Saturday 15th – From Övertorneå to Umeå and back home

At 10 am the next morning the participants jumped in the car for the drive south and the end of the tour. Before leaving Övertorneå a visit to the church and a short trip to the Finish side of the border was done.

On the 7 hours drive towards Umeå the group stopped at the Övertorneå ecovillage, in Kukkola rapids for lunch, in Luleå airport to drop off Jane and at several other places. One of the cars even had time to check out Robertsfors municipality and the Green Zone in Umeå.

Officially the tour was over at the arrival in Umeå but the remains of the group took the opportunity to have a last dinner together at the restaurant Socialize in Umeå that serves local food and beverages.

Some last goodbyes and “see-you-laters” were said and suddenly everyone found themselves walking in different directions.

The two weeks trip had indeed ended but for most people it was clear that this wasn’t the end. It was the start!

Friday 14th – SEMINAR in Övertorneå

So if was finally time for the last day of conference, taking place at the “Folkets hus” in Övertorneå.

Manfred had insisted on changing the program so that he could speak last instead of second. As it’s hard to go against the will of an 80 years old alternative nobel prize winner that has flown from Chile to attend this seminar, the morning was spent on changing the program, which wasn’t especially hard.
The bigger problem was to make the technology for the webinar work. As everyone knows technology has a tendency to not work when it really needs to and so was the case today. Because of the technical problems the schedule was delayed by about half an hour.
The vice mayor Inga Saavilahti Häggbom opened up the conference by giving a short introduction and welcome to Övertorneå. Next speaker of the day was Torbjörn that had caught a cold and had to tell about the 4 system conditions, the national happiness product and a lot of other things in a feverish delirium. Without doubt the biggest effort of the day!

Because of the technical problems the schedule had to change even more and Karl Johan Bonnedahl started instead of Björn Forsberg.

Karl Johan Bonnedahl is the assistant professor from the school of economics and business administration at Umeå University and the author of the book “Från ekonomiskt till hållbart, från exploatering till samexistens”. He talked about the need of a fundamental change in economic language and behavior among people and business. He also defined a difference between sustainable development (where the human needs are central) and coexistence (where nature’s and human needs are equal).

Björn Forsberg that finally managed to do his presentation showed a more practical picture of the same topic by giving examples of transition from all over the world. Björn is a political scientist and debater and author of the books “Tillväxtens sista dagar” and “Omställningens tid”.

After these talks the first part of the seminar was over and it was time for lunch at Hotel Tornedalia.

The afternoon started out with a presentation from two different entrepreneurs in the area; Gunhild Stensmyr presented her company “Guesthouse Tornedalen” and Hans Hietala presented his family run green house garden “Hietala handelsträdgård”.

After the presentation a discussion followed where the Sustainable Sweden tour participants got to share their experiences from Sweden together with locals. Many different topics were discussed and it was hard to end it for the fika break.

In the informal circle Manfred held his last speech in dialogue with the participants.

After this the formal seminar was over and the crowd scattered in many different directions. Some of the participants went to a store called Simu to check out the local handicraft, others stayed, went for a walk in the rainy windy weather or enjoyed a beer and a sauna at the hotel.

The last formal dinner was held at the restaurant of the hotel. Reindeer stew was on the menu together with the mandatory (according to Manfred) red and white wine. Even some New Zealand wine came on the table as a treat from Ed.

Totally independent from the intake of wine the night was full of discussions and toasts. Ed read a haiku, Gabriela sang “Gracias a la vida” and Manfred and Gabriela did a little waltz accompanied by Manfred’s singing.

Happy but exhausted the participants went to bed, looking forward to sleep in a bit before leaving the next morning.

September 13th – Övertorneå

The tour organizers, that had been sleeping at a friend’s house, were served some boiled mouse heart for breakfast.

The rest of the participants could enjoy a more normal starting of day, and we soon all take the cars to the first study visit of the day : a farm with frontline techniques regarding the raising of cows for dairy production.

Then we made the “have-to” stop on the polar circle line, before heading to the “free school” of Hietaniemi. This school is one of the few examples of community-owned education facility of Sweden, where the parents could take over the direction of the village school to prevent the municipality from closing it. Which allows them to be very free with the way they deal with the school and the students, especially regarding the environmental themes and the pedagogical program.

Lunch was planned at the restaurant of Kattilakoski, facing Finland along the Torne river, which also owns the best smoke sauna of the region. They served us some moose meet (fresh from last Sunday) cooked with red wine.

Then we tool the road again and stopped at Juoksengi, a small village of 300 souls were Torbjörn was born, and we visited some examples of organic agriculture and eco-tourism, where we had a nice fika with the so-called “café-ost”, a piece of cheese that his to be put into coffee.

We had dinner at Koivumaa Pasture. Conversation turned around the table about “your most important bifurcation” and “the most stupid thing you’ve made”… This story telling would continue in the smoke sauna – allowing, as only saunas does, a great bounding moment.

