As much as we all love to travel and explore new places, it’s difficult to deny the negative effects of tourism. Iceland particularly has increased their tourism industry tenfold in recent years. This tourism boom inevitably has its pros and cons. The worst of which is the destruction of the beautiful nature that beckons flocks of outsiders in the first place. The island nation could easily fall in line with other countries that are not actively helping to combat tourism’s effect on the environment. However, many locals support Iceland nature protection measures that hopefully produce real, lasting change.
Why we need Iceland nature protection measures
Unfortunately, Iceland's natural resources are not indestructible. When increasingly more tourists walk amidst the famous hot springs, glaciers, and mountain-tops, it regrettably hurts the beautiful Iceland nature. The people of Iceland care deeply for its one-of-kind landscape, as everybody should. The increased devastation, however unintentional, has understandably caused upset among the local population.
Icelanders coined the term Ásatrúarfélagið in the late 20th century. The term refers to the growing disconnect between humans and nature. It’s clear that the people of Iceland notice and cherish their special land. They obviously want to help protect it, especially as Iceland natural hazards swell with each year.
Does this mean tourism shouldn’t be minimized? Not necessarily. Afterall, tourism has certainly helped the economy, though it comes at a cost to natural resources. A solution to the growing concern that hopefully allows for sustainable growth of tourism is to increase Iceland's nature protection measures. You'll want to keep this in mind when you rent a campervan in Iceland.
Tourists should be aware of Iceland natural hazards
Before hopping on a plane to visit the fabulous national parks of Iceland, tourists need to know the potential dangers. It comes across as insulting if tourists blindly trek along the unique terrain. Know when you’re visiting protected areas, and that various rules and regulations apply for each one. Follow the rules and respect the precious land.
Always stick to trails when hiking or biking; and be aware that biking is banned in certain areas regardless. Camping and campfires are only permitted in designated areas; you cannot “free camp” or "wild camp" wherever you want. Tampering with or removing rocks and plants is prohibited everywhere. And of course, don’t cross over onto or walk across private property, no matter how beautiful it is.
If you want to do more than just follow the rules, cut down on your use of plastics and cars. Use public transportation, bikes, and your feet whenever you can. Don’t buy disposable containers even if it’s the easy thing to do while traveling. Buy locally-made products and souvenirs from local vendors. Avoid chain restaurants and big-box stores. In this way, you’ll be part of a welcomed, sustainable growth in Iceland instead of a damaging one.
Recognize the biggest hazards to Iceland’s environment
Bear in mind that the three aluminum smelter (extraction) sites in Iceland account for 73% of their overall energy use. Therefore, the bigger fish to fry probably isn’t tourism, but instead energy-sucking factories. This is by no means an excuse to act badly in the numerous nature reserves. However, hopefully you’re more at ease knowing you’re doing everything you can to tour sustainably.
For better or worse, the most harmful Iceland natural hazards are factories. It can be easy to get down on yourself about the negative impacts of tourism when you’re trying to enjoy your trip. If you educate yourself and are a part of the conversation, Icelanders will be much more welcoming towards outsiders.
Measures already taken to help protect Iceland natural resources
A positive note to keep in mind is that nature conservation efforts in Iceland have already begun. As of now, more than a fifth of the land in Iceland is protected by the government. The increasing rules and regulations for the protected lands only help to preserve the country for years to come.
The wealth of renewable energy sources in Iceland make it so that they produce more electricity than any other country per capita. Since 2009, Iceland has had the largest hydropower plant in Europe. Hydropower provides about 74% of the country's electricity. However, the large stations incited soil conservation efforts as the building of the dams inevitably damaged the land. Even if something is done to aid climate change, it often still has harmful side-effects.
There are also five major geothermal energy plants that positively benefit from Iceland’s natural resources. The volcanoes of Iceland indirectly power 26% of the nation. Renewable resources are paramount to the country and luckily used in abundance. Additionally, government-sanctioned reforestation and revegetation endeavours have been set in place. Iceland has also funded further research in fields relating to climate change and climate-friendly technology.
The most important thing to do before touring Iceland is to educate yourself. Be a respectful and sustainable tourist. Appreciate the land as the Icelanders do. Fortunately the nation is already doing a lot to protect its natural resources, and other countries should learn from Iceland.