Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, to the east of Greenland. By nature of its location, it was isolated for much of its history and “grew up on its own”. Although connection to other parts of the world is much better these days, the history and nature of the Icelanders means that they have still retained their strong relationship with nature, as opposed to some countries which have seen technology and modernisation become their main focus and drive. Many Icelanders still grow their own food, design their own clothes, write their own books and produce their own energy. As a country, it is focused and dedicated to clean and sustainable living.
A good example is an eco-village called Sólheimar, located in southern Iceland. It was founded 80 years ago as the world’s first eco-village. Today, it is renowned for its ecological, artistic and community ethics. With a current population of around one hundred people, the village engages in various key projects such as organic farming, the generation of geothermal energy and waste recycling.
As well as Sólheimar being self-sustaining in energy and food consumption, this village project is also working toward tackling prejudicial attitudes. Many of the inhabitants have mental health issues, however they are far from ostracised in society. Instead, they are fully integrated into village life and development. This type of project is typical of many villages in Iceland which strive to be environmentally friendly, as well as safe and comfortable communities.
Small and close community living is another core aspect of Icelandic culture. Families tend to stay close together, and it is common for people to have many lifelong friends from early school days. Any visitor to Iceland is immediately welcomed by the friendliness, warmth and relaxed, even laid-back, nature of the locals.
Of course, much of the nature and culture of the Icelandic people is due to the physical environment and its abundant natural resources. The explosive geysers and volcanic activity provide the source of clean, renewable geothermal energy. Currently with over 80% of Iceland’s total energy consumption derived from hydro and geothermal sources, it makes Iceland one of the cleanest energy consumers in the world.
Iceland is a volcanic hotspot, home to 22 active volcanoes and many more inactive volcanic mountains. In other cultures or locations, volcanic activity may present challenges to everyday life. Icelanders however, take on a more relaxed and accepting approach. They are optimistic in nature, and so actively look for opportunities to capitalise on any volcanic event- from smaller geysers which are important tourist attractions, to larger eruptions which lead to fertile land from the volcanic ash, boosting the agricultural economy.
Alongside tourism centred on the volcanoes, travellers’ also visit Iceland to see the vast selection of unique landscapes. Volcanoes, lava and geysers team up with glaciers and frozen lakes to form the renowned nickname “the land of fire and ice”. However Iceland’s extremity is formed by much more: waterfalls, glacial lakes, fjords, mountains, rivers, icebergs and miles of black lava plateaus. The rarity of these landforms makes a traveller’s trip even more memorable. Icelanders have grown up with glaciers and volcanoes in their back gardens, so it is no surprise that they strive to keep alive the strong connection between man and nature.
Overall, Icelandic people are very proud of their country and its beauty, and so they should be. They have learned, in communities over generations, innovative and sustainable ways to live at ease with nature. We can learn from their culture in many ways – their close community bonds, their drive in their country’s sustainability, their optimism with the respect to volcanic activity and of course, their love and pride for their environment.
What part of Icelandic culture would your integrate into everyday life?