Plans to carve the world’s most exclusive ice cubes out of a glacier in Northern Norway are being blasted as “complete insanity” by the head of environmental protection group WWF Norge. Others are also highly skeptical to the idea, while one marketing professor calls it “exciting.”
The plans call for a company in Nordland to produce ice cubes from the glacier ice of nearby Svartisen. The ice cubes would be sold to exclusive bars and restaurants around the world.
“Think that you can sit in Dubai, Las Vegas, Monaco or Singapore and be served drinks with ice cubes from Svartisen in Nordland,” mused local county official Arve Knutsen to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) when the plan was launched earlier this year. “That alone would market and promote Nordland and Norge in a unique manner.”
Local officials are also keen to create new business activity and jobs, and decided to support the ice cube company, called Svaice, with NOK 250,000 (USD 29,000) in development funding to see whether it would be possible to launch global sales of Svartisen ice cubes. That involves placing drilling equipment on the glacier, and exploring transport options.
Arne Nygaard, professor of marketing at the Oslo School of Management (Markedshøyskolen, OSM), told NRK that the plan sounded “exciting” but needs support from the environmental movement if it’s to succeed. That doesn’t look likely, given this week’s reaction of WWF leader Nina Jensen and other environmental activists earlier.
“I can’t imagine how it can be sustainable to carve out ice using helicopters and then fly it around the world,” Jensen told NRK. “To me, this is an example of the world’s complete insanity.”
Jensen said she was willing to meet with the entrepreneurs behind Svaice, but wasn’t buying arguments that sales of the glacier’s ice cubes would draw attention to the problems of melting glaciers. Svartisen itself has been receding for years and some experts warn it may melt away entirely over the next 100 years.
“Claiming that people should get ice cubes from a glacier that will soon disappear should give the drinks a rather bitter taste,” Jensen told NRK.
Other environmental advocates have also expressed concerns about the project. Sigurd Enge, an adviser on Arctic issues for environmental organization Bellona, is among the skeptics: “If we’re talking about workers exploiting Svartisen in an industrial manner, I fear the consequences,” he told NRK. He also noted that it will take a lot of energy to keep the product cold, and that global distribution of the ice wouldn’t be environmentally friendly either.
“We would have to have a major study of the consequences, to see how this project would affect the condition of the glacier,” Enge said.
Geir L Olsen, one of the men behind Svaice’s glacial ice cube project, claimed production would be among the cleanest in the world. “We won’t use any chemicals and the ice would be sawed out manually with the help of motor saws without oil or other additives,” Olsen told NRK. “Only pure water from glacier melt will come from us.”
He claimed he and his colleagues have consulted with state waterways authority NVE to find drilling areas on the glacier that would cause the least damage. “The ice we take out would in the course of a few weeks melt and be gone anyway,” he said. “There is little tourism and few people in the area, and we’re looking at alternative methods to transport the ice out, with as little use of helicopters as possible.” He also said that the worldwide ice cube distribution would mostly be by boat, not by plane.
“Nina Jensen and WWF can gladly come here for a constructive conversation,” Olsen said. “That also applies to others who can make a contribution or have thoughts about the project.” Local planning officials in nearby Meløy township were due to discuss the future of the exclusive ice cube project later this week.