Fire and ice
A long, slow cooling trend over the past 5,000 years was interrupted in the Northern Hemisphere by a fairly brief spike during the Middle Ages known as the “Medieval Warm Period.” It was then the Vikings settled Greenland and Iceland.
Today on these barren North Atlantic stretches, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.
The sober reality of climate change is causing businesses the world round to rethink the risks and opportunities of a world with increasingly constrained resources. Like Peak Oil, “Peak Everything,” as author Richard Heinberg calls it, doesn’t mean we don’t have resources; it just means many resources are getting progressively harder and more expensive to get and, in many cases, their quality is declining. The environmental cost of getting them out of the ground is also rising.
Just as the Vikings discovered centuries ago, Iceland is one place where some vital resources remain abundant. As such, the nation is looking to green-themed economic development with a message arguably no other nation can match: 100 percent renewable energy, competitive and long-term energy pricing, a stable circular grid, abundant clean water resources, plentiful inexpensive land, a skilled workforce, a strategic location between Europe and the United States, and a 20 percent corporate tax rate on net profit, with layered on incentive schemes.
These attributes are not only helping foster economic growth spurred by international business recruitment, they’re also fueling a domestic entrepreneurial spree focused on sustainable business. While not best known for their cultural or racial diversity, Scandinavians’ socially minded democracies and clean, efficient design aesthetic has helped fashion them global leaders in sustainability. And while Sweden, Denmark and Norway are often the first to come to mind, it appears the nation of Iceland – population 320,000, with more than half living in the small but stylish city of Reykjavik – has something unique to add to the mix.
More than four years ago, Iceland's banking system famously collapsed as the global economy fell into recessionary turmoil. All three of the country's major privately owned commercial banks imploded as they were unable to refinance short-term debt and a run on deposits in the Netherlands and United Kingdom. Relative to the size of its economy, Iceland’s banking collapse is regarded as the largest suffered by any country in economic history.