As It Happens

Justin Bieber fans try to bribe their way into Icelandic canyon featured in music video

Most tourists are pretty understanding when they learn can't visit the idyllic Icelandic canyon featured in Justin Bieber's I'll Show You music video. But some just won't take no for an answer.

'People do a lot of stupid things for the perfect Instagram photo,' says ranger

Hanna Johannsdottir, a ranger from the Environment Agency of Iceland, poses for a photograph at the mouth of the Fjadrargljufur canyon. (Egill Bjarnason/Associated Press)
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Hanna Johannsdottir says most tourists are pretty understanding when she tells them they can't visit the idyllic Icelandic canyon featured in Justin Bieber's I'll Show You music video.

But some beliebers, she said, just won't take no for an answer.

"Most people just say yes and go back," the Environment Agency of Iceland ranger told As It Happens host Carol Off.  "But there is always ... one person that tries everything to get through."

Johannsdottir is one of the rangers charged with protecting Iceland's Fjadrargljufur canyon — the stunning backdrop to Bieber's 2015 music video that has been viewed more than 444 million times on YouTube.

In the video, Bieber can be seen frolicking on mossy vegetation, perching on a breathtaking cliffside and floating in the freezing river underneath the canyon's walls.

Over one million people have visited Fjadrargljufur since the video's release, the agency estimates, leaving deep scars on the landscape that will take both time and money to heal. 

'I have been offered all kinds of things'

Some people are so keen to follow in the pop icon's footsteps, they will jump fences, sneak past rangers, and in some cases, even offer bribes.

"I have been offered all kinds of things," Johannsdottir said. 

Usually, people try to trade food for access, she said. But one person went so far as to offer her an all-expenses trip to Dubai. 

She declined, of course.

"I will just get more and more stubborn when people offer me bribes," she said. 

Canadian pop star Justin Bieber did not violate any laws when he filmed his video against the stunning backdrop of an Icelandic canyon. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Bieber didn't violate any laws or regulations to shoot I'll Show You. The area was open to the public at the time. 

But Iceland has since closed it to tourists after a harsh, wet winter left the walking trials muddied, prompting travellers to tromp instead on the sensitive moss and vegetation.

"Visitors didn't want to get dust on their shoes so they started to walk outside of the hiking path and then the damaged area got bigger and bigger and bigger," Johannsdottir said. 

"There are many cliff edges in the canyon that are just ruined."

But officials say the Bieber-inspired selfie-seekers are just one small symptom of a much larger problem.

Iceland has seen a massive boost in tourism over the last decade that's out of proportion with infrastructure that is needed to protect the country's volcanic landscape, where soil forms slowly and erodes quickly.

Last year, 2.3 million tourists visited Iceland, compared with just 600,000 eight years ago.

The canyon area has suffered environmental damages after intense traffic, prompted in part by Bieber's music video for I'll Show You. (Egill Bjarnason/Associated Press)

"It happened very fast," Johannsdottir said. "We were just not ready for all these travellers in so short a time."

She said the agency is working to address the issue by building more walking trails and pathways at popular tourist locations, but added that "we will always need time and money for everything."

Bieber not entirely to blame

Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson said it is "a bit too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber.

But he urged famous, influential visitors to consider the consequences of their actions.

"Rash behaviour by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows," he told The Associated Press.

Johannsdottir said she agrees that the blame can't all be laid at the Canadian pop star's feet.

"Some people that come here come because of him. But there are all kinds of reasons that people have to visit the canyon, and unfortunately some people just want to take the same picture of themselves as he did sitting on the edge," she said. 

"That's not very good because now we don't have any moss or vegetation on these cliffs. It's just ruined. And it will take many years to grow back. But people do a lot of stupid things for the perfect Instagram photo."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Hanna Johannsdottir produced by Sarah Jackson.

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