Text: Ellen Wild
Steam rises from the stream of liquid fire flowing down the slanted field. Slowly, but still so much faster than expected. The fire eventually slows and takes it first breath of cold air on the surface of the earth. Under its feet lie its ancestors, stretching out as far as the eye can see. And as if the sight triggers its memory, the lava blackens and turns in its natural expression under the sky.
It is not every day that you actively can see, how brand-new ground is made. Even though walking in the canyon that is the mid-Atlantic ridge, has been a tourist attraction for years. For it only does come to land in Iceland.
The best-known location to marvel at this very visual image of tectonic activity is Þingvellir. But the whole South-West of Iceland is characterized by the coming to land of this mid-Atlantic rift valley. The Eurasian and the American plate are slowly drifting further and further apart, causing this region of the world to be extremely volcanically active.
Still, fountains of lava are very special to watch. Seeing this very much alive phenomena fill up my social medias, naturally makes me shift focus from the physical to the metaphorical. Thus making two questions arise: How are we, humans, continuously drifting apart? And how are we continuously filling the gap between us?
And there are so many gaps to fill. For example, take the division between worldwide overfishing versus small-boat Icelandic fishermen trying to make a livelihood in a disappearing profession? Or the higher unemployment rates among immigrants versus people from the same culture and background standing together as to protect that cultural heritage? And the battle between sustainable slow tourism and people just wanting to enjoy themselves for the two damn weeks that they don’t have to exhaust themselves for a too fast society? And that’s only the three first things I could think about!
As if human matters don’t divide us enough, we are out of touch with nature too. This might sound a bit overboard in a country with such a massive treasure of pristine nature. The danger lies in the ‘far-of-my-bed-show’ as much as it lies in the invisibility of it. Even though it is right under our noses. A memorial plate for a lost glacier. Almost no memory at all about the once vast Icelandic forest and the real reasons behind the loss of it. And poisoned Orca’s swimming right in Icelandic ports.
Not long before they swam into Ísafjörður last week, to give the North an equally exiting nature phenomena as the volcanic South, an article was published about the very high level of PCB’s in Orca’s whom add some mammals to their diet of fish. Through something called ‘bioaccumulation’ it is possible that a very harmful substance, invented in the 1930’s and banned only 50 years later, still keeps adding up in the cells of these animals. Posing yet another human treat to animals that play an important role in balancing the fragile ecosystem that we too, depend on. The article didn’t receive as much attention as the Orca visitors themselves though.
The hot lava metaphorically bubbling up between our feet, is connection. It is empathy to the degree that we take everything around us, as a part of ourselves. And even though the lava will burn you, taking part in mending the ground will feel like a breath of fresh air.
Even when marvelling at nature, we should take of our blinders. Yes, it exciting to look upon majestic wild animals, such as Orcas. But what lies beneath the surface? Do we really see them, understand them, regard them as an equal part of the macro-organism that is our planet? Are we actively reducing other human threats, such as plastic? Or are we only interested in a good photo?
Can we be brave enough to step out the ‘feel good’ bubble? To feel the pain of divided connection? I believe we are. We are ready. Something to think about when you visit, or see images of, the volcano at Geldingadalur.