You know the kind of journey that’s life changing? Well, that’s exactly what this Icelandic epic adventure was for me. When my husband asked me what I wanted for my big birthday, I told him it was an expedition to Iceland. I’m not really a bag/shoes/jewelry kind of gal. I always ask for trips to see the world. The lure of the Northern Lights drew me to Iceland but the successive motivations were the scenery and adventure. Although we didn’t actually get to see the Lights (the weather did not cooperate in true Icelandic fashion), it was only a minor disappointment because being able to explore the country was such an amazing gift that truly exceeded any preconceived notions I had. By the way, for all you Light chasers out there, Iceland is not the most optimal environment to see the Northern Lights due to its temperamental weather. The experts recommend Norway if that is your primary purpose.
I’m a nature girl. I love basking in the glory of the planet’s natural wonders. Nothing makes me happier than being outside and breathing in clean fresh air. I’ve traveled to many places but I’ve never been so affected by a country’s environmental dynamism.
I was literally stunned into silence by the sheer beauty of the volcanoes, the glaciers, the mountains, the coastlines, the waterfalls, and lava fields. I ran out of superlatives very early on in my weeklong voyage. The adjectives that kept repeating over and over were incredible…stunning…beautiful…ethereal…breathtaking.
We enlisted a guide to take us around and listening to our (Swedish) guide Gunilla describe Iceland’s interestingly rich history complete with sagas and folklore was so fascinating. It truly was a joy getting to know the country through someone who loves Iceland so passionately and is also so knowledgeable and up to date.
There was another facet to this trip, one that wasn’t so positive. I do my best to advocate for us all to do our part to help try to save the earth, or at the every least arrest the destruction we are enacting on the planet. Being in Iceland really slaps the reality of global climate change into your existence. We were there last week, early February where the normal temperatures should be 0 to -10C in the Highlands and -25 to -30C in the north and the whole country scape should be a blanket of white from snow.
There was no snow at all and it was a very moderate 2-6C for our entire stay. That’s over a 10-degree difference. Gunilla told us that the kind of weather we had usually appears just before the summer months in May. I asked her if she thought this was a one off, a blip in the weather and she sadly shook her head. She splits her time between Greenland and Iceland and told us that she sees the effects of global warming every year. And every year it gets worse. I heard her say at least once a day for the entire week that we were with her that she was in utter shock at the temperatures and how this was almost feeling like summer in Iceland instead of winter. The Earth is heating up, there’s no escaping this fact. I cannot believe that some people are still in denial about this. This has terrifying ramifications for our environment.
It is February and the sheep were out grazing instead of in farmers’ barns (unheard of for an Icelandic winter), crowberries were growing (out of season), and waterfalls were flowing instead of being frozen. When we went to see the Glaciers, we were shown how much they had all receded in the last 100, 50, and even 10 years. One of the smaller glaciers in Iceland named Sólheimajökull has shrunk more in the last 10 years than it has in the last 100.
To see the devastating impact that we have inflicted on the planet with your very own eyes is not only heartbreaking but life altering. This is damage we cannot undo. It is permanent. We can’t do anything about the obliteration already wrought, but please understand that everything you do has an impact. Make better choices. Stop using plastic. Recycle. Learn what it takes to reduce your carbon footprint.
Sea levels are rising due to melting glaciers. Research indicates that there was an increase in volcanic activity after glaciers receded. Studies have also found that Iceland is actually rising due to the impacted ice melting which is allowing the land to “rebound”. This could also cause more eruptions. Many guides explained the precarious situation the world will be in when (not if) Katla, one of the biggest Icelandic volcanoes goes off. The last eruption from her (all volcanoes are named after women in Iceland and all glaciers are male) lasted 24 days in 1918. By all accounts and volcanic activity information, she or one of her sisters is long overdue.
I sound like a broken record but we are wrecking our world. The ruin that we have already imposed is irreversible. We are already seeing the effects of our disregard for the earth through elevated temperatures, unbreathable air, unpredictable weather, animals going extinct (being slaughtered or starving to death), typhoons becoming fiercer and more powerful, a surge in droughts and heat waves, to name but a few.
You and I won’t bear the brunt of people’s indifference to Earth. It will be our children and grandchildren that are going to be living in a world that is foreign to us. The things we take for granted like going outside and breathing clean air, having potable water, food supplies will all shift. We need drastic change and action now. There’s no undoing the damage that has already been done but you can definitely help minimize your effect. Educate your children to do the same. We need to focus our efforts on conservation. For their sake.
Thank you Iceland for the gift of your raw and magical splendor that assisted me in readjusting my perspective. We are all pretty tiny in the grand scheme of things. We need to show our planet some respect so that it can look after us as well. After all Earth can function just fine whether we are on it or not. Us humans on the other hand kind of need this planet.