And Finally Artist News

Icelandic canyon remains closed as Bieber fans cause damage to fragile nature

By | Published on Monday 20 May 2019

Justin Bieber

Iceland’s Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson has warned celebrities to be more careful when promoting tourist destinations to their audiences. This follows the closure of a canyon in Iceland after visitors made aware of it by a Justin Bieber video caused damage to the area.

The Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon was once a little known destination, rarely visited by anyone but locals in the know. That was until Bieber was shown running around it in his 2015 video for ‘I’ll Show You’.

That video currently has almost 445 million views on YouTube. And many of those viewers quite likely thought to themselves, ‘wow, that looks lovely’. Because it does. Old JB’s there, just wandering alone around this unspoiled patch of nature. Who wouldn’t want to visit and experience that?

Indeed, the pop promo seems to have done wonders for tourism in the area, because lots of people travel there wanting to experience the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon just like Bieber did. Although, all those new visitors make finding solitude in an unspoiled landscape that much harder to achieve. In fact, so many people have been travelling there, that in March this year the Icelandic Environment Agency made the decision to close it to the public for two weeks.

The closure came at a time of year when the vegetation in the canyon is particularly fragile, as the ground has not yet thawed as winter turns to spring. However, even once out of that danger zone, the closure was extended to the beginning of June. It’s the second time that the canyon has been closed to the public since the Bieber video first aired.

Although Bieber has taken a lot of the flack for the damage done by the massively increased tourism in the area, Gudbrandsson told the Associated Press recently that it’s “a bit too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber”.

However, he added that celebrities should be more careful when promoting tourist attractions such as this to a large audience. “Rash behaviour by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows”, he said.

Damage done by tourists to picturesque destinations has become a recurring news story in recent years – particularly in places where people travel in large numbers to take selfies for social media. Earlier this year, following a large boom as a holiday destination in the last few years, the Faroe Islands was closed to tourists for one weekend, except those willing to come and carry out maintenance that was required at well-trodden tourist areas. Thousands of people from 25 countries applied for the 100 maintenance roles on offer.

Meanwhile, Bieber fans aren’t the first to cause damage to an area while trying to catch sight of somewhere their hero has been. Back in 2013, Japanese boyband Arashi appeared in an advert for airline JAL. In it, they came across five trees in a field – one for each band member. One suggested that they call them ‘The Arashi Trees’, while another said that they should definitely not do that, because then the trees would no longer be free.

Arashi fans acted quickly, ignoring that last bit and naming the trees ‘The Arashi Trees’. Then, basically doing what they’d been told, they started booking plane tickets in order to travel to the small village of Kamifurano to find said trees.

Villagers quickly complained that these travellers dropped litter everywhere and churned up the fields around the village while searching for the now famous vegetation. Not only that, they started cutting off pieces of the trees when they did eventually find them, which is definitely not what the advert was suggesting.

In the end, the farmer who owned the land planted two more trees next to the existing ones, so that fans wouldn’t be able to spot five trees standing together. A simple solution. Albeit not one that can easily be applied to the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon problem. Although if the Icelandic tourist board does want to dig two more canyons to throw Bieber fans off the scent, I’m not going to stand in their way.

Tell you what, let’s finished with the video for Justin Bieber’s utterly, totally and completely fucking awful collaboration with Ed Sheeran, ‘I Don’t Care’, which I don’t think is going to make anyone want to do anything.