From Alarmist to Activist

When I visited the Globe Forum conference in May, one of the organisations that impressed me most was the World Wide Fund for Nature. At the conference the WWF secretary general, Lasse Gustavsson, told us about the transformation they have gone through going from being alarmists to activists. Instead of merely shouting about the poor condition of the earth the WWF has become proactive and is now supporting companies that provide solutions to the global warming through their Climate Solver campaign. One of the selected companies is Ecoera. They provide technology that turns agriculture waste products into bio-fuel, and is sprung from Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship.

Recently the WWF has been quoted a lot in the media, since they presented a new report on attitudes towards the Baltic Sea and at the same time introduced a new collaboration deal with LRF (The Federation of Swedish Farmers). I remember kayaking in the Baltic Sea in 2005 at Stensund when the algae were blooming, and it was a horrible experience. So this year I went kayaking in the North Sea instead, at Stocken. If you are interested in knowing more about what is happening with both the North and the Baltic Sea, I recommend listening to Isabella Lövin, author of “Tyst hav” (Silent Sea), when she talks on the Swedish Radio 10 July.

If you want to know what you can do to become an everyday climate activist, read Johan Tell’s book “100 ways to save the world”.


Country Living – Living Country

I spent the last weekend celebrating summer solstice in the small Swedish town Ulricehamn. My friend Åsa and I went to the Hofsnäs mansion where a traditional Midsummer celebration took place with a maypole, dancing, lotteries, horse carriages and much more.
The next day we went on a shopping spree in the country. The first stop was the book café Crea Diem where we had tea and cakes. I bought a beautiful replica of one the first drinking glass to be mass produced in Sweden. We then backtracked to visit the artist Berit Olméus at her house and gallery. She showed us a great exhibition of cow paintings and kindly allowed me to take some pictures of her work. I was very tempted by her smart knitted hats…

We then drove a few kilometers north to Alboga and Sarah James Larsson’s shop Storegården Country Living. She has lived in Sweden since 1989 and has created a lovely atmosphere, combining English, Italian and French styles in a very Swedish house. I bought some ecological lemon curd and did what Sarah told me: combined it with Greek yoghurt and it was heaven! Get some more tips from Sarah’s blog! You can also buy the lemon curd from the web-shop.

What is great about these shops is the way they collaborate. They all include information about what is going on in the county. Sarah even has a list of her neighbors’ blogs where you for example can read about the mini-pig Torsten. It is wonderful to see such industrious entrepreneurs in the country! Everybody with a story to tell!


National Founding Story

Today we celebrated the Swedish National Day commemorating when Gustav Vasa was elected king by the Swedish Parliament 6 June 1523. The events prior to the coronation are in par with any modern Hollywood production, including several narrow escapes, imprisonment, skiing chases, assassinations, ice breaking, starvation, horse rides, sailing, betrayals, canons, sieges, decapitations, and so on when Gustav fought the Danish king Christian II who led the crumbling union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden. At least if the scribe Peder Swarts is to be believed. He was hired by Gustav Vasa, who apparently clearly understood the value of storytelling.

I celebrated this day by participating in the sunny welcoming ceremony at Nydala monastery. This monastery is one of the oldest ones in Sweden, and was founded by Cistercians in 1143. The monastery was raided 1520 by Christian II on his way back from decapitating most of the Swedish nobility in Stockholm. According to legend, he also drowned the abbot and at least six of the monks. This made the people in Småland so furious that they threw out the Danes. However, Gustav Vasa was not especially nice towards the monks, since he confiscated the property including 250 farms in 1529.

Apparently the monks of today do not fear the Swedish government or the politicians from Värnamo municipality, despise the historic events. After 479 years in exile, they have returned to Nydala and are now renting the mansion. The monks are mainly from Vietnam, making this a truly international enterprise and reminding us of the important role as innovation centers the monasteries have played through out the centuries.

The monasteries in Nydala and Alvastra was soon followed by one in Varnhem in 1150. This monastery plays an important role in a very popular fiction book series about the knight Arn by Jan Guillou. The books can be seen as a part of the debate concerning how Sweden came to be a nation, where the Western and Eastern parts of Sweden seem to have different interpretations of history. Perhaps I should recommend Stephen Denning to write a sequel to his book “The Leaders’ Guide to Storytelling” focusing on founding stories for nations. By the way, the English entry in Wikipedia on Christian II is disputed and my guess is that most of the current content is written by a Swede.

Never mind what the truth is, the books and the films about Arn are now contributing to the tourism business in Västra Götaland and they have increased public interest in history dramatically.


A Room With a View

When I was at the local library last week, I happened to see a book called “Halva makten hela lönen” (=Half the Power The Whole Salary) by Agneta Stark. I only had time to browse through it and although it was published already in 1994, it still contained some interesting perspectives on gender and equality. One of her comparisons struck me as especially good. She argued that to stop working for equality just because we have a legislation regulating this is similar to saying that since 'drinking and driving' was forbidden in the 1950’s we do not need to address that topic.

I then remembered a very interesting lecture I went to at Gunnebo Slott in March this year. Professor Ebba Bratt-Wittström talked about “From Jane Austen to Doris Lessing. The bright and warm room was filled with 40+ women, a few younger women and two brave men. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and last year I went to see the film “Becoming Jane” when I was in London. I think the film illustrates some of Austen’s most important themes: How to balance romantic love and passion, how to do what is morally right and at the same time handle the pressure from society, how to combine personal freedom with economical realities. Maybe Austen would have benefited from reading Robert Fritz’ work, helping her to decide what was most important to her?
You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of "brass,"
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.
W. H. Auden, Letter to Lord Byron
(1936), lines 113–119

Professor Bratt-Wittström pointed out that when the whole world congratulated Doris Lessing on winning the Nobel Prize, in Sweden this sparked a discussion concerning whether such a thing as “female experience” even existed.

"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny" (the Swedish Academy’s motivation for choosing Doris Lessing)
Many younger Swedish women claimed that there is only universal human experience and that feminism is no longer needed. Of course, certainly things move in the right direction. Of the eleven women to win the prize in its 106-year history, five have been awarded since 1990... By the way, a very good reflection on the works of Doris Lessing and its impact can be found at Joyce Carol Oats' website.

I have been appointed ambassadors for Women´s Enterprise by the Swedish government. At the kick-off, the minister of Industry Maud Olofsson of who initiated the program received lots of questions regarding regulating the ration of women and men in company boards, like Norway has done. One of the proponents for this step towards equality was Pontus Schultz from the magazine “Veckans Affärer”, who described his experience from the event as “magical” and after entering a room with 800 women said that he now knows how women in business feel.

The website supporting the initiative is called “The Embassy” and is rather nifty with some Web 2.0 features. A good place to develop and distribute female experience!

“What matters most is that we learn from living.” Doris Lessing