September 12th – Boden

I think this Wednesday morning was the most pouring of the whole tour. We left Jokkmokk under the rain, but with a lot of inspiration and a unique experience of the Sami culture.

On the way back to Boden, we stopped at a little village called Vuolleryn, where Ed had the good surprise to find some wine from his very place – Nelson, New-Zealand. The main study visit of the day was the biogas plant of Boden “BiogasBoden”, where we could meet again Katarina Wennman, the environmentalist from the municipality.

Helene Henriksson, the waste water engineer of the company, guided us through the different facilities of the plant, that is converting sludge and household organic waste into methane. Thanks to this extra energy supply, they are able to provide 8 local buses, 50 private cars and 2 garbage trucks with biofuel.

Then the 9 participants, followed by a persistant biogas smell, came back to Boden’s center to have lunch together. The rest of the day was a lot of driving (a few round-abouts, a few fikas and a lot of stories) up to the final point of the trip ; Övertorneå.

The group could take a short walk in town before we had dinner at the hotel Tornedalia. A very nice evening indeed where the participants had a chance to taste some “surströmming” – the famous swedish fermented haring. Kristina, from the municipality of Övertorneå was here as well. Everyone gave a hand to the preparation of the meal (a little bit of cooking for once) which requires midnight-sun-grown potatoes, some onions, northern Sweden crispy bread – and snaps of course. Incredible enough, no one seemed to complain about the rotten fish that we made them eat.

Sludge, surströmming….yeah that’s it, I am going to call this day the “smelly day”.

Tuesday 11th – JOKKMOKK

After an unusually sunny sustainable sweden tour the weather had decided to show some diversity and offered cold rain for the participants in Jokkmokk. Only Sara, as she’s such a strong, fit and fantastic human being, dared to go outside for a morning jog.

The day started at 9 o clock at Ajtte the swedish mountain and same museum with a round table (without the table) discussion together with local people from Jokkmokk.

After all the world’s problem had been solved it was time for the obligatory fika followed by a guided tour around the museum. Full of knowledge about the Sami (the indigenous people of Sweden) culture and history the participant enjoyed a lunch at the restaurant of the museum.
After lunch the participants took the two cars and drove one hour to Kvikkjokk, a village close to the world heritage of Laponia and the National park Sarek. Without saying too much it was a pretty beautiful ride.

At one of the mountain stations with access to the walking track “Kungsleden” the sami and chairman of Laponiatjuottjudus Michael Teilus talked about the work with the Laponiaprocess. The Laponiaprocess is a project that works with sami self-governance in the development of the worldheritage Laponia.

After a short look around in the area and a lot of photographing it was time to take the cars back to Jokkmokk.
Together with Wolfgang Mehl and Tiina Jaatinen, the organizers of the day, the group had traditional reindeer stew at the restaurant of Hotel Jokkmokk before everyone called it a night.

Monday 10th- Boden

Our first and only lazy morning of the Tour got us to start the studyvisit of the Eco-Municipality of Boden at 9.30.

We had a rendez-vous with Katarina Wennman in an old house, a municipal building which actually was a former primary school, the oldest of Boden. Katarina is an environmental engineer that had been part of the process of the very first Eco-municipality in Sweden, Övertorneå, back in the 1980s. Since this first experience she had been working in Boden, first as an engineer, but then as an “ecologist” from the moment the organization worked on Agenda 21 and turned into an Eco-municipality in 1997.

She told us a in a very simple and honest way about her work, her successful projects and the obstacles she has to face day to day with her colleges and the politicians.

Among the most interesting of the projects she undertook she outlined a project called “Biking for Health”, in which 10 citizens of the municipality signed a “contract” for 3 years about changing their transport habits : in brief, the municipality of Boden offered the bike, and the participants had to use it (or public transport if case of bad weather) 80% of all their daily travels. In the end, 7 of them totally changed their life-styles and chose to keep the bike – a real success.

We had lunch with her before welcoming Thomas Fägerman in the conference room, who talked about a European Union funded project called “North Waste Infrastructure”. This 3-year cooperation project is gathering the municipality of Boden, small-size companies, the county of Norrbotten and the University of Luleå in a research program on sustainable waste management. Among their main targets, the increase of biogas production in the region, the development of fertilizers made from waste, the improvement of the waste combustion process and the development of biofuels.

The conversation was very much oriented towards the way society could “return” to the eco-system the energy, the nutrients or whatever it takes from it – in brief the question was : “how to close the loop?”.

After this interesting work-shop, we got back Manfred and Gabriela from Luleå’s airport and made a small detour for a bit of sightseeing at Storfosen, the biggest waterfalls in Europe. Photos talk by themselves.

Then, without even being aware of it, we crossed the artic circle on our way to Jokkmokk (“river’s curve” in sami language).