Madeleine Norman, who has “plastic dieted” her home (see article on Plastic Dieting), also avoids the use of unnecessary chemicals in her every day life. For example, she uses homemade shampoo. Tellus Think Tank is curious how and Madeleine shares some solid and practical tips.
Here are some of Madeleine’s recipes for homemade hair products.
Honey hair wash – for frequent use
Instead of using shampoo, mix 1 tablespoon of honey with half a cup of lukewarm water in a glass jar and shake well. Massage the honey liquid into your hair for a long time then rinse your hair with lukewarm water. Add a little apple cider vinegar and let it dry into your hair.
Bicarbonate Wash for deeper cleansing of hair – once a month
The bicarbonate wash cleans the hair deeper and can be used once a month as a supplement to the Honey Hair Wash. Mix 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate in half a cup of lukewarm water in a glass jar and shake well. Massage the bicarbonate liquid into your hair, then rinse your hair properly with lukewarm water.
Egg Conditioner when your hair needs extra love
According to Madeleine some people that have chosen to stop using shampoo use the the so-called Rye Flour Wash but as all hairs are different she has found that it doesn’t work for her. She finds the Egg Conditioner a good alternative when her hair needs “extra love”.
For this homemade shampoo conditioner: whisk an egg and pat it into your hair. Leave the egg in your hair for 10 minutes and then rinse it with plenty of lukewarm water.
On the Internet I find some more advice on the Egg Conditioner. People with dry hair are using only the yolk. People with oilier hair are using only egg whites for this conditioning.It also seems important to not use to hot water as the egg might coagulate and be difficult to rinse out of the hair.
The brushing of hair with a Bristle Brush
Another advice that Madeleine shares is the daily use of a “Bristle Brush”. The advantage of this brush kind of brush is that it helps spread the hairs own oil production, the sebum, and gives the hair natural shine and strength.
Madeleines last piece of advice for this time
-It takes a few weeks for your hair to re-balance, when converting from shampoo to homemade products. The hair becomes fatter over a short period of time. If you can hold out until the hair and the body’s sebum production has been re-balanced, a shampoo free life will give you stronger and healthier hair!
Tellus Think Tank thanks Madeleine Norman for sharing both her experience and advice on a life containing less harmful chemicals!
In our next article Tellus Think Tank meets “Restaurant Fäviken”, award-winner and holder of two Guide Michelin stars, and trying to live up to the food policy of locally produced food with location in the Northern wilderness of Sweden, get a note when the article is available!
Ecotoxicology is a research area in ascent. Since the beginning humans have survived by finding and making things in nature. Today we use thousands of chemicals that affords us new functionality. Unfortunately the chemicals also bring toxins into our every day lives. Tellus Think Tank contacts Åsa Arrhenius, doctor of Ecotoxicology, to learn more. Text: Domi, Tellus Think Tank Photo: AnnVixen & Åsa Arrhenius
The Science of Ecotoxicology
There is a lot of research activity how chemicals affect our lives. Tellus Think Tank meets Åsa Arrhenius, PhD in
Ecotoxicology at Gothenburg University. She is also the coordinator of the newly established interdisciplinary “Center for future chemical risk analysis and management at the University of Gothenburg” ( FRAM).
Åsa Arrhenius says that humans are most sensitive to toxic chemicals when still in the womb or in adolescence, during periods of life when the body is growing and developing. As adults, the effect of chemicals is not quite as considerable. However, adults can transfer chemicals to children, for example during pregnancy.
Toxic substances in plastic toys
Åsa Arrhenius tells us that we now use hundreds of thousands of chemicals compared to just a hundred years ago. Some of these new chemicals are found in our homes. One example is Phthalates that are unhealthy and toxic. Phthalates can be found in, among other things, plastic toys.
According to the Swedish Nature Conservation Society (Naturskyddsföreningen), being overexposed to Phthalates can lead to severe deformities of children when still in the womb. Other risks are fetal death, decreased birth weight, undeveloped testicles, penises and livers leading to permanently damaged performance and tumours.
Fortunately Phthalates of some kinds are banned in the EU since 2015, but they are very likely still to be found in our homes. The Phthalates are used to soften plastics and rubber products, such as baby changing table covers, rubber ducks and plastic toys.
Toxic substances in textiles
Åsa Arrhenius says that even textiles may contain toxic substances. Toxic chemicals may have been added during manufacturing or added to protect the fabric. The functionality sought by use of these chemicals is certain types of colour pigments, flame-retardants, anti-mildew, water and dirt resistant effects.
According to the Swedish Chemicals Agency (Kemikalieinspektionen), textiles can contain toxins. They write about the carcinogenic Formaldehyde, Chromium compounds and Phthalates that also can cause allergies.
Åsa Arrhenius says that clothing with certain features such as antibacterial branded clothing and sweat repellent branded clothing and footwear can contain unhealthy toxic substances. She recommends avoiding these types of goods.
Plastic in our lives
We talk briefly about the admirable plastic ban that was introduced in Rwanda in 2008 (read article) .
This leads us to the small soft plastic bags, used daily, for example when buying fruit in the supermarket. These small bags often contain the chemical substance Bisphenol A. Bisphenol chemicals are used to soften plastic.
Studies show that Bisphenol A leads to reduced sperm quality and decreased sperm production. This is one important
reason for the EU banning Bisphenol A in baby bottles. Sweden has its own wider ban of Bisphenol A forbidding the chemical in food packages for children up to three years of age.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency has also proposed that Bisphenol A should be banned in the thermal paper that is used in receipts and tickets.
The Tellus Think Tank editorial team finds it extraordinary that Bisphenol A is allowed in food packaging at all. We would, as an example, prefer not to find Bisfenol A in the plastic coating on the inside of canned food.
EU and hazardous chemicals – a slow development in the right direction
EU controls much of the legislation and use of chemicals. Countries such as Sweden, Germany and Holland are driving forces in introducing stronger regulation on the use of chemicals. Sometimes they have to hold back their ambitions (on the pace) as the EU ‘s legislative work takes longer than wished for. It can be perceived that the EU is hindering efforts to strengthen legislation on toxic substances, however Åsa widens the perspective.
She reasons that chemicals cross country borders with the movement of people and goods but also with rain and wind. She means that a ban in one country therefore only has a limited effect. EU legislation may be cumbersome but when in place the impact across the EU is immediate. Eu legislation reaches way beyond the borders of Europe as imported goods from all corners of our planet have to follow the same legislation.
Regardless Åsa Arrhenius recommends to avoid buy plastic toys or plastic products from countries like China.
How I can reduce toxic substances in my own life
Åsa gives us solid advice on how to reduce the toxic chemicals in our everyday lives:
When possible cut down on the use of chemicals and plastic in everything from food, clothing, detergents and medicine.
Have a headache? Rather that routinely eat painkillers try and slow down for a while, take it easy and have a glass of water.
Discard old plastic toys and send them to recycling instead of to the flea market.
Replace plastic things in your home with more natural materials such as wood, glass and ceramics.
Reduce your direct exposure to harmful chemicals in new textiles by washing before you use them. Unfortunately the chemical residues in waste water might end up in nature.
When microwaving: Don’t use plastic containers, it is better to use glass bowls.
When cooking: Avoid heating plastic utensils and bowls as the heating process can release toxic substances in them.
Be an active consumer. Consumers have an enormous power – remove the plastic packaging in the supermarket and ask if the store might consider packing their food in other ways.
Air your home regularly to rid it of deposited chemicals from plastic things, paint and furniture.
If possible, use eco-labelled products and food such as the EU eco-label and others.
Try to avoid detergents and cosmetics products that may contain plastic in micro formats.
Any hope on less toxic substances in our lives?
Åsa Arrhenius believes that general awareness on toxic chemicals is increasing. Stores around Sweden say that eco-labelled food and products are on demand. One area that FRAM, the centre that Åsa is coordinating, is looking into how to develop economic and legal instruments to bring about faster change. FRAM wants to help get legislation in place that encourages producers to replace harmful substances with more healthy ones.
On the whole, we still have a lot to learn on the effects of the thousands of substances that we are exposed to through different products such as detergents, medicines, plastics and food in our lives. Fortunately, there is progress in both research and legislation in the field of Ecotoxicology.
In Tellus Think Tanks next article we meet Madeleine who performed a “Plastic Diet” in her life and home. Get notified when the article is available!
