Last August, the Icelandic pop star Björk cancelled the final dates of her 2015 tour, including a closing-night homecoming performance at this year’s Iceland Airwaves, scheduled for November 8th. She made a surprise appearance at the festival anyway, though, holding a press conference Friday for international journalists to promote Gaetum Gardsins – Icelandic for “Protect The Park.” The initiative would establish a national park in Iceland’s undeveloped central highlands and thwart proposals by the country’s right-wing government to build a potentially devastating complex of industrial roads, power plants and dams there.
Dressed to impress in a short, black dress and floral-stocking mask, Björk hosted the conference with writer-environmentalist Andri Snaer Magnason, admitting that “she would rather be at home writing songs.” But in her opening statement, read in English and written on a large piece of cardboard, the singer warned that the government’s plans – which include 50 dams on Iceland’s highland rivers along with multiple power plants and a scheme to sell volcanic power to the U.K. via undersea cable – “could end Iceland’s wilderness in a few years.”
There is a more immediate deadline, she noted; in 11 days, the government would meet to consider a proposal to build a massive power cable through the highlands, essentially severing the region – a first step toward greater, industrial development there. Protect The Park has set up multiple websites for information and petitions, along with a Facebook page for international fans to sign.
“I have decided to put all of my energy into Iceland,” Björk said, responding to a reporter’s question about her devotion to Protect the Park, a movement launched in March 2014. “I can be more valuable here and get more done than if I tried to fly around the world and fight global warming.” Magnason pointed out that Iceland was already an endangered front in the war on global warming, showing an image of two major Icelandic glaciers that will, at the current pace of rising temperatures, completely disappear by 2120.
Last year, Björk hosted a benefit concert in Reykjavik for Protect the Park, performing with Patti Smith and the hot Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men and raising 30 million Icelandic kroner (approx. $230,000). According to a Gallup poll, a majority of Icelanders support the establishment of a national park in the central region. But Björk said she was speaking to the international press to generate a greater awareness of the crisis and, in turn, put pressure on the government from foreign visitors. “You telling us that you support us means a lot,” she noted, because the government would then “listen to the crazy artists in this small country.”
Björk did not speak about her cancelled show or future plans. But she has just released a new version of her current album, Vulnicura – Vulnicura Strings (One Little Indian), which features the songs in an acoustic setting of strings, voice and an antique instrument, the viola organista, designed by Leonardo da Vinci.