Iceland excursion: Valuable lessons on human resilience

Photography by Tom Spanjaard

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In an era where the world is experiencing dramatic challenges with changing natural forces, Iceland provides valuable lessons: in adjusting to harsh and ever-changing conditions; in finding innovative solutions to global problems such as climate change and an energy crisis; and lessons of human resilience: on how to move an entire community - the 3.600 people of Grindavík - to another,  safer location, to reconnect warm water pipes and electric cables across fresh lava in 1,5 days and build a new road in less than a week.

We went on a study trip with urbanism and landscape architecture students, in the middle of winter and in between two volcanic eruptions. Our tour took us all around the peninsular of Reykjanes, around the current volcanic zone, and up to several roadblocks where we could see the evacuated town of Grindavík in the distance.

We visited mass tourism sites of the Golden circle and compared them to those sites that are equally amazing, yet unspoiled from mass invasions. We found a lonely valley where some of the most innovative industries have gathered - next to a geothermal power plant a company that captures carbon from air, another one that injects carbon into the basaltic bedrock, an endeavor to drill down into hot magma and turning that into even more energy. We also discovered new uses of the geothermal power and warmth like a greenhouse full of bananas,  vegetables and flowers, terrestrial tropical fish farms and a factory that produces food supplements out of algae - all in the middle of the Icelandic snow. We scanned the landscape trying to find the last remnants of native birch forests and first attempts to reforest heavily eroded areas. And investigated every archaic turf house on our route and a codfish drying facility.

For the final project before graduation, each student was invited to choose out of several relevant topics relating to a site on the peninsular Reykjanes. Together we planned the trip, chose accommodations, and informed each other of our discoveries,  getting inspired and hopefully leading to relevant and very personal projects.

-Jana Crepon, guest tutor