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A cyclist's heaven; food for activists; public access

Ewan Kingston

25th June, 2009

Ewan continues his overland journey to New Zealand by getting a taste of Sweden - and finding something of a green utopia...

Staying earth-bound in Scandanavia, I can make contact with people and places of a greener shade... The metro to Ørestad, for example, passes right by the squat modern cubes of the Bella Centre. It's not a pretty place, but an important one. In December this year, the future of international climate change policy will be hashed out here at the UN's COP15 conference. My travel partner for this leg, Nathalie, is not quite as enthused as I am about exploring the site in the rain, so it's quickly back to the train.

There's more sights to come - taking the train to Sweden from Copenhagen will allow us to experience one of the major modern engineering feats of Europe – the 7km long Øresund bridge. But lets linger here in Copenhagen a little longer.

The city is a cyclist's dream, with bikes for hire, provided by the city for a pound deposit. Cyclists whizz along wide, dedicated pavements and have their own traffic lights. The semi-autonomous urban community of Christania is very green and free of cars. Custom-made cargo-carrying bikes and trikes are everywhere.

In Christania, we get talking to a long time resident, and I ask him if the community will be hosting climate-change activists visiting for the COP15. Sadly, he tells us that the last time the community hosted a large number of activists, the disruptive behaviour of a few left the hosts wary of inviting activists back.

Over the Øresund, and 100km north, we visit Holma, a small-scale agriculture institute in Skåne. Here they are looking to aid December's climate change activists in another way. As well as their fledgling forest garden, they show us a field of potatoes, corn and carrots. These are destined for hungry activists' bellies at the Institute's planned soup kitchen in Copenhagen during the COP 15.

Travelling by train (using electricity from what I think are pretty green sources) from Høør all the way to Stockholm without booking early would cost a packet. With another 17,000 km to go, I've got to manage my funds as well as my emissions. A good performer in both criteria is the Swedish coach network, and we speed through the forests from bright-and-clean town to bright-and-clean town, and camp by the Baltic sea near sleepy Påskavallik.

That's another great thing about Scandanavia: the Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten). In Sweden, Iceland and Norway your rights to wander open land and camp in forests, and to pick berries and mushrooms are protected by law. A number of fairly common-sense restrictions exist, making for a well accepted system of access.

With much of the world parceled off into private spaces, it is inspiring to be in a place where people see harmless access to wild nature as a common right that trumps property rights.

The spirit of co-operation is still alive on the Swedish highways too. After finding a bus stop conveniently placed on a highway outside Västervik, we stick out our thumbs and are picked up after 45 minutes by Lars, who happens to be a sustainable building architect. His stories of super-efficient heat pumps and high-rises made from solid wood keep my mind ticking in ecological mode, as we drive through the fir and birch forests towards Stockholm.

CO2 emissions (estimated)

By train (Swedish)     100km = minimal
Coach                      260km = 13 kg
Local bus ............    140km = 11.2 kg
Shared car               240km = 15.8kg
Total                                      40 kg

CO2 equivalent if I had travelled by plane 660 km = 165kg

 

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