Farewell from Iceland

It’s with a heavy heart that I write these lines. And perhaps understandably so. This is my 82nd Yukon News column from Iceland, and it is to…

It’s with a heavy heart that I write these lines.

And perhaps understandably so.

This is my 82nd Yukon News column from Iceland, and it is to be my last in order to make more room for further local writing — which I applaud.

A local paper should have locals writing for it about local things, is my thought.

Though curious columns on related issues — such as Iceland and northern matters — are, of course, a good addition, as many of you have told me.

Over the past 18 months, I have covered everything in these columns from the international politics of hydrogen to the internal ones of the Icelandic ogre-related Yuletide lads, our Santa Clauses who scare children, steal food and eat candles.

But it’s likely that though my personal writing on these pages has come to a halt, we circumpolar residents will continue to become more and more aware of each other.

Few people nowadays doubt the effects greenhouse gas emissions are having upon our world.

The climate keeps warming up and as a result unpredictable weather patterns form the whole world over.

More and more species are eliminated from the face of the world as the forests disappear into toilet rolls and computer paper.

And now, even the American government has admitted that a species is being endangered by greenhouse gas emissions: polar bears might disappear altogether due to the rapidly vanishing ice.

But while disappearing species and forests are a dreadful future to leave our children, some good might come with these changes.

For one, travel over the North Pole will become possible, and with that, communication between the circumpolar countries is bound to increase.

Mind you, we have been seeing an increase in communications in the past decades, particularly of late.

As a show of that — or perhaps in attempt to get the Western world’s largest nation to be more conscientious — the Norwegian government has decided to invite American politicians to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to see the effects of climate change with their own eyes.

Jonas Gahr Stoere, Norway’s foreign minister, announced this shortly before the end of last year, but Norway chairs the Arctic Council from 2006 to 2008.

“Our experience is that it has a good effect to invite decision-makers and give them the opportunity to see the effects of global warming themselves,” Stoere told Associated Press reporters.

In a phone interview, Stoere told the reporters the world needs America — which did not ratify the Kyoto treaty on climate change — to be involved in efforts to tackle global warming and other environmental challenges, and that this was a way to encourage them to do so.

Svalbard, a Norwegian territory 1,600 kilometres from the North Pole (the same distance the Yukon Quest covers), is an incredibly beautiful archipelago that few visit.

Among those likely to be invited were California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator John McCain — two men who are already interested in protecting nature.

In a few years, perhaps, travel to Svalbard will become a reasonable option, as well as a shipping route directly from Iceland to Skagway or Haines.

And the Arctic will be in other world news this year.

The United Nations’ World Environment Day will be held on June 5 in Tromsö, Norway.

The theme will be: Ice That Melts.

So, mark my words.

Our part of the world will become increasingly important in international politics in the next few months and years, and therefore we must all learn how to treat this delicate world with respect and learn how to share our knowledge.

And with that, I say goodbye for now from this northern island, where right now, an unseasonably warm wind and rain has melted all the snow and ice this country is named for, though, of course, the mid-winter darkness still prevails.

(But let me just add a few last words: I encourage any pen-able, to translate the Icelandic expression directly, Yukoners to offer the Yukon News your writings.)

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