Iceland on the Threshold of an Economic Ragnarok
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Last year in the summer of 2007, when the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat sailed to oppose the slaughter of whales by Iceland, we called the campaign Whale Defense Campaign Operation Ragnarok.
Iceland backed down from their plan to kill whales before we reached their shores but then reneged and said they would start whaling again in 2008.
The attitude in Iceland has been that they will do whatever they wish without respect or regard for the rest of the world.
Not only has this been true for whaling but also for the cult of unlimited growth and development.
Iceland was one of the first nations to embrace Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan's doctrine of letting the market have free rein without regulation or restrictions.
Now that attitude has turned on Iceland with a vengeance.
Iceland has gone overnight from one of the world's wealthiest nations to what is rapidly becoming a nation of beggars. Only massive loans from nations like Russia or the IMF will stave off a depression.
The three largest banks in Iceland have totally collapsed.
Ingibjorg Elsa Bjornsdottir, a 42-year-old geologist from Selfoss near Reykjavik, said she will vote for the Left Greens next May, the biggest opposition party.
``There's so much anger in the society now because of what has happened,'' she said. ``We're witnessing the death of Reaganism-Thatcherism. We have to go back to our older values. The free market is not doing what it's supposed to be doing.''
Iceland is now facing serious shortages of imports including food and clothing. Controls on foreign currency payments have been enforced to favor imports of fuel, medicine and food.
The value of Iceland's currency has evaporated. The country's main stock index has lost 90 percent of its value. Within a year Iceland may no longer have a kroner at all and will be forced to adopt the Euro or the U.S. dollar.
So desperate is the situation that Iceland has held out the begging bowl with a request to the International Monetary Fund for assistance. The IMF has not had a request for funds from a western nation since 1976.
This could be good news for the whalers or bad news. Good news in that there will be no money for building up a whaling industry and they will most likely no longer be financing overseas efforts to promote "indigenous" whaling. Bad news because poverty may force some Icelanders to kill whales, more puffins and seals for survival.
We would like to see Iceland take a new direction and a Green Left government would certainly be an improvement over the policies that have led Iceland to economic ruination. We believe that Iceland should concentrate on promoting tourism and whale-watching and bird-watching instead of slaughtering endangered whales and threatened puffins.
There are only 355,000 people in Iceland and they have been living way beyond their means for years thanks to voodoo economics. Now they must face economic realism and we hope that they will realize that true wealth is to be found in nature, in diversity and interdependence with all other species.