Björk has had it with the “rednecks” running Iceland. The singer is at her home, where it is midafternoon yet below freezing, and her daughter has just returned home from school and is practicing piano in the background. As bassy scales ring out behind her, the singer tells Rolling Stone that with today’s conclusion of the COP21 conference in Paris – where representatives from countries around the world are attempting to solve climate change – it’s time to raise attention to the way the “rednecks,” her term for Iceland’s prime minister and minister of finance, want to industrialize Iceland’s highlands. “The term is a bit harsh,” she admits, but she will use it repeatedly.
“They have been really eager to catch up with the middle of Europe really quickly,” the singer says, carefully choosing her words. “They think of every square kilometer as not harnessed, as opportunity wasted. And they look at beautiful waterfalls and they think, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of dollars flowing there without being used.'”
The problem, she explains, is that because Iceland was a colony until 1944 and did not modernize with the rest of the world in the centuries leading up to its independence, its recently appointed leaders are acting hastily. “We are still [environmentally] green,” she says. “And we should try to head into the 21st century with more green technologies, rather than building dams, electric lines and factories everywhere.” She’s seen surveys saying that 80 percent of Icelanders do not agree with its government’s push for industry and would rather see the highlands preserved as a park. “That’s why I feel I should stand up and talk,” she says. “I’m not just talking for myself and forcing my own opinion, I feel more like a spokesperson for people who are not really heard.”
“If any problem was universal, it’s this one. The whole world should care about this.”
She’s speaking up now because as COP21 concludes, she wants the world to realize that Iceland’s highlands are the “biggest untouched area” on the continent. “I feel it’s a responsibility not just for Icelanders, but for Europeans,” she says. “If any problem was universal, it’s this one. It’s really the whole world that should care about this.”
With Donald Trump declaring global warming “bullshit” and a hoax invented by China, Björk believes the United States should be particularly wary of how climate change affects the world. The businessman-turned-GOP-candidate, she says, is one of the “last roaring dinosaurs of that generation.” From her perspective, the industrialists of the 1800s through the 20th century invented “miraculous things” for mankind but “as a species,” it’s now time to refocus. “We should have switched gears 50 years ago,” she says. “This is our last, last, last chance to do it now. I’m an optimist. I think we can still do it. … Trump’s style is obviously not going to get us anywhere. But I really think we can change this and if we act now on a massive scale, we can do stuff.”