Tag archives for nature

Swedish artists and politicians pick litter all week

The artist Pernilla Andersson, herself living in the Swedish archipelago, is one of the celebrities who encourage people to go out and clean our beaches. Photo: Christian Pohl.

Sweden has a loooong coastline – 2400 kilometers to be more exact. This is actually one of the longest in Europe.
Open sea is of course a blessing in many ways, but for a lot of the communities along the Swedish coast, there are also a problem associated to this: Litter.

In a recent survey, a majority of Sweden’s coastal municipalities stated that waste along their coasts is a big concern for them. People leave their rubbish directly on the beaches, or throw it in the sea, which then brings it in to the beach.
Only in the North Sea, about 200 000 tons of waste are dumped every year. Mostly plastic, but also wood, aluminium cans and glass bottles. Most of these materials take a long time to decompose (plastic can even take from 100 to 1000 years!).
Fulmar birds found in the North Sea have on an average 33 pieces of plastic in their stomachs, and sea mussels also absorb microscopic pieces of plastic – that can end up in the human being eating them.

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Sweden’s most popular sport right now: Spring Spotting

Spring sign #1: Yellow crocuses in a sea of brown and grey. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

I’m on my way to work when I see a man and his little son suddenly crouching down in front of a heap of brown, dead leaves. Their heads move together, studying something very closely. My curiosity is awaken. What can be so interesting among a bunch of old leaves?
As I get closer, it’s obvious. Bright yellow crocuses glow beneath the brown and grey.

Spring sign #2: Willow buds. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Now, this isn’t just any little yellow flower. This is a Sign of Spring, which in Sweden is something almost sacred.
My blog colleague Kate is in good company when she starts looking for spring signs , since it’s actually something of a folk sport.
This time of the year everyone does it: Children, adults, farmers and city dwellers, newspapers (article in Swedish) and television programs.

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Is the Swedish freedom to roam too generous?

Ecotourism1

Photo: Foto: Staffan Widstrand/Ekoturismföreningen.

As I’ve written here before, one of the Swedish things I’m most proud over is allemansrätten, or the Right of Public Access, which makes nature areas accessible to everyone. It gives you the right to take a walk, put up a tent to sleep one or two nights or pick berries and mushrooms on someone else’s land. This right to roam freely is not actually a law but an old and very beloved custom.

But recently there’s been a lot of discussions about how far allemansrätten should extend. Should commercial activities, such as tourist tours or large scale berrypicking have the right to roam as freely as private people, and without paying the land owner?
The Federation of Swedish Farmers has proposed that commercial operators will be excluded from the right to roam freely. That wouldn’t make any difference for “ordinary” people roaming around, they say. But both tour operators and non-profit organisations encouraging people to spend more time in nature are worried. The risk, they argue, is that it will be more difficult for everyone to enter these areas.

The Swedish Association for Eco Tourism points out that it’s not always the tour operators that cause the land-owners most problems. According to a survey, about a third of the forest-owners said that they have problems with public visitors, like city dwellers who aren’t used to being in nature and for example make fires carelessly or leave their waste behind. Tourism isn’t targeted as a big problem in that same survey.

So, should the Right to Public Access be restricted? Or would it maybe be enough to educate people better about how to act once you’ve left the concrete?The Swedish Environment Protection Agency is right now working on an inquiry about how to deal with allemansrätten in the future. Their thoughts will be presented later this year.

 

 

 

Industries stopped by a flower

pasqueflowerThe Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla Vulgaris in Latin). It might look small, but it’s obviously strong enough to stop a whole construction project. Photo: Stan Shebs (CC GNU)

I’ve always been very fascinated by the stories I’ve heard of road projects being stopped in Iceland because a specific patch of ground was said to be the home of elves or other mystic creatures. I don’t know if there is any truth in these stories (maybe someone else knows?) and perhaps it’s just another national stereotype but somehow it’s a nice idea that non-material values are allowed to decide once in a while.

Now I read a Swedish story that reminds me of this. In the municipality of Linköping [map] the local authorities had planned to exploit a piece of land to give space for an industrial area. But then a rare flower, the Pasqueflower, was found in large quantities. The Pasqueflower is placed under protection and it’s prohibited to pick it or dig it up from the ground.

So the authorities decided to stop he whole project. Now they are investigating if the land could be used as pasture so that the Pasqueflower can thrive.

1-0 to Nature..?

How to best enjoy Sweden´s allemansrätt

overlooking-lake-Malaren

Overlooking lake Mälaren from Gåseborg just outside Stockholm. For those of us who haven't got a summer house, this is the perfect way to escape the city over the weekend. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

It might not be the obvious choice, but if I had to pick the most important sustainability tool we have in Sweden, I think I’d take the Right of Public Access, allemansrätten.
Most of us are probably more willing to save something we feel strongly for. But it’s not easy to develop a strong relationship to nature if you haven’t got the possibility to access wild areas. The Right of Public Access makes nature something for everyone to enjoy rather than for someone to possess.

Allemansrätten itself is actually not a law, but more of a cultural heritage. However, there are laws that restrict allemansrätten, in order to protect vulnerable areas for example. But as long as you don’t camp in someone’s garden, leave rubbish or cause any damage, you normally have the right to roam freely in forests, have a swim in someone else’s water, put up a tent and stay for a couple of nights and pick wild berries and mushrooms.

Lately voices have been raised to change the allemansrätt, since some mean that it’s being (ab)used for commercial berry-picking or profitmaking large-scale group activities. The defence for these rights are profoundly rooted among most Swedes. though, and many hesitate to make any big changes. Going hiking and camping with my friends who weren’t born or raised here and seeing their astonishment, I’ve also come to realize that it’s something very precious.

Last weekend I spent exercising the right to roam freely together with a group of friends, in this case in Gåseborg [map] just half an hour from central Stockholm using public transport. It’s situated around the remainings of an ancient castle from the Neolithic Age and has a stunning view over lake Mälaren. On top of it all it’s an excellent spot for climbing.

In order to make the most of allemansrätten, here are some basic tips:

1. Figure out where you want to go. What are your main objectives? Climbing? Trecking? Swimming? Kayaking? Picknicking? Or do you want total stillness? A bit of Googling is a good way to find ideas. (The Swedish EPA has some suggestions here )

2. Pack some basic stuff (for example a tent, some food and water), call a friend and off you go.

3. In many well-visited nature areas the local authorities have put up public barbeque spots and there might even be firewood provided for visitors in order to save dead branches in the forest. These are excellent places to have a picnic or a barbeque.

4. Staying overnight is my personal favourite. There are few things that beat waking up to birds singing and having breakfast on a sunny rock.

5. Allemansrätten is a right, but it also means responsabilities. Don’t scare animals or disturb people living in the area. You’re not allowed to cut or injure growing trees. Be sure to take all waste with you. In short: Leave the place looking like you had never been there.

6. Enjoy! Listen to the wind playing in the leaves, smell the pine-needles, watch the ants work. Climb up a tree, spy on a bird, pick some edible plants…or just hang out with your friends by the fire, watching the stars. Nature is never boring.

More information about the Right to Public Access.

two-days-in-the-forest

From above: 1. Climbing one of the prepared rock climbing routes at Gåseborg. 2. Making dinner and going for this year's first (very quick!) swim. 3. Enjoying Allemansrätten can very well be just doing... nothing. 4. Trying to leave our sleeping spot like we had never been there. Photos: Sara Jeswani/Malin Ekerstedt.