1. Iceland’s stunning landscape
– rich, fertile and forested – was the greatest reward for the island’s first discoverers.
In the year 870 a Swedish Viking explorer, Gardar Svavarsson, sailed west across the North Atlantic and discovered the last uninhabited landmass in Europe. He named it Gardarsholm.
Such was the island’s natural wealth that many of Gardar’s crew, led by his companion Nattfari, decided to stay.
They made their home in Husavik, the very place they came ashore. It was Iceland’s first settlement.
Gardar returned to Sweden and spread news of this new land. Within 100 years 60,000 Scandinavians had followed.
“Garðar praised the country highly… at the time there was a forest connecting mountains and the shore.” The Book of Settlements, compiled by Ari Thorgilsson the Learned, C12th.
2. But after only one thousand years
of human settlement, this natural resource has been largely destroyed.
Iceland has an ecological fragility that is vulnerable to even the slightest change.
Today, the bleak landscape stands as a reminder of the impact of human settlement. The problem lies in the unsustainable use of land.
Deforestation and grazing have eroded the soil. Seasonal flooding and wind have swept much of it away.
3. We can learn
from Iceland’s past.
Iceland’s abundant natural resource helped establish a great society. It was healthy, literate and progressive — the place of the world’s first national parliament.
But after only a few hundred years, it had collapsed. The mismanagement of land was the central cause.
We must learn from the mistakes our ancestors made. But we can also be inspired by their strength.
Iceland’s turbulent past is a story of courage, perseverance and survival.
It is this pioneering and determined human spirit that must be called upon to overcome the challenges we all face today.
4. We can be led
by Iceland’s reparation for the future. The time to act is now.
The unsustainable use of land, seen throughout Iceland’s history, still continues today.
Rural communities that have relied on the land for centuries are suffering as populations decrease and unemployment rises.
The need to change our relationship with, and responsibility to, the land is more urgent than ever. But these uncertain times have brought new opportunities.
In parts of the country, communities are starting to shape a better future through pioneering sustainable projects.
By following their example, we can help redress the balance in our future relationship with the environment.