NW.com: Where have you just returned from and what was the subject of the conference you are attending?
SB: I was in one of the world’s largest cities, Beijing in China, at an international conference on landscape ecology; in other words, the sustainable use of our landscape (forests, agricultural areas, cities).
NW.com: At this conference there has been discussion about “the mental, mind side of landscapes and sustainability” or the way that the environment forms our children’s values and future decision-making. What were the main conclusions about this?
SB: Unexpectedly many conference sessions concerned our cities. Urbanization in this part of the world creates many acute environmental problems, for example, lack of water, spread of disease, and air pollution, which directly affects the inhabitants’ health and life expectancy. As a majority of the earth’s population lives in big cities, the city environment is critical to forming our world picture. At the same time as greenery in all of its forms amid the buildings mitigate environmental problems, it is also important for those of us living in cities to understand ecology. For example, where food comes from - how a cucumber looks when it grows. Researchers (ecologists, environmental psychologists and pedagogues) reason that if children don’t have contact with nature and its processes early in life, it will be impossible for them to understand environmental problems and behave in an environmentally friendly manner as adults. The appearance of our childhood landscape affects our behavior as adults, what we like, want to protect and value.
NW.com: What implications does this have for our living environments and the way that we form them?
SB: Already now there are children who grow up in such densely built up city environments that they have never seen a real tree – just in books or on film. While food lands on their tables, they have no idea how it was produced or how much nature has had to work for it to be there. In this way, we feed that thought that we can live without nature, an illusion reinforced in the city.
NW.com: For Sweden and the other Nordic countries this shouldn’t be news. The mind side of landscapes is a part of culture and philosophy. Do we therefore have an easier time understanding this aspect and interweaving it into our environmental decision-making (in relative terms)?
SB: Yes, I think so, but, on the other hand we are not in as acute a situation (by a long shot!) as many other areas of the world. This means that we do not guard the potential that we have in our landscapes or culture. This potential is something that we are going to need to manage future climate change.
NW.com: What main impressions and thoughts does the conference leave you with?
SB: My two strongest impressions are 1) that researchers are increasingly crossing disciplines, for example, landscape ecology and psychology; and 2) that unfortunately we only become engaged in environmental questions when acute situations arise, for example, lack of water or levels of air pollution that make the everyday impossible.
Even nowadays living in the north requires management of winter with little sunlight. After the long days of summer, the second phase in our recharging process begins in September – it is time to eat locally-produced fruits and vegetables. In the supermarket the seasons are invisible – everything is in season somewhere on the globe and available! To make your seasonal choices environmentally friendly they must follow the local/regional season. In times past the early fall meant harvesting from the spring and summer efforts in the fields and gardens, accompanied by processing for storage and commerce at the farmer’s markets. Encouragingly, the farmers markets are back in town – reminding us of how nature sets the rules for when good food is available.
Säsongsbloggen by Hemköp (in Swedish)
Säsongsguiden (in Swedish)
What a great initiative! Aiming to spread awareness, knowledge about pollination and bees, and their impact globally and locally, Bee Urban offers sponsorship of beehives to companies and organisations in the urban environment in Stockholm. Pollination by bees and other organisms is essential for our food production and is an ecosystem service in decline. In China and the US, among others, this is a service that increasing numbers of farmers have to pay for. To enhance our ability to produce food locally, even in the cities, this project is a great way of making bee-keeping every man’s business.
Today – June 21st we have our longest day of the year. North of the polar circle the sun never sets – the midnight sun. This is because the Earth axial is tilted so that the northern hemisphere is closest to the sun. The opposite situation is occurring December 21st when we experience the longest night or even polar night. The bittersweet of Midsummer is that it is the time of the year when the days are starting to become shorter again.
The longest day of the year and especially the light warm night was thought of as the most magical of the year and was in pre-Christian times devoted to the gods of fertility. Still the Midsummer’s Eve that we celebrate this Friday is the most important holiday in Sweden. The summer is here and it is time to enjoy the gifts from nature. At a traditional Midsummer table you’ll find pickled herring, sourcream and chive, newly harvested potatoes (not the ones stored during winter) and locally produced strawberries. An important part is also the “snaps” and drinking songs. Besides food the Midsummer celebration includes creating and dancing around a Maypole. This maypole is featured as a cross with two rings hanging. It is covered by fresh branches from birch and lots of herbs collected in the morning. The maypole is raised and then there is traditional ringdances around it. Women and children also sometimes wear wreaths of herbs. Before going to bed all young girls should pick 7 (or 9 in some regions) flowers and cross 7 fences while remaining completely silent, and then put the flowers under their pillows to dream about their future husband. Happy Midsummer!
