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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Tilda Dahl giving her grandfather a ride in a box bike. Photo: Ylva Lundin.
I know everyone’s not as bicycle fanatic as I am, but who wouldn’t love a bicycle day?
In the town where I grew up, Alingsås, the local Transition Group spent last Sunday (which also happened to be Mother’s Day in Sweden) celebrating bikes in all their forms and shapes in one of Alingsås’ parks where this group also has a community garden.
People could try different kinds of bikes, like a box bike, an electric bike, a unicycle ( a bike with only one wheel) and a tandem. A bicycle repair shop was also there, doing basic bike service for free.
Do you dare to calculate the true costs of your car? Photo: Tilda Dahl.
Another fun thing was a service where people could get help to calculate the real cost of their car. Using a graphic that we have already published in Effekt, the Transition Group not only counted what people pay for petrol and parking, but also insurance, tyres, services, taxes etc. According to Ylva Lundin from the group, not everyone was as eager to listen to the answers…
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The Djing notes. Photo: Mats Lindqvist.
Or, rather, the Djing is the new money in the building society Djingis Khan in Lund [map].
With economies shaking all over the world, the initiator Mats Lindqvist wanted to bring up the discussion about our economic system, perpetual growth and planetary boundaries. His way to do this was to start a local, alternative currency: the Djing.
What’s special about the Djing is that it isn’t as virtual and volatile as most other money we deal with nowadays. It isn’t even linked to gold or silver, which has been historically used to secure the value of a currency. These notes are instead backed up by…honey!
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Photo: Anki-itte (CC BY-NC-ND)
Insects. I sometimes get the feeling most people see them as either a nice decoration in their gardens (butterflies) or something you would rather not have at all (the rest of them). But, as I wrote here last week about the bees : Without insects to pollinate our plants. we would soon be out of food.
Alingsås' first insect hotel. Note the four stars on top! Photo: Sara Jeswani.
In Alingsås [map], the local Transition group, which is working for a more resilient Alingsås, has made an insect hotel, to attract all kinds of insects to their community garden (photo to the right). In cities, with their well-kept lawns and big areas covered with asphalt, these small inhabitants often have problems to find good places to live. So in Alingsås a group of about 20 children, adults and elders gathered to construct this insect hotel. made of recycled materials, clay pots, twigs and straw. Now it’s there to take care of its guest, and to remind people about all we have to thank these little fellows for.
But the declining number of insects has started to concern scientists more and more, since it could also be a symptom of bigger environmental changes. To keep track of these changes, the Department of Biology at the Lund University runs a butterfly monitoring scheme where volunteers spend their summer observing and reporting all the butterflies they see.
This project started last year, and gives scientists good information about what is happening to butterflies, which also says a lot about general environmental changes, since butterflies are especially affected by this.
Staffan Börjesson weeding at Tillsammansodlingen. In the background Christian Gustavsson. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
If you’re looking for the seeds of a more local food future, Tillsammansodlingen just south of Gothenburg [map] is a good place to start.
“Tillsammansodlingen” (meaning something like “the together plantation”) came out of the Transition group in Gothenburg. When they started in 2009 many of the group members saw food-growing as a natural starting point in the work to make their local community less dependant on fossil fuels.
When they heard of an elderly organic farmer wanting someone to take over the land he had rented, the idea started taking shape and about one year ago the first seeds made their way into the soil.
Now Tillsammansodlingen consists of a core group of 5 to 6 persons, and around 20 more who come in and work occasionally. As a member in the association you pay 500 Swedish kronor (about 52 Euro) per year and then you get to pick the vegetables you need for household requirements every time you participate in the cultivation work.
The surplus harvest is sold at a market stand by the plantation and by an organic food shop in Gothenburg.
- Personally it’s both about the environment and about my love for food. It’s simply fantastic to be able to harvest your own spinage and eat as much salad as you want, says Christian Gustavsson.
He sees this as a way of putting less of his time on paid work.
- I think it gives new ways of thinking about economics and food, and we need that.
Looking out at the European highway just a bit further away, he says:
- Right now a lot of the vegetables feeding Gothenburg comes in on this road, with trucks from the South of Europe. And this strip of land along the highway used to be what provided a big part of the city with food in earlier years. Now there are practically no plantations left, but the soil is really fertile so there’s a good potential.
Photo: Sara Jeswani