Photography by Nina Corcoran
Björk and the Heart of Iceland organization held a surprise press conference in Reyjkavík on Friday morning during which they called for an immediate global protest to preserve Iceland’s highlands in the face of international energy construction. The protest, planned to last for 11 days, exposes government plans for a power-line cutting through Icelandic dams and power plants.
“There are laws here for wild animals, you can’t hunt them unless you have permission,” explained Björk. “The same should be for our nature, but it is not so. Right now there are over 50 energy-harnessing requests in the system, but no ‘Leave nature alone’ requests. Nature has no lawyer to defend her case.”
She continued, “Iceland is a magic place, and what’s so amazing is that the proportion is pretty special. A vast wilderness means there’s no infrastructure, so you can get things done here so easily. The nation joins together, but what’s also scary is when the bank crash happened, the government, who has only been in power for two years, used 80 areas to harness energy resources from, and now they’ve reduced that down to 54… We can’t go the legal route. The only way is to tell the world about it and get the people to look at their conscious, and the government of Iceland should be thinking along similar lines.”
The Icelandic superstar (who sported a detailed beaded mask tied up by two hair-buns) hosted the private press conference at local venue Gamla Bíó to stress the urgency of derailing potential construction plans. As a recent Reuters article details, a high voltage energy line may be built over the course of 10 years to transfer power from their local volcanoes to England. To fight this, Björk started a Facebook page titled “Gætum Garðsins” (meaning “Protect the Park”). Those who live in Iceland can sign a petition by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org in the next 11 days.
While 70,000 foreigners have signed their names on heartoficeland.org, Björk urged us to remember the nature of the protest. “This is just the beginning,” she said. “We are all volunteering our free time; we’re artists pretending we’re good at statistics and megawatts. It’s very DIY, so we have to improvise and we’re making it up as we go. We’re trying to re-define Iceland and make sure there’s room for everyone: tourists, farmers and Icelanders. Just saying you agree with us means a lot. If you get foreigners supporting our views, it mirrors back here to the people in power and they listen to us crazy artists!”
It should come as no surprise that she’s protesting to preserve the land. Many of her music videos feature the country’s landscapes, including “Stonemilker” off this year’s excellent Vulnicura. Her use of Icelandic nature was also addressed at her recent MoMA exhibit.
While last year’s “Stopp – Let’s Protect the Park” project (organized by director Darren Aronofsky with Patti Smith and Björk performing) raised ISK 35 million (USD $310,000), resulting in some areas being saved, Heart of Iceland’s other creator, Andri Snaer Magnason, understands the inevitability of time. “These government agreements could end Icelandic wilderness in three years,” he said at the conference. “Sometimes we get cynical, but we have pushed the machines out of some very valuable areas and surveys prove that 80% of Icelanders want to help us. Locals are seeing that if we declare areas National Parks, then they can turn their barns into guest houses.”
She confirmed that they’re “dreaming” of making a T-shirt and selling it via Facebook, profits of which could be used towards hiring lawyers to fight the government in a legal battle. “Life’s too short, so I have decided to put all my energy into Iceland and all the time I can spare from music writing. I can be more valuable here in Iceland, not just preach, but actually change things rather than flying around the world trying to fight global warming. If we manage to make the Iceland’s Highlands a national park, that would be the biggest thing we could do in our lifetime.”
What happens when the 11 days have passed? “We’re in it for the long haul,” said Björk. “It’s baby steps and this is a marathon to make the public and the world aware, and ask them if they want to support us, we need the weight of the world’s opinion.”
Björk has also shared a video explaining the protest, which you can watch below, followed by her video for “Declare Independence.” Update: Also check out video from the press conference.