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News Currents

A current events product that introduces learners to the world around them in a unique and engaging way.

Story Text | Country of the Week
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Country of the Week: Iceland
Iceland is an island nation just south of the Arctic Circle.
Iceland is the second-largest island in Europe. What is the largest? (Great Britain.) It is located in the North Atlantic Ocean and is slightly smaller than Kentucky. It is the least densely populated country in Europe, with just 372,000 people. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdottír has headed the government since 2017. Nearly two-thirds of the population, live in the Capital Region, in and around the capital city, Reykjavík—RAY-kyuh-vik. It is the northernmost capital city in the world. Iceland sits just south of the Arctic Circle on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, between two tectonic plates. About 80 percent of Iceland is mountainous, and over 10 percent is covered in glaciers. It has 30 active volcanoes and many geysers. What is a geyser? (A hot spring that boils, sending a plume of steam and water into the air.) Strokkur geyser, a popular tourist attraction, erupts regularly every six to ten minutes.

Iceland has a diversified economy. Fishing historically was the mainstay of the economy, and today it makes up 40 percent of exports. More than 85 percent of the country’s energy comes from sustainable sources, such as geothermal and hydropower. Ecotourism and whale watching are popular with visitors. Iceland sees more than 1 million visitors a year—more than three times the country’s population. Despite its environmental profile, the country has allowed whale hunting in the past, selling whale meat to countries like Japan. But, citing lack of demand, Iceland says it plans to stop whale hunting in 2024. Do you think this whale hunt is justifiable?
Because Iceland was isolated, it has unique animals and a unique culture.
Before the first humans arrived, the Arctic fox was the island’s only endemic land mammal. Other species, like the Icelandic horse, evolved from animals brought by settlers. Icelandic horses are hardy and smaller than traditional horses. How do you think these adaptations helped them survive? The first Norse settler was Ingólfr Arnarson. He arrived in the year 874 and built his homestead in what is now Reykjavik. Many others followed and brought “thralls,” or slaves from Ireland and Scotland. The country came under Denmark’s control and gained its independence in 1944.

About 94 percent of the people are ethnically Icelandic. The Icelandic language is more closely related to Old Norse than any of the other Nordic languages. Iceland has universal health care and tuition-free public universities. The average life expectancy is nearly 82 years old, one of the highest in the world. It ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world. What factors contribute to happiness? Here you see a traditional dwelling, the turf house. What purpose did the turf serve? (It provided insulation in the harsh climate.)

Iceland’s literary tradition dates back to the sagas, or epic stories from medieval times. The Prose Edda is one of the most famous sagas. It is the source of many Icelandic myths, or ancient stories about gods. People in Iceland buy more books per capita than anywhere else. Most are sold in the weeks before Christmas. This is because of the Jolabokaflod—yo-la-BOH-kuh-flot—or “Christmas Book Flood,” a tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve. Would you like to live in Iceland? Why or why not?
**Not included in this demo is the text zoom option.**
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