Björk: “We Ask The World to Support Us Against Our Government" | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Björk: “We Ask The World to Support Us Against Our Government”

Nov 06, 2015
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By now, asking an Icelandic musician about his or her relationship with nature feels like a standard-issue interview question. Cliché, even. But for Björk, who released the ecologically-minded album Biophilia in 2011, her attachment to the nation’s wilderness far exceeds mere creative fodder. Protecting it has become her passion project for the last decade.

“Iceland is a magical place,” she muses, peering out from under a black lace mask that covers most of her face. “What makes it so incredible are the proportions. It’s a tiny island with the majority of it a vast wilderness. Because there’s only 300,300 people who live here, there’s almost no infrastructure. You can get things done here so easily. If you want to do green stuff, if you want to do a music festival, the whole nation comes along and joins in.”

Often Björk is painted as an ethereal character (an idea enforced by her experimental pop). She acknowledges this, joking about “artists pretending they’re really good at statistics.” But the singer/songwriter’s dedication to her country is practical. She wants to see its nature, and the fish and birds that call it a home, protected. She wants her children and grandchildren to experience the world as she sees it.

Alongside writer Andri Snaer Magnason, Björk has partnered with Gaetum Garðsins (translation: Protect the Park), an organization focused on creating a national park in the Iceland highlands, Europe’s largest stretch of untouched nature. It’s a battle still waiting to be fought, as the government has earmarked 54 areas for development—with much of the energy created earmarked for exportation to the United Kingdom.

“These people are in power for two more years,” she says of her government. “They could literally get this done. They have now put the cream of the best Iceland scientists, biologists, forced them into the evaluation of these areas, which is like the craziest, most detailed multiple choice tests that I have ever seen. Where are the geese? Where are the salmon eggs? They’re trying to do evaluations, but they’ve been put on an express. They have to answer it before February. Which is impossible. Whatever conclusions they come to, if these areas are harnessable or not, it is not by law…We can’t really go the legal route, the only way we can do is tell the world about it and get the world to pressure the people in power and look at their conscious.”

Currently the singer is working to raise awareness on a proposal that would see a series of high-voltage power lines strung through the heart of the highlands. With eleven days left before a decision is made, she’s encouraging all Icelanders to sign a petition to keep the area wire-free. But, she says, that shouldn’t dissuade non-nationals from joining their mission. Last year, Gaetum Garðsins raised money though a benefit concert featuring Björk, Lykke Li, and Patti Smith. They’re hoping to soon have t-shirts to sell. (“Sometimes it’s bullshit, money talks, you know,” says Björk with an eye-roll.)

“In a small country like Iceland, if you get foreigners supporting our views, it mirrors back here to the people in power, and they listen to the crazy artists of their own island,” she notes. “The biggest weapon is information. The reason I stand up and speak is not because I love the attention. I would much rather be at home writing songs. But 80 percent want this area to be untouched. I get a platform and I can say what 80 percent of Icelanders would say if they had the chance. I feel like I’m a spokesperson.

It’s a fight that Björk is prepared to dedicate herself to for years to come. Even if a law protecting her country’s wilderness could be signed in a day, it’ll take much longer to change the hearts and minds of those in power.

“All the time I can spare away from music making, I have put into this battle,” she continues. “I think that’s part of the bigger picture. I can be more valuable here in Iceland and get more done than if I were to fly around the world and fight global warming. I think there’s a choice which each person. This is part of that. I am one person in that. If we manage to make this into a national park and keep it that way, that’s going to be the biggest thing I could do in my lifetime, and I could tell my grandchildren I got something done.”

 (www.facebook.com/bjork)



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