The Faroe Islands are known for their spectacular landscape. Whether one experiences the islands on a good summer day with birds singing under a clear sky or on a stormy day in winter, when the blizzard tears at and whips the naked shore the Faroe nature is an impressive and captivating experience.
The 18 green isles with lofty mountains, steep cliffs, deep fiords and narrow sounds are the result of a 50 million year long history of creation, where wind, water and ice over time have worn and formed an originally volcanic basalt plateau into the 18 islands we know today. The basalt layers in the mountain sides and the long vales and fiords, which can be followed all over Faroe today, witness this slow and at times violent history of formation.
Over time various plants and animals have gained a foothold and have colonized the islands and waters around them. The unique location of the islands in relation to the ocean currents in the North Atlantic and the nutrients they bring with them have led to good living conditions for fish and other ocean animals. Concurrent with this abundance of marine life this has also led to a rich coastal bird life. Mean- while other bird species have colonized the inner parts of the isles, counting both migratory and wintering birds.
The Faroes offer an impressive and varied landscape.
The west coast of the islands, which are exposed to the ocean and the prevailing wind direction from the west, is dominated by steep slopes and bird cliffs, where seabirds have their summer nesting places.
The inner landscape of the islands is mostly characterized by mountains, fiords, slopes and valleys. Since the Middle Ages the sheep and people have divided the land between them. In and around the villages there is the tilled land, the infield (“bøur”), and around it there is the uncultivated heather (“hagi”) or outfield. Historically the infield has been used to grow corn and (later) potatoes for people and winter fodder for the farm animals, while the outfield was left for the sheep throughout the year. At most places in Faroe this division is still the norm.
Small freshwater lakes are a common feature of the inland with a rich animal and plant life. There are major lakes on Vágoy, Sandoy, Suðuroy, Streymoy and Eysturoy.
Areas of geological interest are the peculiar basalt formations, the socalled “sills” on Eysturoy and Streymoy, and coal layers in Suðuroy.
The only sand dunes in Faroe are to be found on Sandoy at the village of Sandur.
The ocean banks around Faroe are a natural habitat for many fish species. Most of these are today exploited for economic purposes, and the economy of Faroe is to a large extent dependent upon the presence of fish on the grounds.
Since their arrival on the islands people have made use of nature and over time put their marks on it. It is thought that originally there was wooded vegetation on the islands, but that it has disappeared as a consequence of the introduction of sheep. In recent time the opening of quarries for the construction of roads and harbours have left scars on nature.
The dependence upon fish as a resource and a means of income has at times led to overfishing and a subsequent decline of the fisheries. Today, however, people are aware of the problem and strive to fish at sustainable levels. But all things hinge on money, and at length it is a political decision how much gets fished.
The Faroe fjords have within the recent decades been used for aquaculture, in particular salmon and trout. When fish farming they gather as many fish as possible within a relatively small area. This has led to oxygen shortages in many of the fiords in summer and other related environmental problems. The smaller half of the electricity production in the Faroes derives from water power and a fraction from wind power. There are plans of expanding the production of water power in the near future, and in the long run there is talk of using the waves on the coasts for electricity production.
These alternative ways of creating energy are less polluting than doing it with fossile fuels, mostly oil, which up until now has been dominant in Faroe. But the expansion of the infrastructure for these forms of energy often requires that nature and the environment are interfered with. At present there is a lively debate in Faroe as to how to minimize this influence.
Today we see more and more effort put into preserving the environment both at national and local level.
The environmental and natural organization, FNU (Føroya Nátt- úru- og Umhvørvisverndarfelag) has as an independent body for decades worked for environmental causes in Faroe.
Both at public and private level several measures have been enacted for the environment. One of these is the competition for the title of “Neatest Village”, where the best looked-after village environmently is chosen as winner.
Several municipalities strive to plan environmentally and to take local Agenda 21 steps. Politically people are now more aware of environmental concerns than in the past.
Hopefully this is a development which will increase the focus on the environment and related issues in future
The Faroes have a high level of employment. 93% of the men and 87% of the women are active on the labour market. A large portion of the work force works part time. 81% of the men work full time, while only 45% of the women are wholly employed. The unemployment rate is under 4%.