Björk saves Iceland – and the planet

Björk saves Iceland – and the planet

22nd February 2009, Comments 0 comments

She's quirky, she's tuneful and she's renowned for her eccentric dress sense. But there's more to Björk than meets the eye.

Could this Icelandic singer help solve the country's economic crisis -- and save the planet at the same time?

With its economy in tatters, Iceland is keen to earn money anyway it can. And the aluminium industry has been growing in the country due to cheap electricity. But that electricity has a high price when it comes to the environment.

Last summer, the singer Björk and the band Sigur Rós organised a concert to raise awareness about the damage two new hydroelectric projects -- meant to power aluminium smelters -- would cause to Iceland's pristine fjörds.

And her activism is much more than just a publicity stunt, according to rock critic Arni Mattiasson who's followed the singer's career from the beginning.

"Her interest in nature conservation has been known to her friends throughout the years," he said. "But when the big aluminium plant and the big dam project in the east of the country was decided on, it was a catalyst for a lot of artists and thinkers in Iceland to stand up and speak out. She's put her money where her mouth is. She's arranged for people to come over here and discuss alternative ways to develop the country, to develop our national resources and in that way she's been very influential."


Together with the University of Reykjavik, Björk organised workshops last year for small start-up businesses, focusing on sustainable development and alternative uses for Iceland's abundant energy. Called SPARK, the workshops aimed to bring investors together with entrepreneurs, academics and officials.

Icelandic singer and UN campaigner for the environment Björk holds a press conference on November 6, 2008, at the European headquarters in Brussels. The UN's European information centre launched the campaign "CoolPlanet2009" on the need for an international climate change agreement.

Björk also released a new song called Náttúra -- the Icelandic word for nature -- the royalties for which support SPARK.

The workshops took place just after three of Iceland's major banks collapsed, but Björk wasn't deterred by the country's economic crisis, she told Icelandic National Broadcasting.

"I thought, whoa, either this is the best time or the worst time to do this," she said. "And we decided it was the best time. If this discussion was ever needed, it is now."

In December, Björk took her efforts to provide alternatives to big business a step further.

In co-operation with venture capital company Audur Capital -- which is founded and run by women -- she set up the Björk fund, to invest in start-up companies, concentrating on green energy.

Willing investors

Despite the dire state of Iceland's economy, the head of Audur Capital, Halla Tomisdottir, believes there are still investors willing to take a punt on creative entrepreneurs.

"We think that a fund like this is ideal to funnel some of this money into this creative and fertile ground of entrepreneurs, and build small sustainable businesses in Iceland," she said.

Icelandic singer Bjork performs during her concert at the Vingio parkas in Vilnius

"Things are very difficult in Iceland but it's precisely in these times that you create interesting new businesses, develop new businesses. One should never underestimate what necessity does for a society or a new company."

Listen to the report: click here
Louise Dunne
Radio Netherlands

Head photo credit: Flickr 



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