which is Iceland’s most famous geyser. The money will be used for maintenance of the area, and it is likely that this will be a tendency for other natural sights as well.

 

Mayor of Reykjavik speaks up against Nato

On 21st February, NATO is running an event called The Iceland Air Meet. It is an annual air-defence training event. The event has caused great concern to the mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr as military airplanes will fly past Reykjavík City. His opinion is, that Iceland should not even be in NATO. Iceland is currently the only NATO member, without a standing army. It has become a mission for the mayor to ensure that Reykjavík is ‘a city without an army’. It is therefore important for him that no weapons enter Reykjavík city around the event.

 

Prank bomb threat

Earlier this week a bomb threat was issued regarding an airplane flying in from London. Thirty minutes before the plane was scheduled to land in Keflavík airport a phone call was received and the pilot was forced to land outside of the airport for security reasons. The passengers were evacuated and all luggage was searched. At the end of the day the police investigation came to the conclusion. It was merely a prank call from a 13-year old boy.

 

Closing the Gender gap in Iceland

According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2013, Iceland came in first place in the gender gap index, meaning that Iceland is the country with the smallest gap between men and women. Pandeia’s Svanlaug Arnadottir speaks to an Icelandic student about being a woman in the world’s most gender-equal country.

Recent research has shown that Iceland is a role-model in terms of gender equality. In research for the Global Gender Gap Report of 2013, 136 nations were investigated, and measured on gender equality in economics, education, health and politics.

Despite the financial crisis with heavy cut-backs in Iceland’s healthcare and educational system, the results show that Iceland is doing well on gender issues. It is the fifth year in a row that Iceland has come in first place. But how is it to live in a country ranked with the highest equality in the world?  How does it affect students?

Pandeia had a talk with Hrefna Jónsdóttir, a second year student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iceland, with a Bachelor in Physical Geography.

Do you experience inequality in your education?

No, not at all, I didn’t in my geography education and neither in engineering. Right now we are the first year in a long time in Environmental Engineering with more girls than boys, it’s great!

Do you think you have the same opportunities as your fellow male students after graduation?

Yes, if not even better because many engineering firms want as much gender equality as possible and at this point, there are more men working in engineering firms than women.

Were you surprised to find out that Iceland has the greatest gender equality in the world?

No, not at all. Gender equality is a very important discussion topic here, and therefore we are very aware of it.

More male media coverage

Jónsdóttir says she does not notice much difference in media coverage on men and women but has noticed that media coverage in general is more about men than women.

Despite being a leading nation in gender equality, media coverage about women is only 28 per cent according to the Global Media Monitoring Project, which is lower than in other Nordic countries where the ratio is between 30-33 per cent.

40 per cent of Icelandic news is considered to strengthen gender stereotypes and only 13 per cent is considered to challenge stereotypes. In Internet coverage women rank a little higher; producing 36 per cent of the news while they are the topic of 23 per cent. Only four per cent of the online news seems to challenge gender stereotypes and 42 per cent strengthens them.

Despite Iceland’s leading position, gender gaps have not been erased in the media. After the financial crisis different voices are being heard throughout society on the effect on gender issues. Some say women are worse off in society facing unemployment as cut-backs seem to affect professions that have more female workers than men  – such as teachers and nurses. Other voices say that the crisis finally gave women a way ‘in’ – especially within the business sector where female voices are finally being heard.  Values such as caution became more appreciated than risk-taking behavior and many women have gained higher positions and more responsibility through those changes.

 

Students of Europe: Has winter passed?

*UPDATE* With student protests continuing to flare up some 5 months on, Pandeia revisits its Special Report into the Student Protest movement as a result of education cuts.

Europe is in crisis – a fact that cannot have escaped anyone’s attention. The financial problems of the past years have forced governments to adopt austerity measures in many different areas. Major cut-backs have been made on education budgets, which has lead to student protests all over Europe.

University life in Athens has frozen. Teaching, research and clinical work have come to a standstill in two of Greece’s biggest universities as administrative staff strike against severe cuts made to the higher education budget. Most of the facilities have been occupied by the students as they express their solidarity, while the senate of the University of Athens (UoA) resigned last week. The consequences of this radical 3 month long action at  UoA alone  affect 65.682 students, 1.974 professors, 40 departments, 8 libraries, 66 clinics, 174 laboratories and 18 museums.

The situation in Greece is exceptional, but not surprising when examining the rest of Europe. Studying is, in terms of finance, becoming a more risky business in the UK as well. The UK coalition government has been steadily moving toward marketisation of higher education over the past few years.

