Tag archives for sustainability

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.


I’ve got bees!

Johan and Franz checking if the bees have a queen. The rain and the bees flying around don’t really appear on this photo, but I can tell you they were everywhere… Photo: Sara Jeswani.

“Congratulations, you’ve got bees!”

It was the beginning of July and I was sitting on a boat, far away from Stockholm, when my mobile phone beeped. I stared at the text message for several minutes. Well, I did sign up for that lottery (handing out a few of the “new” bee societies that are created when you divide big ones during summer) at my local beekeeper association’s course earlier this year. But I never win lotteries, so I reckoned nothing would happen.

I was wrong.

Honey bees are extremely interesting animals. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Reading about the importance of bees and how they are now more and more threatened,I had decided to learn a bit more and joined a beekeeping course in the beginning of this year. I am far from the only one having got this interest lately, and the beekeeping veterans running the course were amazed to see 35 new members coming to the first meeting instead of the normal four to five.

Trying the get the loose honey bees out of the car before driving across the city. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

The thing about bees is that the more you learn about them the more intriguing they get. How on Earth does the bee queen know where to go when it’s time to mate? And how do the bees manage to tell each other where the best nectar is to be found? Why are so many of them dying all of a sudden, does it have to do with pesticides being sprayed on food crops?

I would really like to have a beehive, i thought – in a couple of years.

Who knows if it would ever have happened, if it wasn’t for this lottery. Only question: What do you do with thousands of bees when you live in a flat?

Finally the boxes are placed in the new hive, and after a few minutes the bees start flying in and out, getting to know their new neighbourhood. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

After sending e-mails to everyone I know in the area where I live, I ended up finding a nice new home for them, a local garden association where the members keep bees together. It’s reassuring to have others that will take care of the bees together with me, and last few weeks we started restoring an old hive to give them a new house.

Last week it was finally time to move the bees from their current home in a park north of Stockholm. The rain was pouring down and the bees (approximately 40.000–50.000!) weren’t exactly in their best mood when we put them in the car to cross Stockholm… But now they have a new home, which I hope they will like!

Sustainability for both the eye and the brain

Photo from the book. An orangutan, like hundreds of other orphans, is kept at the Nyaru Menteng rehabilitation center in Kalimantan, Indonesia. The loss of dipterocarp trees in this region has led to significant reductions in the populations of many species like orangutans that are dependent on forests. Photo: Mattias Klum

Communicating sustainability isn’t easy. The story about what is happening to the planet and what we ought to do about it tends to become either so simplified that the solution to this very upsetting problem seems to be to buy the right “green” car – or so detailed and technical that very few feel it actually concerns them personally.

Coral reef in Indonesia. Photo: Mattias Klum.

So how do you unite the emotional and the “brain” understandings? In a new book, which was released during the Rio+20 meeting and will have its Swedish release next month, there’s a serious ambition to do just this.
The Swedish photographer Mattias Klum has been all over the world an taken photos of Earth, with its beautiful natural habitats, endangered species, burned rainforests and people that inhabit cities and rural areas.

To accompany these moving photos, Johan Rockström, who is the executive director of Stockholm Resilience Centre, has written texts that nail down the scientific realities behind what we see. Taking a systems perspective on the challenges that humanity faces, he explains the complexity of this system, what is at stake if we don’t learn to stay within the planetary boundaries and what he thinks must be done about this (“a sustainability revolution”).

I find this boundary-breaking approach to information, where more artistic ways of expression can meet the hard facts, very useful. To make your own opinion about it, read the e-book preview of the book here.

Tebaran, a blowpipe hunter in Sarawak, Malaysia, sees a difficult path ahead for indigenous people in Borneo, as logging operations and palm oil plantations rapidly engulf the land of his ancestors, rainforests that were abundant in plants and animals. Photo: Mattias Klum.

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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Will we have our own giant shrimps in Sweden?

Will there be locally produced Swedish shrimp sushi in the future? Well, we might have to change the rice for something else though … Photo: Baron Valium (CC: by-sa)

You find them on the sushi, in woks or at the barbeque… Tiger prawns and giant shrimps have become a popular ingredient on many plates in Sweden. But after increasing discussions and campaigns about the downsides of tiger prawn production (destruction of mangrove swamps, sweet water goes salty, agricultural land becomes infertile…) not to mention the long transports from the other side of the world, more and more food shops and restaurants have chosen to stop selling these big prawns.

The future might bring them back on the menu, though. Earlier this summer, Matilda Olstorpe was one of the winners at the Smart Lunch competition I have mentioned here on the blog.
Matilda Olstorpe is a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and she has developed a method for breeding giant shrimps together with the Tilapia fish, using the excess heating and sugar by-product from a papermill.

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