I’ve been back from Iceland a few weeks now, and I miss it. I miss the people, with their awesome accents and frank sense of humor, the colorful houses, the surreal landscape with thousand year old volcanic rocks, the steam coming out of the ground everywhere you turn…all of it. I even miss the convenience stores, with those delectable Icelandic hot dogs, made with crunchy onions and sweet Icelandic mustard… my mouth is watering just remembering it.
I learned so much on this trip, about climate change, rocks, glaciers, photography, filmmaking, puffins, ice, and myself.
One of the most fascinating things about Iceland (aside from the fact
that it NEVER gets dark in the summer) is their energy. I knew before
that they had a lot of geothermal power, but I didn’t realize just how
much. Early in the trip, we took a tour of a modern geothermal power
plant, and I learned that 99.9% of Iceland’s energy is geothermal power.
The other .1% is hydroelectric. That means that when it comes to
electricity, there are no fossil fuels on the entire island. None,
except for the small amounts of petroleum they use to drive their cars.
That fact took me a while to get over.
I was a little stumped. That means most of the simple waste-reducing,
energy-saving actions I encourage people to take in America to reduce
their carbon footprints are irrelevant in Iceland. If an Icelander
uses huge amounts of energy to heat their homes or take long hot
showers, it doesn’t matter. It’s all geothermal energy, and they
basically have an unlimited supply. That is just mind blowing to me!
Another interesting thing was Icelander’s view on climate change.
Everywhere I went, I asked people for their thoughts on global warming. I
had been deeply affected by what I saw, and assumed that the residents
of this Kentucky-sized island thought the same. But, I was surprised to
discover that, at least in the major cities like Reykjavik or Akureyri,
the locals didn’t really care about climate change much at all. They
didn’t see how it really affected them. Their renewable energy is just
part of their lifestyle, unrelated to concerns about CO
2 emissions or
But when we hiked on one of the glaciers, the tour guides had a
different opinion. One of our guides, Laurent, was originally from
France, and the other, Drew, was from Washington state. They both
experienced first hand the reality of climate change and its affect on
the land and people of Iceland. Their jobs are even affected by it.
Because the glaciers are melting so fast, they need to head to the
glacier a few times every week, sometimes every day, to make new entry
points for the hikes they lead.
One thing Laurent said really stood out to me. He saw the connection so
clearly between climate change and the way people think, the way we
act, and the decisions we make now. He watches the glaciers disappear
every day and all he could say is, “It’s just wrong.”
This is a very good point. And I want to incorporate it more into my
presentations. What we are doing IS wrong. And we don’t get it. It’s
about more than just climate change. We are not living in a way that
ensures a future for generations to come. I think once people really
realize that and begin to act on it, we can create real change.
This journey has made me different person. I’ve discovered some awesome
new music, made some amazing friends from all over the United States,
and my perspective on climate change has deepened. Now, for me, it’s
more now than a series of slides. The urgency and reality of our
rapidly changing world weighs even heavy on my heart and I will be back
again some day. I know I will.
Thank you to National Geographic for providing these opportunities to
youth to explore with our planet in ways that connect us deeper to what
we have to lose.
And thank you for reading. Now who’s ready to go out and change the world?