Opening of the historic part of the Jokkmokk winter market, taking place at the same time as the Jokkmokk winter conference. Photo: Torbjörn Sandling.
This week university students, young decision makers and opinion builders from North America, Northern Europe and Russia meet in the snowy and icy (-34 degrees Celcius during the weekend, according to weather reports!!) Jokkmokk [map] in the North of Sweden, for the annual Jokkmokk Winter Conference, which has climate change as its main focus.
Places like Jokkmokk, in the (sub)Arctic regions, expect to feel many effects of climate change. For example fishing, forestry, energy production, tourism and reindeer herding will be affected.
My rescue this winter: Studded tyres. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
As a child, I used to cycle to school in all kinds of weather. Going by bus or being driven there by someone’s parents only happened on rare occasions, like after heavy snowfalls when the city of Alingsås [map] hadn’t managed to clear the tracks in the morning.
Living in Gothenburg [map] was the same, cycling up and down on snowy bike lanes (anyone who has cycled through this city knows that there are very few flat sections…). I remember cycling with my shoulders stuck at my ears at times, half panicking when the streets were covered by a shiny layer of ice. But somehow I managed.
Well, it’s not like you would want to go for a walk in a summer dress in Stockholm these days, but it’s certainly a lot warmer than usual this time of the year. A few days ago the newspapers reported about a family living on the island of Gotland [map]. They celebrated their child’s two-year birthday with a cake decorated with wild strawberries, freshly picked from the garden (article in Swedish). As a comparison it’s good to know that this date last year that very same garden was filled with snow and ice.
Actually, Sweden hasn’t seen this little snow in hundred years, according to meteorologists. At the webcam reports on this webpage you can see for yourself: in most skiing areas there’s very little white to be seen (scroll down and click on “Alla webkameror”) Read more » >>
This winter has so far been one of the coldest in Sweden in a long time. In December, when temperatures were the lowest for about 150 years and Sweden at the same time had a standstill in some of our nuclear reactors, electricity prises rushed up to record levels.
This was of course not a very happy situation for those who heat their houses with electricity. On the other hand, there are plenty of more efficient ways to do it. One is to use the excess body heat of people in motion. This is done in the Kungsbrohuset building in central Stockholm, which is partly heated by the excess body heat from the 250 000 persons flowing through the central station building every day.
Now the BBC has made a feature about how this works. It’s fascinating that something most people don’t even think about like body heat can be harvested like this, but as every person generates about 100 watt it does add up…
A helmet that won't mess with your winter cap (or your hairdo), unless you actually fall. Photo: Hövding.
Ok, Sweden at this time of the year is starting to get a bit cold. In the morning a thin layer of ice covers my street and there are fewer and fewer people out on the cycle lanes. But I refuse to let go of my bike. Tucking myself into the metro, getting cold on the platformwhile waiting and then becoming boiling hot inside the train doesn’t appeal to me. As I’ve written here before, getting to work without getting some light and fresh air means a day when I never really wake up.
So I get ready for cycling in the cold instead.
Mitten and glove – in one.
And it’s really not that a big challenge after all. You just have to remember to go a bit lighter on the brakes not to slip (or you can change into studded tyres). And with some good clothes that miserable feeling of being hunted between two warm places disappears (my fantastic two-in-one mittens, pictured to the left, make sure I don’t even have to freeze my fingers off when I lock my bike.).
One tricky bit is covering the head, though. Tucking a winter cap under a helmet isn’t ideal. And here in Stockholm,
White asfalt = slippery road.
people actually wear helmets more than in any other part of Sweden (According to the National Society for Road Safety about 75 percent of all Stockholmers use a helmet when they’re on their bikes). It’s not only a bit uncomfortable – if one happens to be slightly vain, looking yourself in the mirror with both a cap and a helmet can be hard (or at least give rise to a big laugh). I try to see it as a challenge though, not too care.
But for all the fashionista bikers, there is now a solution: the airbag helmet Hövding, which was recently launched by the Swedish designers Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, who made the helmet as a university thesis project. When not inflated, the helmet lies in a collar around the neck, and if something happens a sensor makes the helmet pop out just in time to save your head.
Wired has written more about the helmet, and The Guardian also brought it up the other day, ending the article with an anxious: “But would you trust it?” Watch the crash tests in the video below and see for yourself.
… is one of the founders of Sweden’s first climate magazine, Effekt. Seeing the connections between society and nature results in a lot of thoughts about how we live our lives. How are Sweden and its inhabitants setting about the challenges of making our society a more sustainable one? Why is Sweden often rated as one of the world’s most sustainable countries? Do we earn that title? And what have we got left to do?