Europe’s Banana Republic

Lawrence Solomon
FP Comment
April 11, 2008

Iceland wants to be the world’s first carbon neutral nation, an honour that will be bestowed on it by the United Nations’ Environment Program if it bests rivals Costa Rica, New Zealand and Norway. If Iceland wins, credit will rest in part with the country’s banana industry, the most vibrant in Europe.

Iceland grows its own bananas using the country’s abundant hot springs, which heat its greenhouses. Because Iceland doesn’t need to import bananas, it avoids imports of bananas from the southern hemisphere — a stain of shame on anyone striving for zero-footprint status. At one time, when banana prices in Europe were high, Icelanders even had hopes of making a go of it as a banana exporting country. Alas, Icelanders failed in their aspiration to become a banana republic.

Neighbouring Greenland, however, is now in the chase. Thanks to a banana plant import from Iceland and a solar-powered commercial greenhouse, Greenland has just produced its first banana crop. And it was lucrative. At auction, the top banana went for 600 kroner, or about $100. Greenlanders took especial pride in the knowledge that that banana avoided the need to airlift a banana to the island, sparing the world of some carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas.

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