Sunday, 14 July 2019 17:50

Post-Report: Our Almedalen Journey

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Almedalen is a park in the historical town of Visby located on the island of Gotland, Sweden. Since 1968, it has become an annual recurring event that Swedish political and community leaders are converging in Almedalen, where they can interact with media and the public. This was the first year when the EOS would host an event at Almedalen, namely an exhibition area where the public could interact with us and construct their own biodomes. The date: Thursday the 5th of July 2019.

Leading the expedition were Board Members Enrique Lescure and Rickard Strandberg, and another EOS member. They arrived on the shores of Gotland on the night of the 4th of July, and then would spend the next day sightseeing before setting up their tent on the morning of the fifth.

Usually, the Almedalen political week is at its most intensive Tuesday and Wednesday – but this year was characterised by bad weather, especially in terms of rain. Thus, Thursday was sunny and therefore more people frequented the convention area in the old city of Visby (a town displaying beautiful medieval buildings and ruins, a testament to its past as an important Hanseatic port).

We had one final hurdle to put up with before laying out our tent – the wind. It was exceptionally windy the morning of the fifth, and it took nearly one hour to get the party tent stable – we had to anchor it in a pair of public park benches appropriated for the event. This inadvertently turned our spot into a “lounge”, which became a popular destination for weary visitors.

And visitors we got many, all from youths to seniors – many of whom were working within environment or academia. This created room for many interesting discussions. It was apparently a novelty to connect the ecological problems plaguing our planet to the monetary-financial system employed by the current civilization, and a few seniors rather wanted to emphasize population pressure issues. In fact, discussing the structure of the monetary-financial system is so suppressed that it is a mere afterthought in today’s discourse. The only exception was the Positive Money movement, which is striving for the ending of fiat money – a policy which the EOS sees as a first step towards a more sustainable system.

A lot of the youths expressed their admiration for our ideas, and we gave away a number of compendiums outlining the Design in an abridged form. This will hopefully serve to spread our ideas, especially as our closest neighbours were tents belonging to the Public Television and Radio broadcasting company, and we got a chance to speak to a few reporters.

We used the most of our day at Almedalen to spread fliers and ideas. One popular feature was our minidomes, which we constructed and displayed at sight. We also helped members of the public to build their own 1V domes. When the day was over, we deconstructed our domes back into flower sticks, and cleaned the spot, restoring it to its former grey dullness.

Bensinupproret 2.0

Sweden has one of the highest carbon taxes in the world, which has pushed the gasoline price to near $2 per litre. This, coupled with higher unemployment and lower real incomes (as well as high energy prices) has provoked a reaction, mostly from Swedes living in smaller towns. Thus, Bensinupproret 2.0 (the Gas Rebellion) was born, with the singular demand of lowering Swedish carbon taxes, with the arguments that:

  • Swedish gas taxes are so high that they are damaging the lives of working class people.
  • Sweden’s impact on global carbon emissions is minuscule.
  • The taxes on road vehicles are subsidizing the Swedish railways.
  • The tax is 33% as high as it should be for “compensation for pollution”.

These arguments could seem persuasive, and for a Swedish working family caring about what would happen in 50-100 years is probably of less priority than what will happen the next year, especially for small business owners and seasonal workers, whose margins of income often are very strained. High costs of transport and energy could easily break the economy of a marginal household, and Bensinupproret is for all ends and purposes slightly inspired by the Yellow Vest protests in France.

The problem, however, is that the consensus on the meeting – frequented by the economist Tino Sanandaji, and conservative and liberal politicians – was completely ignoring the environmental factors, especially those pertaining climate matters. Thus, attending the audience, I (Enrique) decided to ask questions whether the participants in the forum envisioned any strategy on how to transition away from a carbon-based economy. This question prompted the interest from a Youtube Channel named Svensk Webbtelevision, which decided to interview yours truly.

It was not a light decision to agree to an interview – I knew that Svensk Webbtelevision is a channel often giving a platform to well-known sceptics and denialists regarding the climate issue, and that most people watching the interview would be hostile to my position no matter what I said.

The interview can be seen here at the five minute mark:

My statement was very clear – we need to conduct a transition towards a sustainable future. While it is true that the impact from Swedish policies is negligible in their practical outcome, they can inspire other states to conduct similar reforms. This is not a matter of Sweden being endowed with extraordinary superpowers, if Austria, Iceland or the Netherlands conducted similar reforms they too might inspire other governments.

I stated that the greatest need was for a transition towards sustainability, that we do not live in a world ideally suited for conducting a transition but that we nevertheless should try – and that we should “dig where we stand”. I also alluded to the need to conduct a transition locally and organize communities to retake their control of the power grid, the food production and the natural resources. Hardly surprising, those watching Svensk Webbtelevision nevertheless disliked what I was saying, mostly because the audience cultivated by that community is predisposed towards not believing in the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change, and because they chose to interpret every statement in the most hostile way possible.

The only thing I regret from the interview is that I more should have emphasized the transition and how local communities themselves can help to redesign the available car pool to reduce the impact from cars, for example by transforming gasoline and diesel cars into hybrid cars. The EOS is not and has never been about the implementation of policies, but of local communities retaking the power over their own destinies, per our ideas of the power of Social Activism.

Summary

While Almedalen was a moderate success from our perspective, it is my belief that approaching the public should not only be constrained to conventions and large events, but also to smaller venues and to the public space in general. Now when we have invested in the infrastructure to make this happen, with the purchase of two tents (for the price of one), and valuable experience, we are more ready to strengthen our presence in Umea.

We must also become better at streaming and showcasing our presence, and become more available to the public.

These are the lessons we should learn from Almedalen.

Read 464 times Last modified on Sunday, 14 July 2019 18:05