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Economics, Inspiring Stories

Fantastic Friday: Iceland Edition

icelandauroraborealisRemember Iceland?  That small country that imploded in when the financial sector crashed around the world in 2008.  The country of which The Economist wrote late that same year: “Iceland’s banking collapse is the biggest, relative to the size of an economy, that any country has ever suffered.”

Seems like a disaster doesn’t it?  The banks were nationalized, the IMF stepped in, unemployment rose, and the situation resembled so many other crises that were taking place from the US to England to Greece…except probably worse.

Turns out it might have been a blessing.  This country of just over 300,000 people has seemingly decided to tack in a different direction, one which appears to be more meaningful (and stable) than the gogo days that saw the country’s banking sector get dramatically (almost comically) overextended.  Gone is the over-reliance on banking and monetary policy and back is a return to supporting core industries of the past, such as fisheries.  And, while I am no expert on Iceland nor it’s people, more important than just a recalibration of the economy, could the country’s collapse have led to a recalibration of values as well?

Perhaps, according to this story:

“We had the collapse – and I think it’s good,” says conservationist Omar Ragnarsson.

“Because now we’re in the ruins and we can learn from it. And we can build up a new society, a new environment, a new thinking.”

Since the implosion of the banking sector, ordinary Icelanders have come together with scientists, economists, farmers and other visionaries to not only question a society based on cycles of debt and consumerism, but come up with a blueprint for a sustainable, locally based economy.

That goal includes pursuing sustainable agriculture, clean energy projects, a return to local economies

“We’re making local groups in all parts of Iceland, like the Slow Food idea, to eat locally, eat seasonally, so it’s going to save a lot of energy and it’s going to reduce the pollutions caused by all this transport,” explained Eymundur Magnússon, who runs an organic farm at Vallanes in east Iceland. “For me, from organic there’s no way back. When you see the soil, when you see what you’re growing, when you taste how much sweeter and better it is, there’s no way back. This is the natural way to do it.”

Of course, questions remain.  Is this a widespread shift in Iceland or more niche?  Is the shift permanent or temporary?  And will it ultimately be successful?

But from this vantage point, the most important questions are threefold: can we support this shift in Iceland and help it be more widespread and ultimately successful in some way, can we learn something positive from what these Icelandic citizens are pursuing and if so, will we be brave and humble enough to do so?

Have a Fantastic Friday everyone!

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