Long ago, when the vikings first arrived in Iceland the land was forested. Something between 25-40% of the country was covered by trees and humans slowly cut down the trees to an extent that was harmful to local ecosystems. Efforts to replant trees in the country have failed since they brought seeds from outside the country and a warming planet hasn’t been friendly to those trees. Now they are using native species to grow their forests and it’s working.
Thanks to Trevor!
Being a teenager is hard with all the chaos that is finding one’s identity and dealing with the incoming stresses of life. In many places around the world, teens react to these pressures by using illicit substances or otherwise “misbehaving”. Iceland was having a huge problem with teens drinking and smoking throughout the 90s, then they decided to do something about it. Today Iceland has pretty much eliminated smoking among teens and substance abuse is almost a rounding error on surveys.
The solution that Iceland discovered is to give teenagers something to do. It’s that simple. Instead of having bored kids trying to find something to kill time, give them something that they find enjoying.
“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.
At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month program. Some stayed five years.
Iceland continues on it’s quest to be the ‘Switzerland of data‘ and is extending its program to do so for journalists. Part of the country’s plan to become a haven for people exposing the immoral and questionable behaviour of powerful people is already in action. Iceland is quickly achieving its goal of not only protecting data but also protecting people who analyze and process that data.
The motivation for Iceland to lead this charge comes out of a first-hand knowledge of how devastating a lack of transparency can be. Iceland’s financial crash of 2008 was catastrophic to the country, and few had answers until Wikileaks began publishing documents the local reporters were legally blocked from airing. The general public, justifiably feeling robbed, saw Wikileaks as the purveyor of important knowledge that they were being denied.
While there is much to do, IMMI has not been without successes. In 2013, IMMI helped pass the Information Act, which helped broaden the public’s access to information as well as source protection, thus nudging some of IMMI’s core goals forward. A few days after our meeting, IMMI joined with other organizations to repeal Iceland’s 75-year-old blasphemy law, making blasphemy no longer an illegal act in the country.
Iceland is the de facto home of Wikileaks and is also a country concerned with privacy issues. The country is now considering leveraging their experience and reputation of being digital-data friendly to the next level. Presently, the country is considering branding itself as the “Switzerland of Data.”
If Iceland does move ahead with this, it means that the country will become one of the most important players in the 21st century similar to how Switzerland was with banks in the 20th.
The International Modern Media Institute (IMMI), a non-profit organisation, has played an instrumental role in designing and promoting the legal framework for Iceland’s new data privacy laws.
Following the country’s 2010 financial crisis, mass protests broke out against the nepotism, corruption and lack of transparency exposed by the collapse. A group of Icelandic activists began working on an initiative to create the world’s strongest media and free speech protection laws, as well as a state-of-the-art privacy law.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir is IMMI’s spokeswoman and now represents the Pirate Party in the Icelandic parliament. She met Al Jazeera at her office in Reykjavik and explained that one of IMMI’s goals is “to allow people working on human rights or investigative journalists, as well as people who want to host data on a massive scale, to be free from worrying about privacy issues”.
She added: “Iceland should become for information what Switzerland is for money.”
Iceland is a beautiful country filled with beautiful life and sadly one of those lifeforms is threatened: the Icelandic goat. The goats have been on HBO’s Game of Thrones and now they all may die out if a goat farming operation can’t be saved.
You can be a part of the goat-saving operation through a new Indiegogo campaign!
There are less than 820 Icelandic goats left on Earth. Needlessly reducing their population by almost half risks the extinction of an entire species already in a desperately fragile state.
You can help rescue the goats from Game of Thrones by donating to the campaign to save farmer Johanna Thorvaldsdóttir’s goat farm.
Time is of the essence. If the funds are not raised within the next month to save Johanna’s farm, this unique species, introduced to Iceland by the Vikings a thousand years ago, will disappear from the earth forever.