Tag archives for politics

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.

 

Politicians in Tranås get paid for cycling to sessions

Now Matilda Forsärla gets equally paid as her colleagues who take the car to council sessions. Photo: private.

I suppose it isn’t very different from in most other countries, but in Sweden you often get reimbursed by your work etc if you use your car to get to meetings or assignments. In our tax declarations, commuting expenses above a certain amount are also deductible – if you go by car or public transport.

As a dedicated cyclist I must say I have sometimes wondered why pedalling your way there doesn’t count at all.
This was also the question that Matilda Forsärla, local government councillor in Tranås in the South of Sweden [map] , asked herself. But she went a step further and actually did something to change this.

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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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From journalist to fish advocate parliamentarian

Isabella Lövin in the European Parliament. Photo: Fredrik Hjerling.

Isabella Lövin started out as a journalist and opened the eyes of a lot of Swedes with her book Tyst hav (“Silent seas”) which came out in 2007 and gave her several awards. Silent seas describes exactly how urgent the situation is in both Swedish and international seas, and has been compared to the classic Silent Spring by Rachel Carson from the 1960:s. Suddenly things like overfishing and fishing policies came high on the agenda.

Photo: Brian Colson (CC BY-NC-ND)

After such a successful book, things of course went well for Isabella Lövin and new offers kept coming her way. But when her knowledge about fishing policies made one of the Swedish political parties offer her to candidate for a post in the European Parliament, she was at first a bit perplexed.
– Should I leave all the things I had? For what? To sit and get haemorrhoids in Brussels? I definitely didn’t want that. But then my curiousity got the upper hand and I realised this was a chance I’d never get again, she has said in an interview (article in Swedish) with the magazine TCO-tidningen in 2009. Read more » >>

Green election

environmental-debate

Environment spokespersons from all the parliament parties were being questioned by SSNC earlier this week.

Sweden’s general election is getting closer and closer, and the election campaigns are visible in almost every street. Earlier this week I attended an environment debate with representatives from the different political parties arranged by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC).

Earlier SSNC has made a review of the parties’ environmental work during these last four years, and delivered quite a lot of criticism. The government parties failed, according to SSNC, among other things because of having opened for a more aggressive exploitation of shores and beaches, having lifted the ban on new nuclear reactors and having abolished the tax on fertilizers (produced by fossil fuels and leading to eutrophication of the Baltic Sea).

But neither the red-green opposition parties were spared criticism. SNCC has stated that not even Miljöpartiet (which actually means the Environment Party) has really good environment politics.

During the debate I went to here in Stockholm, what caused the most fervent discussions were different subsidies for cars that emit less CO2, whether or not to raise the carbon tax (which will in its turn cause higher petrol prices) or which way is best to raise taxes on environmentally harmful things and lower them on more environmentally friendly ones.

The big debates have otherwise touched how to count emission reductions, or rather if all of Sweden’s national emission reduction goals have to be achieved within the country, or if we could instead pay for emission reductions in other parts of the world.

But it wouldn’t be fair to say that environmental issues are in the main spotlight right now. In a survey made by the publication MiljöRapporten representatives from all parties admit that they don’t think environmental issues will determine these elections, unless something acute, lika an environmental scandal or other kind of disaster, occurs in the coming weeks and makes the debate change focus.

What I miss most in the debates of this election, though, is the big perspective on the whole sustainability issue. How is Sweden going to be a good place to live in without fossil fuels? How do we deal with the planetary boundaries and construct a way of living that wouldn’t require three globes to be sustainable in the long term?