icelanders locate themselves somewhere in europe

Write more about the North in general and less about Iceland specifically, my Yukon News editor wrote me recently.

Write more about the North in general and less about Iceland specifically, my Yukon News editor wrote me recently.

Our readers are Yukoners, and they want to know more about the circumpolar world, he said.

And he’s right.

But there is a problem. It does not lie in Iceland’s global position, but rather in Icelanders’ European — or, let’s be honest, increasingly American — mindset.

Though Iceland is in the North, Icelanders think of themselves less as northerners and more as cosmopolitan Europeans.

Therefore, little is covered in local media of the few northern studies and meetings we are obliged to attend and participate in.

As you might have gathered from my columns, Icelanders are, generally, not very interested in northern business or climate change. At least, not at the moment.

As a columnist, I’ve been constantly astounded by how hard it is to find Icelandic information on issues such as northern business, ecological conservation, global warming — all those issues that reign high in meetings of the Arctic countries.

Coming from Canada, this was really surprising to me.

From experience, I know that northern Canada, including the Yukon, is far more involved in Arctic issues than Icelanders.

Even when we look further south, my sense is that the general Canadian public is much more aware of these matters and generally better informed about things such as global warming and the issues of circumpolar nations.

So I’m somewhat hampered the Icelandic public’s lack of interest, lack of government funding into research and lack of coverage on what we do participate in.

However, I do believe this is changing — albeit extremely slowly. Of course, that might just be wishful thinking. I may stand too close to the issue to see it clearly.

Recently, I was in the company of four Icelandic immigrants. All argued that, while Icelanders consider themselves European, they want, more than anything, to be Americans.

The immigrants noted Iceland has become much more Americanized in the past five years than I realized.

Perhaps that’s a general trend.

I cannot say.

But I do know that Icelanders are steadfast in their belief they are part of the Nordic countries.

And last weekend, the results of two polls were published in Danish and Swedish media.

Seventy per cent of Danes are now unhappy with their government’s support of the Iraq war, and more than 30 per cent want to quit all involvement right now and bring Denmark’s soldiers home.

That’s a great disappointment to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has long prided himself on his personal friendship with President George W. Bush, but it is not a great surprise to Danish political analysts.

What’s more surprising is that one in every three Swedes considers the United States the largest danger to world peace.

The television station Axess conducted a poll in which 1,000 Swedes were asked which country they believed to pose the largest danger: North Korea, Iran, the United States, Russia, China or Israel.

Of those questioned, 29 per cent said the United States, while 28 per cent saw North Korea as the largest threat.

Iran earned only 18 per cent.

A measly three per cent thought Russia posed the greatest threat to world peace.

Another interesting fact arising from this study is that the younger responders, the greater threat they saw coming from the United States.

I wonder what the outcome of a poll like this would be in Iceland.

Something tells me, not that different.