This evening I took a bit of a break from packing for the big Asia trip and studying for exams to attend a lecture given by the Prime Minister of Iceland. The Newfoundland Telegram newspaper reported that Mr. Geir Haarde was in St. John's to meet with Premier Danny Williams because the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Iceland have formalized a partnership to further explore trade opportunities. Mr. Haarde was in the province to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). It is reported that the MOU is designed to promote the friendly relations that exist between Iceland and Newfoundland and Labrador. In particular, it seeks to enhance co-operation between business and industries through business ventures, technology transfer and research and development; and to enhance co-operation in cultural industries, education and the arts.
This evening, Prime Minister Haarde was at MUN to talk about how Iceland transformed itself in the space of two generations, to the point where it now sits atop the UN's Human Development Index as well as many other global indices of social equity, transparency and commerce. It was an informative talk and an interesting 45 minute long Q & A session. Questions ranged from what Iceland is doing in regards to the Kyoto protocol and the credit exchange program, to Iceland's reliance on geothermal energy. It was incredible to hear that geothermal energy has allowed Iceland to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, such that oil now makes up only 20% of its total energy consumption!
What was of particular interest was the relaxed atmosphere. No heavy security, no guys in black sunglasses, no wireless headphones. Simply a few RNC officers greeting people at the entrance. Not only was it a great informal presentation, afterwards the Prime Minister mingled amongst the crowd while we all enjoyed various wines and cheeses. Of course, there were additional motives for attending the presentation - what student would pass up free smoked salmon, desserts, and wine!?!
See you all when I return from Asia...