Jay Copp 2015-04-16 05:42:13
Mile after mile of lovely green grass carpets the southern coast of Iceland. Formerly barren, the rich land represents 47 years of revegetation by a small Lions club, able to reverse 1,000 years of environmental degradation and inspire land reclamation nationwide. The 18-member Sudri Lions Club has spread grass seed and fertilizer in its rugged coastline area for nearly half a century. More than 150 kilometers (93 miles) of grass have taken root. After being settled in the 9th century, Iceland eventually lost 97 percent of its forest. Erosion has been intensified by harsh weather and periodic volcanic eruptions. The environmental decay is dismayingly ironic considering the small island nation near the Arctic Circle is a popular destination for tourists drawn to its magnificent, unspoiled volcanoes, lava fields, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls and black sand beaches. “The single most important environmental issue Iceland has faced for many centuries is soil erosion and lack of vegetation, caused by human activity,” says Adalsteinn Sigurgerisson, the research director at the Icelandic Forestry agency. Lion Einar Porsteinsson, a farmer and expert on soil conversation, led the revegetation effort. He’s 87 now but remains active in the project. “The other members [of the club] are a bit out of our element, but we’re good for carrying the necessary material to the site,” says Ásgeir Magnússon. Sudri Lions live in Vik, a coastal windswept village with 282 people.“Sudri” means southern, and the Lions club is the southermost one in Iceland. The project has been fraught with challenges. The grass sometimes does not take. “In many areas we have to go there again and again to stop the soil erosion,” says Magnússon. Even more daunting, the mountainous landscape sometimes requires Lions to carefully maneuver a 4-wheel drive vehicle up a rough road and then ingeniously slide bags of fertilizer and seed down the side of the mountains. The results justify the Herculean effort. “All up around the hill it was a wound, a red-black wound,” says Thordur Tomasson, 93, referring to a jagged hill. “There was no grass. Lions did save it.” Other clubs have since followed the example of the Sudri Lions. Emulating Lions, farmers throughout Iceland have also reversed soil erosion. Many clubs in Iceland also plant trees to battle soil erosion and to beautify the countryside. Hornafjardar Lions have planted trees for 44 years, and the all-women Gardabaejar Eik Lions Club have done so for 26 years. “We are responsible for the earth, and we should do everything we can to make it even better for our children and grandchildren,” says Past District Governor Halldor Kristjansson of the Asbjorn Lions. Digital LION Watch a brief video on the Lions’ revegetation at lionmagazine.org.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/A+Green+Iceland/1983304/254273/article.html.