In 2015, I visited Iceland. The trip was short, and cold, but I managed to visit several incredibly beautiful geysirs. Geysir, in Icelandic, or geyser in English, means “gusher”. Some of the World’s most notable geysirs are in Iceland. Iceland is also one of the most active geothermal areas in the world. When you visit the geysirs in southwest Iceland you feel like you are standing amongst giant, almost mythical, colorful boiling kettle of water, salts, and sulfur. The geysirs themselves are interesting attractions, drawing tourists from all over the world. Iceland not only draws on these geothermal kettles for tourism, but also depends on the energy created by geothermal activity to supply electricity both to urban and rural areas. During my visit I learned about farmers who grow tomatoes in the dark of winter in Iceland. You might be thinking, “How?”, and “isn’t that unsustainable?” First, the how. The farmers that I met grew the tomatoes in greenhouses using artificial light, heat, nutrients and water, all supported by the energy generated by geothermal activity. This leads me to my thoughts about whether or not the practice is unsustainable or not. In terms of energy dependence on a local-scale the practice could be viewed as sustainable; energy is derived from the existing geothermal activity so is sustainable as long as the thermal activity is maintained. However, there is a question about the sustainability of nutrient inputs for agriculture, and the need to source these from all over the world (for example, phosphorus). I will say though, the technology used by the farmers in Iceland is incredible, and the farmers do their utmost to minimize the amount of nutrient or chemical added to the plants. They use state of the art technology to monitor nutrient levels in the medium used to grow the tomatoes. I enjoyed a fresh glass of tomato juice during the visit and was excited to learn about the adaptations that were being made in Iceland to source more locally grown produce. Read more about the greenhouses of Iceland, here.
Haiku and photo: Steph Januchowski-Hartley