Tag archives for activism

The new must-have: A local Future Week

Anders Persson’s son Edvin has become the poster boy for the Swedish Future Weeks. Photo: Framtidsveckan.

It all started with the artist Anders Persson in Söderhamn (who is among other things known for drawing the classical comic strip  91:an Karlsson). Reading about climate change and becoming father can be a powerful combination. In Anders Persson’s case, it led to a lot of rather scary thoughts about how little that had actually happened during all his years as active in the environmental movement.

In order to do what he could for his son, Anders Persson organised the first Future Week in Söderhamn, where he lives, in 2009. The idea was to make people learn, reflect and talk about the different crisis that humanity is facing, to show what is actually being done about it, and that global problems often have local solutions.

A preschool in Ljusdal, which has worked during 20 years with letting the children participate in the production of their own food, both by growing vegetables and keeping animals. Photo: Framtidsveckan.

During this week, businesses, “ordinary” people and local politicians show what they do to make their society more sustainable. A few tasters from the program from one of the future weeks earlier this year: A woman opened her sheep farm to the public, showing how she produces meat and wool. People growing food together organised a potluck party with food, drinks and discussions about sustainable food production in the area. An expert talked about how the local area would cope with a major power cut. The municipal architect met locals to discuss how the area can be made more sustainable, both socially and environmentally, through its buildings.

Talking to the founder Anders Persson, he tells me the concept is spreading rapidly. This year there are Future Weeks being organised on about ten locations. The next ones (information in Swedish) are Sundsvall [map] and Örebro [map].
– The future weeks work perfectly as a lever in order to lift the ideas about transition, both locally and regionally. Now the next challenge is to fill the rest of the year with action too! Anders Persson tells me.

 

Another Future Week feature: People growing food together invite the public to get to know their activities, and taste the outcomes of it in a potluck dinner. Photo: Framtidsveckan.

 

Not just another flea market

One of the Transition Group members talking to the vendors about the group's work. Photo: Ylva Lundin.

I know I keep going on  about the Transition Group in my childhood town Alingsås, but they just keep doing such great things!

Working with the aim to reduce the local dependency on fossil fuels can be a massive task. How do you talk about these things without being dull and annoying? How do you make people, caught up in their everyday lives, listen at all?
The members of the transition group thought they’d start simple. To reuse things is important and easy to understand for everyone. And most people have a lot of things at home that they wouldn’t mind getting rid of. So a flea market seemed like a good idea.

They got permission from the city of Alingsås to use a central avenue, where they could offer people to set up a stand for free and sell their used stuff every Saturday during this summer.

I spoke to some of them before the first Saturday. They were a tiny bit nervous. What if no one would turn up? Some of them sorted out a few things they could sell, so the place wouldn’t be completely empty.

An almost unused spade? Some nice clothes? What someone is tired of, others can get joy from. Photo: Ylva Lundin.

They hadn’t needed to worry. Every Saturday since opening, the avenue has been full, even crammed, with people. Older people who have gone through attics and cellars and filled a big table with things. Young people who have cleaned out their wardrobes for clothes they aren’t using anymore. Even children, coming with their old books and toys.
Soon the group had to ask the city for more space, since people had to put their stands in double lines.

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Sustainability in Stockholm, 40 years later

Panel-discussion Summing up what has happened since 1972. The secretary-general of the Stockholm Conference in 1972 Maurice Strong is the first at the left of the panelists. Note the Swedish king in profile between the first and second panelists from the right! Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Many may not know it, but it is often said that it was in Stockholm that the sustainability discussion first started. The 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, also known as the Stockholm Conference, is widely recognized as the beginning of modern political and public awareness of global environmental problems.

This week it has been 40 years since then, and to commemorate this Stockholm is now hosting a new forum, leading up to the Rio+20 UN Conference on sustainable development that will be held later this year, dealing with the tricky mission of “defining pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all” .

So right now we have more than 30 ministers from all over the world, and hundreds of international participants in Stockholm – in fact just a few blocks away from my office.

This morning I went there to listen to a panel made up of former participants of the conferences held ever since 1972, being asked what has actually happened since then.
“Not enough” was the harsh answer from the panel’s oldest member, Maurice Strong who was secretary-general at the Stockholm Conference in 1972.
– There’s nothing wrong with the agreements made during this time, but the problem is in the implementation of these agreements. Today we are in a more urgent situation than then, but the will has faded. Frankly, we need a revolution. Because the survival of humanity is at risk, he said.

A reminder from the parallel conference: There is no planet B! Photo: Sara Jeswani.

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Remember global warming? Maybe poems, climate walks and flash mob dances can help

Flash-mob

Flash mob dance in one of Stockholm's shopping centres, to make people aware of the climate summit taking place in South Africa right now. Photo: Emma Arvida Byström.

The UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa, has begun and although the expectations on its outcome have been put down to a minimum, these international negotiations provide the biggest arena for taking global action against the warming of our atmosphere.
Sweden has sent a 47 person delegation, headed by our new environment minister Lena Ek.

But in many ways climate change is a half forgotten subject, between headlines about the economic crisis and the weather. The attention in Sweden is nowhere near the massive interest that the climate meeting in Copenhagen got two years ago. But newspapers are nevertheless being dotted with articles about the meeting and debates about what should be done. And climate activists do their best to draw attention to the meeting by using different spectacular methods (more about that further down this text). Read more » >>

The Battle of the Elms: Sweden’s most symbolic trees

This week it’s 40 years since Sweden’s most historic battle over trees took place. On the night between May 11 and 12 1971, thousands of people gathered in the central park of Kungsträdgården in Stockholm. Their aim was to defend a group of elm trees against being cut down in order to make space for a new metro station.

battle-of-the-elms

Battling for the elms back in 1971. Photo: Lennart af Petersens/Stockholms stadsmuseum.

“The Battle of the Elms” took place during several days. Youngsters chained themselves to the trees, artists performed and young and old from all political colours gathered to defend the trees. Clashes between police and protesterswere sometimes violent, but in the end the tree defenders won. 14 of the elms were left standing and the metro station was moved a few hundred meters. The news made it to frontpages all over the world.

Most people seem to agree that even if the trees themselves were important, as green lungs in a big city, they were also symbols of democracy and actually managed to mark the end of a period when a lot of Stockholm’s old buildings were demolished. Standing in the shadow of the elms was also a café, popular among young people and threatened by the bulldozers.

The 40:th anniversary of the elm protests was celebrated in Kungsträdgården this week. A little bit like coming back to the 1970s!

Elm-celebration-2011

Elm celebrations in Kungsträdgården Wednesday. Song and music and a new generation learns how to climb the trees. The café is still a popular meeting spot. Photo: Sara Jeswani.