Carrots, and How to Grow Them for a Better, Sustainable Future

Locally grown carrots in Reykjavik

The thing is, Icelandic carrots like these are absolutely delicious and while munching away one is hopefully not mulling over their price per pound. Local produce is, in general, super good, especially the greenhouse stuff like tomatoes, cucumber, paprika (bell peppers,) zucchini and various lettuces. I buy local, despite the cost, almost without exception.

Oh, of course, you nod understandingly, Iceland has all that geothermal power to heat greenhouses for cheap, just the reason why Alcoa and Alcan have set up aluminum smeltering shop there. And you'd be right about the smeltering part. But please know that greenhouse farmers are not subsidized in any way or offered reduced energy rates at all, though Big Aluminum is. Though I usually don't take political sides, this is a very dear issue to me. Read this article from Saving Iceland for more info. It's two years old, but totally on topic*. Here's a more recent one by a possibly even more controversial source, but it raises some interesting topics.

Here's the deal: Iceland is on the very verge of self sustainability, of creating a green eco-culture that will provide an international model of development. This book excerpt helps to define in more scientific terms our capacity to provide nutrient-rich foods for our local population. And this article from the Guardian adds a hopeful note to the argument. And here's a post of mine with links to great articles re: this issue of our future.

Out of chaos comes order, every time, without fail. It's the nature of systems at all levels, ultra-micro to macro and beyond. We have the opportunity, we have the technology, we have the attitude to make something brilliant, innovative and of lasting global impact out of the rubble of our economy. The Heart Park is a good start: a little patch of green in the heart of the city where obsolete structures once stood. A small gesture like that gives hope in an unmeasurable way. That's our future. We tried the other way and it failed us. Now its time to return to the land that made us.


We live here, we are forged and bound together by ancestors, survivors of tremors and blasts and lingering ash clouds that suffocated the less hardy, smothered the flora and culled our numbers to the quick. We were parasites then, half-dug into the raw skin of the island, barely covered by sod roofs and what we could weave off the backs of sheep. We were destroyers, desperately hacking away at the gnarled and primitive birch forests til the fragile soils ran loosely into glacial rivers, leaving nothing behind but the stripped volcanic muscle of our mother. We fought each other and killed, bore children too weak to live another day in the hostile depleted world into which they came.

Hundreds of years ago the island split and raged, taking back her own life through destruction. Dank black clouds lay thick in the skies for months, starving so much of what fed on her, breaking down the tenuous cycle of life until a numb stillness overwhelmed the last people, until the starved cattle and sheep could no longer raise their heads in protest. The oldest groves, home to Baldur and to sacred things, were finally felled, burned, lost. The island had sundered herself, had shaken and seared and smothered the desperate, uglied population that burrowed itself like lice into her fragile moss derma.

Yet some survived, and we are the children of those people. We are cousins, we are rare, and born of destruction. We are inheritors of a memory of overwhelming sorrow dusted with hope, and the progeny of the precious moments of lust between members of a dying race. We owe great debt to those who made us in the wake of devastation, and to the land that ultimately spared out lives.**


*I do not necessarily support the overall political views of the sources I link.
**excerpt, MAR 2004

6 comments:

Martin said...

Nice article. A positive vision for Iceland's future. And a very nice contrast to the negative pictures drawn elsewhere.

m. said...

Thank you for this post, it is heartening to realize that Iceland is starting to live up to its positive-futurist potential (a potential I felt strongly during my several visits to your astonishingly beautiful country throughout the 90s). And I agree with your "smile/hug/eat well" philosophy; it's one my wife and I try our best to follow, especially since having our daughter, now aged 5. Sorry for mistaking your "everything is fine" comment as irony. I guess from my perspective (much as I try to find/live positives) I see a more global negative, one that overshadows local positives. However, I have hope that the positive loving people of the planet will win out over the negative consumerist wasteful blind ones. :)

Maria Alva Roff said...

Heartening words from you both (and big hug to Pabbi who called to let me know he enjoyed the read.)

Keep the comments coming!

Please, give your opinion and/or show your support...you never know who's reading this blog, right? And it may just be that the voices of visitors and lovers of this land carry weight that locals don't seem to anymore.

A redwood grows from a tiny, nourished seed...

g d gustafsson said...

I really enjoyed the article and am enthusiastic about the possibility of Iceland being a model of self-sustainability. However, I disagree with your comment,
"Out of chaos comes order, every time, without fail. It's the nature of systems at all levels, ultra-micro to macro and beyond."
Actually, it is almost exactly the opposite. Entropy (& the 2nd law of thermodynamics)shows us that at all levels systems are going from order to disorder. The only way to move in the other direction is via energy, such as geothermal power.

Maria Alva Roff said...

Well put, g d.

Systems do move via entropy toward breakdown, collapse and disorder, but consider how they became set systems, destined for decay, in the first place.

A new model arises out of the disarray of any system: a tree falls, decays over the course of decades on the forest floor hosting any number of insect, fungal, reptilian and even mammalian life in the process. At some point, though, it has decayed beyond recognition: it is no longer a tree but part of the forest floor, it IS the forest floor. And from that disintegration emerges a new tree, or a bush, or a vine, unlike that which came before it and which, through its decay, helped nourish the new growth. The energy applied to quicken the new life? That is something we cannot yet name...

But to entertain for even a moment trying to reconstruct the original tree from its dismantled parts is foolish, and impossible every time.

g d gustafsson said...

OK, thanks...now I see what you're describing, not the physical but beyond to the metaphysical. Of course, science attempts to identify and understand the universe...but, that is a system, which implies that there be something outside of that.
(Anyway, just to let you know I am a fellow UCSC alumn - somewhat similar to you raised in a Swedish-American family, moved back to Sverige)