The annual tuition fee was raised to £9000 in 2010, and calls are being made to raise fees even further to £16,000. The marketisation of higher education leads to a prioritisation of budget resources to the more profitable academic subjects. Business, technology and medicine are prioritised while Humanities and Arts subjects have been neglected. Profitability rather than educational excellence dominates UK governmental policy.

The raising of tuition fees in Spain and Ireland has had similar effects. According to the Spanish student Union, the recent reforms in Spain promote inequality of access to education favoring the upper class.

University shutdown

The situation in Greece is  precarious. Because of the shut-down, Greek graduate students cannot obtain the required certificates in order to study abroad, and are prevented from going on already arranged and paid exchange programs. The University of Athens students are forced to put their studies on pause as long as the conflict continues.

Despite this, the situation is not as severe in all European countries. In the Netherlands and Denmark students still receive a monthly scholarship. However the financial crisis has led to deterioration in student conditions.  In Denmark students are protesting and signing petitions against a reform that was passed before this summer. The reform, named “The Study Process Reform”, has been dubbed by Danish students as a clever euphemism for a measure that significantly impairs their conditions. The overall aim is to rush students through their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as quickly as possible. The Universities are obligated to take measures that will make students finish their degree on average 4.3 months faster.

Similar changes are seen in Dutch education policy. Lengthy studying is discouraged, which disables students to prolong their studies for internships, or enroll in additional Masters degrees.  There have been political proposals to create a ‘lending system’ instead of the free monthly scholarships. If this lending system is implemented, researchers estimate 7500 students will choose not to continue their studies after secondary school.

On the other side of the North Sea, grants have been completely cut for Master’s students. According to Irish graduate student David Fleming (28) this forces many young people to look for opportunities abroad:

“I am one of them. Unless things change, less and less people will be able to afford to attend university and will either be stuck on unemployment benefits or will choose to leave the country.”

Students to court

David is one among many students who choose to move to another country for their studies. According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the number of students leaving home to pursue tertiary education programmes abroad has risen sharply in recent years. In 2010, the number of internationally mobile tertiary students grew from 2 million in 2000 until to  3.6 million today.

This trend is felt first hand in Austria. Austrian universities do not have entrance limits depending on average grades. Unrestricted access to higher education has made Austria a favoured destination for educational migration, mostly by students from Germany who do not have a sufficient grade point average for German universities. In Austrian media, this development is sometimes referred to as “Deutschenschwemme”, meaning “German flood”.

According to Austrian student Johannes Pertra (25) this is a burden on the Austrian economy:

“The problem is not one of racism or xenophobia, but rather that German students tend to go back home to look for jobs, leaving the Austrian state with nothing.”

Meanwhile, the Austrian universities are filled to the brim,  affecting the performance of attending students. Recently an Austrian student successfully sued the Austrian state by arguing that his university did not provide him with conditions that allowed him to get his degree within the minimum time. He argued that overcrowded courses and the fight to sit exams forced him to prolong his studies.

The student won the case, which might create problems for the Austrian state. “If other students start suing the state for the exact same reasons and they all lawfully get money from the state, it will lead to chaos”, Johannes says.

Even countries with considerably good student conditions are suffering in these wintry days of educational reforms.  The question is how favoured countries will cope with the flood of student migration. The situation in Austria is an example of how educational systems may suffer. As long as the conditions for students are not improving, students are likely to look for lower cost and better quality abroad putting countries with relatively better conditions under pressure.

The austerity measures haven’t just been contained to the continent. The UK’s education system has felt the force of the country’s economic downturn, and its almost unanimously the students who are paying for it. The BBC recently reported that outstanding student loan debt will rise to £200 billion in the next 30 years and that around fifty percent of students are ‘not expected’ to repay the loan, a turn of events that mimic those across the Atlantic. With the current system being deemed ‘unsustainable’, there is a large measure of uncertainty over the future of the UK’s higher education system. This uncertainly has only been compounded by the recent selling off of £900 million worth of student debt by the Conservative government for the ‘bargain’ price of £160 million. The reality is, of a system  developing whereby nobody gains and everybody loses.

Winter hasn’t left

In Kosovo in February, students clashed with police during protests against the University of Pristina. The Head of the University had been found to have falsified research in order to gain credentials crucially needed for extra-funding. The protests raged in the streets for a number of days, as students claimed the budget cuts had left the university in a criminal state.

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While in Croatia, the legacy of the Autumn of 2009 is still being felt, where for 10 days the universities were taken over and ran by the students. In 2014, students in Zagreb held a rally protesting against further cuts that would mean some courses would have to close.

As the nights get lighter and the days longer, it seems winter has passed. However for Europe’s education system, the question is, when will it see the effects?

By Nele Goutier and Anja Christoffersen

Additional Reporting by Jamie Timson