Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grímsson told Alaska legislators on Tuesday that, “with all due respect to Washington,” they need to be more vocal and involved if they want to build Arctic infrastructure as the only Arctic state in the country.
Grímsson’s comments came during a special meeting that the Legislature held in the wake of a two-day summit in Anchorage on ports and shipping in the Arctic, hosted by Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff and others.
For two hours, members of the Legislature — including Alaska Arctic Policy Commission co-chairs Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel — heard from mayors, financial investors, advisers and others who participated in the summit.
Historical challenge: Grímsson
Grímsson was second to speak, and he told lawmakers they are presented with a historical challenge, and how they deal with that challenge is of paramount importance.
“Let’s not forget that the progress of the Arctic will first and foremost take the form of projects and transformations on a small scale,” he said. “While I thank you for inviting me, I want to encourage the state Legislature to be more vocal and more active.”
He explained that people often ask how his country came to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.
“The answer is house by house, street by street, village by village, district by district, town by town until 30 years later, the entire country has been transformed,” he said.
“Instead of waiting for all the others to acknowledge that they agree with what you need done, you should simply do it,” he said.
Legislators did not respond directly to Grímsson’s comments Tuesday. McGuire thanked him, and the meeting moved on to the next speaker.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Conservatives’ federal election campaign heads North with infrastructure announcement, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Norway delays bridge-building to Russia on road to Crimea, Barents Observer
Russia: Murmansk, Russia: Transport hub trouble, again, Barents Observer
Norway: Norway improving infrastructure on Arctic island, Barents Observer
United States: Distinct visions for Alaska port project, Alaska Dispatch News