“Any country that believes in the existence of elves must be an awesome country.”   An emailed response after hearing this fact about Iceland.

When it comes to role models, we may look to family members, friends or someone like the Dalai Lama, who inspires us through spiritual acts and deeds.  Through searching for a place that models Land Stewardship and Community, I have now discovered an entire country, Iceland!

Stewardship — Iceland is blessed with many natural attributes which makes conservation an easier task:

*Low population: 320,000

*A land in the making: Volcanos everywhere, and where the ash and lava can’t form, Iceland does have snow and ice covering 13% of its land mass.  Icelanders live on only 7% of their country; the rest, believe me, is essentially wilderness.  Iceland wins, hands down, having the highest percentage of national parks of any country: 14%.

*The Iceland Nature Conservation Association is a powerful force for environmental protection.

*A rich, fishing industry made sustainable by limiting quotas and  the “total allowable catch.”

*Non-polluting energy, 85% coming from geothermal energy.

*No military!, no army, no navy

*Eco-tourism, many outdoor activities led by farmers.  Iceland offers what may be the best whale watching in the world (130,000 partook last year) AND

The majority of Icelanders believe in elves. These elves usually live in rocky areas, have magical powers, and cause trouble if someone tries to disturb their homes. In some cases, bulldozers have been reported to malfunction when trying to work on a supposed elf site. And in Iceland this belief is so important that some people are actually called in to arbitrate with the elves . And elves have held up development proposals!

A nice bridge between stewardship and community is the SEEDS Organization. SEEDS works closely with local communities, local authorities, individuals and other Icelandic associations both to develop enviornmental protection projects in partnership, aimed at fulfilling an identified need, and to give vital assistance to established initiatives. Projects are designed to be mutually beneficial to all involved: the volunteers, the local hosting communities and Iceland as a whole.

There seems to be a country-wide culture of service, of helping people in Iceland.  When I couldn’t find the B&B where my son was staying, a young woman not only looked up the address, but drove me there.  When I was unable to contact my wife after changing my flight itinerary, Icelandic Air let me us their phone to call home.  The airlines person said it right, “We aim to please.”

Iceland has been called the “happiest country on Earth.”  In his humerous yet thought provoking book, “The Geography of Bliss,” Eric Weiner writes, “Icelanders tell me, the land itself is a source of creative inspiration and, indirectly, happiness.  The ground is, quite literally, shifting beneath their feet.  There are, on average, twenty earthquakes a day in Iceland….The formal Icelandic greeting is “komdu saell,” which translates literally as “come happy.” When Icelanders part, they say “vertu saell,” “go happy.” ~1235951_10101039805952590_8461456066726116741_n

 

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