August 23, 2012
I visited the Blue Lagoon, one of the most popular tourist spots in Iceland. Fun and nice, but a little weird, as are all hot spring resorts, I think. Eerie blue water that is nice and warm, with pots of white silica clay to slather onto your body. People wading about with clay-white faces, taking pictures of one another.
The pictures below show how it looked in 1998 and how it is today. Gone is that bizarre industrial background that makes it seem like a science fiction set. I kind of wish they had left it that way.
For those who want to avoid the pricey admission fee or the tourist scene at the Blue Lagoon, there is still the possibility of a refreshing soak in runoff from the many geothermal hiking areas around. I don’t know why, but this just brings Chaucer to my mind.
Besides hiking and bathing, there are other amusements in hot-spring land. Here are two people off to boil an egg in the runoff from a steaming borehole.
Much of the landscape around Reykjavik is rather forbidding, but I find it very beautiful. It has large plains covered in black lava flows, with thick, uneven carpets of moss.
I suspect that Iceland may have been featured in the final landing sequence of Kubrick’s 2001.
This one looks like something out of Escher.
August 19, 2012
On a short hike near Vik, southeast Iceland.
June 16, 2009
About a year ago, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made some statements in an article in Vanity Fair magazine about energy, the economy, and the future of the world. So many people make predictions, so few are checked. In the excerpt below, he didn’t fortell – he just assumed the future would resemble the present and the past. Such statements accumulate in the great dead-letter file of improbable prognostications in the sky . I have highlighted a few statements that struck me as sadly, or amusingly, out-of-date given the news as it stands in June 2009.
Today, we don’t need to abolish carbon as an energy source in order to see its inefficiencies starkly, or to understand that this addiction is the principal drag on American capitalism. The evidence is before our eyes. The practice of borrowing a billion dollars each day to buy foreign oil has caused the American dollar to implode. More than a trillion dollars in annual subsidies to coal and oil producers have beggared a nation that four decades ago owned half the globe’s wealth. Carbon dependence has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and damaged our health and landscapes. [I guess he saw the crash coming. Forget about derivatives, it’s carbon’s fault.] It is subverting everything we value.
We know that nations that “decarbonize” their economies reap immediate rewards. Sweden announced in 2006 the phaseout of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. [Let’s take some bets on whether or not they will come close to this goal!] In 1991 the Swedes enacted a carbon tax—now up to $150 a ton—and as a result thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun, and the tides, and from woodchips, agricultural waste, and garbage. Growth rates climbed to upwards of three times those of the U.S. Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe.
Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy-independent, with 90 percent of the nation’s homes heated by geothermal and its remaining electrical needs met by hydro. The International Monetary Fund now ranks Iceland the fourth most affluent nation on earth. [Iceland is now bankrupt. Affluent, perhaps, but not exactly a growth model to imitate closely.] The country, which previously had to beg for corporate investment, now has companies lined up to relocate there to take advantage of its low-cost clean energy.
It should come as no surprise that California, America’s most energy-efficient state, also possesses its strongest economy. [I believe RFK is related somehow to the Governator, who could give him an earful.]