Each day of the year is devoted to something special and the on 5th June it is World Environment Day initiated by UNEP. This year 2011 is the International Year of Forests and hence our forests and all the benefits they provide us with are in focus for the celebration. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen) uses the long, bright summer night between 5-6 June to celebrate nature with lots of activities. Check out here (pdf in Swe).
If you are occupied with other things – celebrate by just noticing a tree close to where you live and work, minimize your print outs that particular day or contemplate how trees and forests support your life.
In mid May brilliant people met in Stockholm during the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability. More than twenty Nobel Laureates, a number of leading policy makers and some of the world’s most renowned thinkers and experts on global sustainability concluded that we have entered a new era – the Anthropocene. Humanity is completely dominating the planet and pressing its ultimate boundaries. The Stockholm Memorandum is a new vision for global sustainability and also include means of how to achieve it. It has been handed to the UN High Level Panel on global sustainability that is arranging the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio +20).
It takes 7000 liters (1849 gallons) of water to produce 100 g (3.5 ounces) meat, and 550 liters (145 gallons) for growing wheat to produce one loaf of bread. Nearly 20 per cent of green house gas emissions come from meat production. Meanwhile the consumption of meat is increasing steadily, in Sweden by 50 per cent during the last 20 years. Therefore the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has launched the campaign “Gröna gaffeln” (green fork) this October. Everybody can join the initiative by choosing to eat vegetarian one day a week and thereby contribute to easing the pressure on the climate. Restaurants can also become use the Gröna gaffeln logo if they promote vegetarian dishes. You do not have to change everything at the same time, just start with a small step and at the same time explore new tastes when decreasing your ecological footprint. Why not ask your lunch restaurant to surprise you with a new green dish next week?
More info about Gröna Gaffeln
Many people enjoy being outdoors and experiencing nature. But to be honest, we are doing lots of other things when outdoors than just experiencing nature. For example, spending time with friends and family, talking on mobile phones, listening to music, exercizing, solving troubling work or private issues, trying to remember species’ names or identifying birds. Nature then becomes just background that we pay very little attention to.
Next time you are out there, let your senses guide you to new nature experiences. Give one sense at a time attention:
- What sounds do you register close and far away, are they soft or sharp, frequent or rare?
- How does nature feel, what about that tree trunk near by? How does the ground feel under your feet?
- How does your nose experience nature? This time of year the shifts in temperature and the decomposition of leaves and grasses create palettes of scents.
- The eyes are our most used sense and also the easiest to explore. One way to challenge your eyesight is to look for details, for example shades of green in a single tree.
- There are plenty of edible berries, plants and mushrooms to be enjoyed, or why not focus truly on the taste of your picnic food during the break of your nature explorations.
This sensually-guided nature experience was inspired by Hans Landeström in his work on nature-guided therapy.
Currently there is no room for other issues than those brought up by the politicians struggling for votes in the up-coming Swedish election. The signs along the roads, the commercials, the press-conferences are all about us making a very important choice. At least that is what they want us to believe.
However, everyday you and I make millions of choices that are as important as our political standpoints. We vote by our actions. We decide how to get to work: whether by foot, bike, bus, train or car. We decide what to buy: meat, fish or just vegetables, locally produced or not, free from pesticides or not, the cheapest or the more expensive. All of these minor choices are acts of economic, social and environmental importance at local, regional and global levels. To help us in our decision-making there is a flora of labels, in Sweden KRAV, EU-ecolabel, Fairtrade, Svanen, Bra miljöval, FSC for forest products and MSC for sea products.
On September 19th the Swedes decide on the politics for the next 4 years. Right now we make decisions that have an impact far beyond our national borders and for a long time to come. Start with your next activity and make it a bit more environmentally friendly.
MSC, Marine Stewardship Council (Sustainable seafood)
FSC, Forest Stewardship Council (Sustainable forestry)
Global ecolabelling network, GEN
EU Ecolabel (Former EU flower)
Fairtrade (tackling poverty and empowering producers by trade)
The first Sunday in September, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have devoted to celebrating mushrooms. If you want to know more about these strange creatures that are neither animals nor plants, this is the time of the year to start. There are plenty of seminars and exhibitions to visit in order to learn more about mushrooms, mostly about those that are visible to us. A central activity is of course to share knowledge about how to find and prepare edible mushrooms. Some are delicious, while others are deadly poisonous – no wonder they are surrounded by mysticism, witchcraft and folklore.
Did you know that:
- Mold and yeast are fungi.
- The root system of fungi are essential to many plants’ ability to absorb water and nutrients, therefore you’ll often find certain mushrooms near certain tree species.
- It is nearly impossible to clean air from fungal spores.
- The majority of mushrooms are found below ground and their extensive root systems can become more than 100 years old.
- Lichen are a symbiosis of fungi and algae.
- There are more than 1.5 million species of fungi in the world.
- The study of fungi is called mycology.