Friday, 31 October 2008

Small nation at a crossroads

Being full of the flu this week I've had ample opportunity to read the newspapers more thoroughly than you tend to when there's no mug of Lemsip in your hand. One article that stood out was this piece by Bjork. Bjork, who has a new single out 'Nattura', to tie into a campaign for (as far as I can work out) more harmonious relationships with our natural environment, explores the major decisions Iceland faces now that it is financially ruined.

Bjork, like many other icelandic folk, believe that now is the time to be rebuilding local economic strength based on sustainable industries and activities. Unfortunately, Iceland, with its' signifcant geothermal capacity, has already allowed the building of three aluminium smelters by Alcoa and Rio Tinto. Now, faced with the collapse of all those banks and with the economy in tatters, there is a drive to fastrack development of more smelting plants, even by ignoring environmental assessments.

The singer feels that on top of the environmental impact of such decisions, the clamour to sell out to aluminium will leave Iceland as exposed to the markets as much as their previous over reliance on financial investment. Bjork thinks Iceland is missing a trick, that Iceland could be supporting seed companies, becoming experts in geothermal technology and exporting their skills in such areas.

All of this forces me to think about Wales and the type of future we face. Like Iceland, we have significant and largely latent renewable energy capacity, we have a burgeoning Green SME sector, underpinned by grassroots sustainability and local resilience networks working on all sorts of issues and we have a constitutional nod to the need for sustainable development. We don't have Bjork but we do have Charlotte Church and if she was making similar contributions to the Times, maybe things would be a little different for this great little country.

No comments: