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Sustainability in Swedish schools No003

 

September 2015, Stockholm, Sweden. Tellus Think Tank wanted an insight into how the sustainability approach in schools can differ and met with Lars Benon, Headmaster of Enskede School. He is also former headmaster and founder of the  Global Gymnasium (Globala gymnasiet) in Stockholm which was built from scratch on a foundation of human rights. By Domi, TellusThinkTank, November 2015

Since the autumn of 2014 Lars Benon is currently headmaster of Enskede School, located in the Stockholm suburb of Enskede. However, his career started as a teacher and later as Chief Information Officer at WeEffect. Lars Benon was also one of the founders, and the first headmaster, of the Global Gymnasium on Södermalm in the center of Stockholm.

ABOUT TELLUS THINK TANK….read more here 

City of Stockholm. Photo: AnnVixen
City of Stockholm. Photo: AnnVixen

The Tellus Think Tank team finds Lars Benon’s career to have been very interesting;  first designing a school based on ideas and then taking over an 100-year old school with old traditions, is a special and unique combination. The red thread through the career of Lars Benon seems to have been to Human Rights and Sustainability!

Lars tells us about the Global Gymnasium

‘Gymnasium’ in the Swedish world of education, could be compared to an English Upper Secondary School or an American Senior High School. A gymnasium educates people between the ages of 15 and 20 years.

The idea that led to the Global Gymnasium came from a group of six people, one of them being Lars Benon. The group had an idea of starting a school with focus on global human rights. All members of the group had backgrounds either in teaching or working with global human rights issues.  

The Global Gymnasium, Stockholm. Photo: AnnVixen
The Global Gymnasium, Stockholm. Photo: AnnVixen

The group met with representatives of the City of Stockholm to tell the city what they where planning. The  city liked their ideas so much that it asked the team to open the school within the domain of the city.

The specially designed Global Gymnasium opened for students in 2004 and Lars Benon became its first headmaster.

The initial guiding human rights principles were soon broadened from “Education for a more equal society” to “Education for Sustainable Development”.  The school was placed within the city, in the middle of the densely populated island of Södermalm.

One of the first projects that the new pupils got to work with went under the name “The Glocal Project”. The assignment was to perform a life-cycle analysis on a product of the pupils choosing. The analysis showed:

  • The origin of every component in the product.
  • How and by whom the components had been produced and assembled.
  • How all the components and assembled product had been transported.
  • How the product had been packaged and sold.
  • How the product had been used.
  • What finally happened to the product after it had been discarded.
The Global Gymnasium of Stockholm. Photo: AnnVixen
The Global Gymnasium of Stockholm. Photo: AnnVixen

The Glocal project often became an immediate eye-opener for the pupil, linking production and consumption with the unsustainable use of the resources of our planet.

The pupils of the Global Gymnasium were offered many possibilities that normal Swedish gymnasiums don’t provide:

  • A strong cooperation was developed between the gymnasium and the Stockholm Resilience Centre
    – a Swedish government research center on social-ecological systems.
  • A strong cooperation was built around student study materials with the WWF (formerly World Wildlife Fund).
  • Co-operations were also formed with the Universities of Södertörn and Stockholm, which gave third year pupils of the gymnasium, the possibility to also take Climate and Environment courses at both universities. The Global Gymnasium acted as guarantor to ensure that the pupils were prepared both mentally and knowledge wise.   
School lunch at Global gymnasium. Organic chick-pea beef. Photo: AnnVixen
School lunch at Global gymnasium. Organic chick-pea beef. Photo: AnnVixen

The Global Gymnasium was early to advertise for a lunch chef with an interest in running an organic school kitchen. It was soon identified in the pre-planning of the kitchen that to be able to be sustainable the kitchen needed to serve organic and mostly vegetarian food.

The vegetarian lunch soon became a natural part of the pupils normal school day.
The few occasions that lunch contained either fish or meat were met by strong pupil protests because of the unsustainable food (note: due to transport, carbon- and methane emission surrounded by these foods).

After seven years, as the founding headmaster, Lars Benon left Global Gymnasium and re-entered the school world, first as a consultant and later as headmaster for elementary schools, with pupils from six to fifteen years of age.

Enskede School by sunrise. Photo: AnnVixen
Enskede School by sunrise. Photo: AnnVixen

About Enskede School

Enskede School is located in the middle of one of Stockholm’s garden suburbs and was build over 100 years ago on ground that had previously been agricultural land.

The early inhabitants of Enskede initially experienced living in the countryside but as Stockholm has grown a lot since then Enskede is now one of the closest suburbs to the city. Up until the 1980’s, however, there were still farming plots and allotments on the grounds of the school.

The number of pupils of Enskede School has constantly increased. In the 1980’s the school annually educated about 550 pupils a year, to be compared to 2015 when the school educates about 1000 pupils with the help of a staff of 125. The gardens and allotments on the school grounds have had to be removed to be able to house more educational buildings.

Lars Benon, you have been the headmaster of Enskede School for just over a year. What was your first impression?

-There are many really capable pupils and well educated teachers at Enskede School. The pupils are mostly happy, healthy and have good parental support. The school also has a tradition of encouraging healthy living among the teachers.  When I first started I could see many inspiring pedagogical initiatives from many of the teachers, Lars Benon remembers.

Did you identify any challenges for the school during your first year?

-The school had many able teachers that worked individually with different inspiring projects but they were not coordinated centrally, Lars Benon says.

He further describes that the school lacked a common approach to pedagogics and learning and that pedagogical activities were not run from a common idea of practise or vision.  Lars Benon also describes the school buildings as not being properly suited for the activities of the school.

-During my first year we started a couple of improvement projects.

He tells med that the staff of Enskede School are very committed and tells us more about the projects:

  • Photo: AnnVixen
    Photo: AnnVixen

    Identifying and launching a joint vision and basic principles for Enskede School.  -Participation in the Stockholms Prio-project, aiming at strengthening the faculty cooperation and developing working procedures so that school management can steer resources to where they are needed best.

  • Developing articulated expectation documents to show what expectations pupils and parents may have from the school and vice versa what the school expects from pupils and parents.
  • Taking the competence of teachers to the next level by participating in national Swedish Mathematics leverage- and Teacher leverage programs.
  • Developing methods for the staff to support pupils physical and social health by working with so called “Student Health Teams”.
  • Developing the buildings of the school so they are better adjusted to school activities.

Lars Benon tells med that currently all school staff is intensely involved with these improvement projects and running the school and education in parallel. He looks a bit worried about the school staff workload and explains that it is a vast amount of work that has to be handled. I understand him as he has an ambitious program going on!

How have you noticed the environmental policy of the city of Stockholm? And is it difficult to live up to?

Autumn leaves in Stockholm. Photo: AnnVixen
Autumn leaves in Stockholm.
Photo: AnnVixen

The City of Stockholm is certified according to the IS0 14001 environmental quality system that demands for instance: a process for constant improvements, following environmental legislation and keeping track of the organisation’s impact on the environment.

Lars Benon says that he has not yet noticed much of the city’s environment policy. The most apparent directive has been that all the city’s school vehicles should be electrically powered. Enskede School, however, doesn’t own any cars.

Another directive from the city is that 25% of all food served at schools should be organic. Enskede School has no problem with living up to that standard.

How is Enskede School involved in environment work? How can this be noticed?

Work with sustainability within Enskede school is currently driven by individual initiative among the staff but really needs to be co-ordinated. However there is only so much a team can do at once. Lars Benon holds the improvement projects as a priority before moving on to focusing more on pedagogics within sustainable development.

Do you find that Enskede School currently distinguishes itself in any way in the areas of environment and sustainability?

Patchwork art from Enskede Schools 100-year jubilee. Photo: AnnVixen
Patchwork art from Enskede Schools 100-year jubilee. Photo: AnnVixen

Lars Benon looks as if he feels a bit guilty and says:

-So far Enskede School has not denoted itself especially but I would love to mention that the school has set a higher target for the amount of organic food than the city of Stockholm. The aim is to reach 40% and the school is already serving food with an organic ratio of up to 30%.

Lars Benon would love to see a stronger focus on Sustainability in the future, but first he wants the school to reach the goals of the ongoing pedagogical projects to take the schools pedagogics to the level where they should be.

Further, Lars Benon proclaims, sustainable development within a school with an already ongoing educational effort has to be run according to a process, one step at a time.  

Does Enskede School have the prerequisites that are needed to work in more sustainable ways?

Lars Benon smiles:

-Yes, absolutely! The best thing going for the school here is the strong commitment from parents, pupils and teachers. I would love to see the school kitchen and the cooking of school lunches become a part of the sustainability education. The school kitchen needs to become even more organically profiled and serve not only “healthy food” but “healthy and organic food” which demands a higher ratio of organic food products and the decreasing of food waste.

Lars Benon also believes that the school will introduce inter-disciplinary work, over school subjects, with focus on sustainability. The pupils could from a relatively early age start looking at the origins of their food, clothes and local prerequisites from a sustainability perspective.

Is there something you think I should have asked you?

The School yard of Enskede School. Photo: AnnVixen
The School yard of Enskede School. Photo: AnnVixen

Lars Benon tells med that he would have loved for the school to be involved in a manifestation on sustainability during the UN Climate meeting in Paris, Cop21, in December 2015. The school had plans to involve all students in building an ice sculpture on the schoolyard, under the leadership of a famous artist. When I meet Lars Benon, in September, the school recently had to discard this specific idea. However, Lars Benon hopes some other idea will be performed instead. It will be exciting to see what the school comes up with!

TellusThinkTank realises that every school has its own prerequisites when it comes to sustainability. The City of Stockholm’s support of the Global Gymnasium plus the fact that the city once again has hired a human rights and sustainability agent, that we can find in Lars Benon, seem like constructive steps in the right direction!

The Tellus Think Tank team looks forward to following the sustainable progress of Enskede School! We also probably share the same curiosity as You do, if there are any other schools in the world that distinguish themselves more in sustainability than the Global Gymnasium or Enskede School. Maybe you know of one, please let us know!

Next week Tellus Think Tank meets a representative from a distinguished University of Sweden, namely Sachiko Ishihara of CEMUS, a sustainability faculty of Uppsala University. Sign up for our newsletter and we will let you know when the article is published! 

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Is Earth doing alright? No002

 

How is Earth doing? Many contrary impressions are given both from people in our surroundings and through different media channels. Let’s find out what is correct.
Domi, TellusThinkTank 2015-11-12

Stockholm November 2015. Outside the window a few leaves can still be spotted in the trees, soon about to join the thousands of fallen maple stars on the black tar sky. People are walking over them on their way to work, just as usual. There is however an important difference this year: the average temperature is 5 / 12 °F warmer than normal.

November 1-11, 2015. Sweden is 3 to 5 degrees celsius warmer than normal, according to www.SMHI.se
November 1-11, 2015.
Sweden is 3 to 5 degrees celsius warmer than normal, according to www.SMHI.se

Tellus Think Tank has spoken to many different persons about sustainability and about the environment, a wide array of people from environmental specialists to urban farmers and to people like ourselves, that is people who don’t normally work with the environment.

ABOUT TELLUS THINK TANK….read more here

It was in the conversations with the latter group, normal people in several different European countries, that we heard the same type of phrase:

-I don’t believe in Global Warming. The natural processes of Earth would have heated the climate anyhow, they said.

I am surfing the internet to try and find explanations and graphs for the warm weather of November. Even on the internet I find many different groups with contrary messages:

  • Human emissions of carbon dioxide and methane are the cause of Global Warming.
  • Global Warming is a part of Earth’s natural processes.
  • Earth is not warmer that usual.

What is really true about Global Warming?
To get an answer to this question we turn to Niclas Köhler, expert on sustainable development, working as a communicator at the Swedish construction company NCC. With a background in journalism and biology he has been working as an environmental reporter for over 20 years. He lays it out for us:

Niclas Köhler.
Niclas Köhler.

-The Earth’s natural processes can be the cause of a certain variation in the climate but Global Warming that we are experiencing now is indisputably created by humankind, Niclas Köhler says.

Niclas Köhler continues to tell me that scientists were in disagreement/at odds during a period but today 99% of the scientists are in agreement. More than 800 scientists have written a report for the United Nations climate panel (IPCC – International Panel On Climate Change) about how the heated climate is a direct effect of the emissions from human activity. They are calling the phenomenon “Global Warming”.

What have humans done to cause Global Warming?

So, I summarise, Earth is in the beginning of a period of unusually high average temperatures and these temperatures are caused by human emissions. What kind of emissions are we talking about here?

Niclas Köhler tells me that scientists first believed carbon dioxide emissions were the main cause of the climate heating, but that they have now also understood the vastness of the methane gas emissions.

When people increase the amount of carbon dioxide and methane, the so-called greenhouse gases, they retain the heat radiated from Earth itself and keeps it in the atmosphere of Earth. With more molecules like these in the atmosphere of Earth the climate becomes warmer.

The sun heats Earth. Earth then radiates heat into the Earth atmosphere. If the atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide- and methane molecules more heat will stay within the atmosphere. With less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere more of the heat easily bounces out into space. Illustration: AnnVixen
The sun heats Earth. Earth then radiates heat into the Earth atmosphere. If the atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide- and methane molecules more heat will stay within the atmosphere. With less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere more of the heat easily bounces out into space. Illustration: AnnVixen

Carbon dioxide has always existed and is created when biological material is disintegrated / decomposed, for example when a tree falls down and starts rotting. When a new tree grows it instead binds carbon dioxide in its wooden fibers. De unhealthy carbon dioxides are created when we burn the so-called fossil fuels: diesel, oil, petrol and coal.

Niclas Köhler tells me that fossil fuels were created millions of years ago when biological material such as dead animals, brackens and micro algae sunk to the bottom of a lake, where covered up but not decomposed fully but instead were formed into a layer of, for instance, coal.

Methane emissions are created when organic material, that is everything that grows in nature, is decomposed in a environment with a low level of oxygen.  According to Wikipedia  (2015-11-12) humans are responsible for 60 percent of the methane emissions, when allowing leakages extracting oil or gas or coal. About 17 % of the methane emissions come from the human livestock production of cows and sheep – the methane comes mainly from the animal’s digestion and faeces.  

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, in the beginning of the 1800s, the methane content in our atmosphere has doubled and the carbon dioxide content is not far behind.

What happens when the climate of earth becomes warmer as an effect of the emissions?

As an answer to this question Niclas Köhler quotes Sten Bergström, former Head of Research at SMHI, Sweden’s Expert Authority on Meteorologi, Hydrology, Oceanografi och Klimatologi:

-There will be more action in the system, he quotes.

Niclas Köhler explains that heat is energy and that more action in the system means:

  • More forceful storms.
  • More water when it rains.
  • Higher peaks and lower valleys on the temperature curve.

Niclas Köhler calls this “Extreme Weather”. Global Warming will bring more Extreme Weather.

What signs can we see that Global Warming and its extreme weather is already taking place?

Many parts of the world have already been hit by the climate change extreme weather in form of heavy storms and rainfall causing major damage. Gothenburg is one city that experienced this.

A Cityplanner scenario that puts Gothenburg under water.
A Cityplanner scenario that puts Gothenburg under water.

Just recently the city presented a “skyfall model” to simulate different scenarios with heavy rain, with the urge to be able to plan for coming storms and soften the consequences. The scenario model tool is open for the public on the city internet, and when trying a couple of different scenarios one can see that the City of Gothenburg might be standing before some really major challenges.

I recently visited my English cousins and they showed me a picture from a helicopter tour over the Hoover dam in the US state of Arizona. The photo pictures a white layer above the water all around the mountains around the dam, showing where the normal water level used to be. The water reserves, meant for drinking and farming, are considerably lower than earlier.

The Hoover Dam Photo: Victor Jackson
The Hoover Dam Photo: Victor Jackson

Niclas Köhler also mentions similar problems in the neighbouring state of California. The inhabitants there are living in a permanent state of drought, causing problems with farming and drinking water resources.

NIclas Köhler also says that many European countries have felt the effect of the Global Warming.

The United Kingdom, for example, has been hit by heavy rainfalls. One spectacular example is “The Toon Monsoon” in the metropolitan area of Newcastle on Tyne, a city that has not earlier been hit by floods.

In Lonely Planet’s book “Morocco” by Paul Clammer a description can be found of how the Northern parts of Africa are slowly drying out. I remember a documentary in Swedish SVT’s show “Vetenskapens Värld” (World of Science) that showed how ten of twelve rivers had dried out in the Southern parts of Morocco and it had forced the inhabitants to move to the Moroccan cities.

Sands of the South. Photo: AnnVixen
Sands of the South. Photo: AnnVixen

I might be coming to some very fast conclusions, it is possibly drought in the middle east that is forcing its inhabitants to flee north to land areas with a cooler climate. Europe, is as it seems, very close at hand. The people of the middle east would not seek refugee in the south with even higher temperatures, would they? Thermometers in the Arabian peninsular show summer temperatures of almost 50 / 122 °F.

Summarizing: Humankind emits too much carbon dioxide and methane which leads to the heating of the atmosphere around Earth and is the cause of Extreme Weather –  drought, storms and rain that cause problems for farming, damage to infrastructure and the major movement of people.

And according to the scientists we are only at the beginning of this unnaturally warm period.

What can we expect from the future? Is there hope or is Global Warming the end of humankind as a species?

Currently Earth holds 7,3 billion people, according to the United Nations. This number of inhabitants can be compared to the one billion people that lived on earth at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, only about 200 years ago. I ask Niclas Köhler if he sees any possibility of having so many people on Earth and at the same time living sustainably?

-Yes, we can [loooong pause] but we need to reconsider our life styles. We have a lot of technique and knowledge to our help but we really need to put it into practise.  

He ascertains that humanity has had a fantastic development and economic growth built on access to cheap coal and oil but that we have used more of nature’s resources than nature has had time to re-create.

What hands-on arrangements do we need adopt, now that we need to reconsider our lifestyles?

Niclas Köhler talks about two groups of activities needed simultaneously. The first is to mitigate the risks and soften the damages of the climate change and the second is to  decrease emissions.

Two roads forward. Illustration: Ann Vixen
Two roads forward. Illustration: Ann Vixen

Decreasing risks and damages caused by climate change can for instance be activities such as handling the larger amounts of water expected in some parts of the world.

Niclas Köhler has some examples of what the building company NCC are working with and mentions a tunnel that is soon to be built under the Danish City of Copenhagen for Hofor, with the purpose of leading away excessive amounts of water and leading it out to the harbour.

In this context The Tellus Think Tank-team also brings the Emisor Oriente-tunnel to mind. The tunnel was built under Mexico City for the same reasons.

NCC has also developed a special asphalt that lets through water much faster than traditional asphalt. The company is also looking into how their residential building projects shall handle the expected increase in water, so that damage by dampness can be avoided.

Illustration: Hofor
Tunnel under Copenhagen. Illustration: Hofor

We can do a lot of work with mitigating the damages but is is much cheaper and considerably less risky to work proactively to avoid the problems, Niclas Köhler says.

That is why it is more important to reduce emission. By reducing emissions the effects of Global Warming can reach a problematic stage, instead of the catastrophic level that we are heading towards now.

Use renewable energy sources and reduce beef in your daily diet, is the short advice that Niclas Köhler offers. He soon continues with an array of activities that could help us reduce the effects of the Global Warming:

  • Phase out the coal plants! Consumers can help by choosing an electrical company that offers green, environmentally friendly electricity.
  • Heat your house with district warming, pellets or a heat pump.
  • Kiruna. Swedens most northern Passive house, built by NCC. Photographer: Joanna Redman/NCC
    Kiruna. Swedens most northern lowenergy Passive house, built by NCC. Photographer: Joanna Redman/NCC

    Build low energy houses – that is buildings that do not leak heat through walls or windows and that contain all heat brought into the house. Old houses can become energy effective by renovation. NCC works with both low energy houses and sustainable renovations.

  • Don’t knock down old concrete structures but re-use them, as the process of making new concrete emits large amounts of carbon dioxid.
  • Decrease your rides with the car as far as possible, at least until you can afford to buy a car that runs totally without fossil petrol and diesel. Electrical Vehicles, driven by batteries or fuel cells, will probably soon take over the market.
  • Car production is also has large emissions of greenhouse gases and every family might not need a car of their own, most cars stand parked most of the time. Instead a family could take a cab, use public transport, walk, take the bike or join a car pool.
  • Eat less beef and lamb and replace it with chicken or vegetarian food if possible.
  • Decrease the number of journeys with aeroplane, until the renewable fuels that researchers are working on are taken in use.
  • In regions where biogas is an alternative these should be exploited as much as possible. It is not practically possible to transport biogas so far, so it has to be considered as a local propellant.
  • In countries where the sun is an asset, investments should be made so that solar cells can replace fossil fuels. The energy from the sun is also good for countries closer to the poles, such as Sweden, but the sun produces more energy than average in the summer and less than average in the winter.
  • Even industrial processes need to save heat by insulating and taking advantage of waste heat.

So it is not too late to turn the Global Warming process around?

No, not yet but we really need to rethink how we live and decrease the use of fossil fuels and eating less beef. Change our lives and introduce hands-on activities as a way forward.

There are examples of other environmental problems where we have been very successful and changed a destructive trend. Niclas Köhler mentions the replacing of freons in our refrigerators letting the ozone layer around Earth regenerate. Another example is when Sweden successfully reduced sulphur emissions when burning fossil oil, which was causing acidification of Swedish woods and waters.

I thank Niclas Köhler for his pedagogical description of the present situation of Earth, and for sharing hope for the future!   

Now that the Tellus Think Tank team understands a bit more about Global Warming we are wondering how this information is being spread in societies and we are also wondering what young people are being taught about it in schools today. Next we investigate how a Swedish school handles environmental questions and meet with with Lars Benon, who has worked as headmaster at several schools in the Stockholm region. Check it out!

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TellusThinkTank – The Opening! No001

 

November 2015: Welcome to the opening of TellusThinkTank – offering inspiration and best practises to increase the sustainability in lives and communities! by Domi 2015-11-11

The TellusThinkTank-team has been talking to many people lately. Subjects have been organic products, global warming and sustainability in production, sustainability in daily lives and communities. During our conversations the team has made several findings that hit us as strange or contradictory, and worth exploring!

2014-03-08-12.11.43-Tellus-metalkarta-e1447406382672-1024x685
Photo: AnnVixen, 2014

The Global warming is a very large and almost mythical area, and we found an unexpected stance.“Global Warming is not an issue! The atmosphere would have been heated due to the natural processes of earth and not because of the doings of humans!” This stance is shared by persons we have spoken to in several countries, some say they want to believe, others say they choose to believe in this “truth”.

ABOUT TELLUS THINK TANK….read more here

In contradiction media is reporting from United Nations meetings, from European Union meetings and from research- and scientist reports around the globe: “The nature of Earth and all species living here are in serious trouble due to the unnatural heating of our globe – as a result of mankind having emitted more carbon dioxide particles than our world can swallow in a natural way.”  
If these reports are correct and the world we live in is in a fix, the team is wondering what is been done about saving Earth?

2014-12-14-14.01.54-Brysselkål-i-ho-e1447404225104-1024x1024Others persons we have met are wondering if they can trust the organic branding of food and if it really is organic or if the branding is only used to increase profits.

Another interesting finding is that many of us don’t know what organic food really means. –“Why should I be buying organically marked food? A balanced diet will continue to help me get through life in a healthy way!”  

Well, what does it mean when products, such as apples or chicken, are branded “organic”?

TellusThinkTank aims to answer these types of questions and will also be sharing sustainable innovations and ideas from around the globe. Our purpose is to inspire many more to move towards the future in more sustainable ways!

As TellusThinkTank is all about learning more about sustainable lives and communities and inspire more to follow best practises of the world the articles will be numbered so that the exploratory journey of TellusThinkTank will be easy to follow!

Please feel welcome to read “Is Earth doing alright? No002.

Ps. Maybe you would like to share something sustainable that you have done or something sustainable that has excited you? Tell us at Tellus Think Tank if you do! Ds.

ABOUT TELLUS THINK TANK….read more here

Tellus Think Tank
Tellus Think Tank

 

Number zero post

Amazingly nimble  – TellusThinkTank takes off!

We just love being on air and welcome You to the start of a bustling, cross-cultural hive of idea exchange on sustainable living and sustainable communities and how to improve sustainability in both!

ABOUT TELLUS THINK TANK….read more here

We are looking forward to developing TellusThinkTank with You, so please send us your ideas and feedback,
and remember to sign up for the newsletter!

Best regards

The TellusThinkTank-team in Stockholm