Ecotoxicology is the study of the effects of toxic chemicals on biological organisms, especially in the population, community, ecosystem level. Ecotoxicology is a multidisciplinary field, which integrates toxicology and ecology
Åsa Arrhenius, PhD in Ecotoxicologi at the University of Gothenburg. Since 2016 Åsa is also the coordinator of the Center for Future chemical risk analysis and management at the University of Gothenburg”, FRAM.
The University of Gothenburgh, Sweden: 37 000 students, 6000 employees, 282 PhD graduates per year, 2000 research students, founded 125 years ago in 1891, 538 professors in 8 faculties: Natural Sciences, Humanities, Art, Social Sciences, Business Administration, Education, IT faculty, Sahlgrenska Academy (medical).
FRAM – Center for Future Chemical Risk Analysis and Management at the University of Gothenburg. The centre aims, among other things, to find safe limits for chemical contaminants to protect people and the environment and believes that the effect of chemical mixtures are more toxic than single chemicals on their own, something that we should focus on in order to get to a more sustainable use of chemicals.
Plastic ban’s seem to be a way to handle the huge amounts of plastic currently available everywhere in societies around the world. It has been known for a while that plastics of different kinds have long corrosion processes and contain toxins that are unhealthy to humans, animals and nature. Some countries have gone so far as to ban plastic’s while other have taken less radical steps. Read more…
Text: Domi, Tellus Think Tank. Photo: AnnVixen
The blessings and curses of plastic
Plastics have in many ways been a blessing for humanity and given many benefits and possibilities when creating figures in any form imaginative and to a very affordable price. We currently use plastics in our homes, workplaces, industries and even within the health care sector!
Unfortunately the corrosiveness of plastic is slow and plastics often contain toxins and unbalancing hormone substances affecting the endocrine (natural hormone) system in humans and other mammals.
Luckily the world is becoming more aware off the side effects of plastics. More are taking action. Tellus Think Tank found an interesting example that we would like to share, hoping that more countries will be inspired and act.
Rwanda’s plastic ban – an unexpectedly and successful good example
Rwanda is known for many as the country that during the 1990’s was subject to civil war and mayor genocide. Maybe that is why it is surprising that Rwanda has a newly found, and more constructive, national drive towards a greener economy. The greener economy was the base for Rwanda’s 2008 banning of lightweight plastic bags.
The underlying reason for Rwanda’s ban off plastic bags was to save lives and improve the national economy. Plastic bags have overtaken both nature and cities in many African countries. They can be found blowing along street of the cities or decorating trees after heavy winds and they are often the cause of clogged sewers and eaten by local wildlife.
The people of Rwanda found that the harmful effect of plastic bags had become too big. Not only were they causing a growing amount of litter in streets and in nature across the country but cleaning costs where very expensive. Recycling wasn’t working in a satisfying way and a lot of Rwandans burnt their plastics with other garbage causing large emissions of harmful toxins. The plastic bags often made their way into farmlands making land more difficult to farm.
The national effort in the plastic bag ban has in many ways been successful and today politicians in charge in the capitol of Kigali are claiming that Rwanda is the cleanest country in Africa. The plastic ban, according to Global Citizen, has made it increasingly difficult to stumble onto plastic scrap in the streets of Rwanda. The new clean Rwanda has also been advantageous for growing tourism, currently standing for 8% of employment and responsible for a large amount of the country’s income.
Africa CCTV on the plastic ban of Rwanda.
Job opportunities in the sway of Rwanda’s plastic ban
The plastic ban of Rwanda has also brought new entrepreneurial opportunities and job openings, according to Swedish journalist Mette Carlbom at VI-magazine. The plastic ban covers many areas such as plastic covers at building sites to plastic bags in stores and food markets. Travellers and tourists have been stripped of their plastic bags on entry to the country, at airports or border crossings. Instead of using plastic bags the country has increased the usage of paper bags and waxed paper bags.
All plastics are not forbidden, one example is plastic mosquito nets used in hospitals – they are necessity in countries like the malaria infested Rwanda. When patients leave the hospital their plastic mosquito nets are recycled at one of Rwanda’s plastic recycling stations.
Plastic bags are still in demand, which entices smugglers and illicit trading.
Since Rwanda, according to Aljazeera, introduced prison or fines for selling plastic bags the illegal trade has been reduced. The punishment is too hard to handle and not worth the risk for the former smugglers who often support families.
Is the banning of plastic a global trend?
Rwanda is not the first country to ban plastic bags. The 2002 forerunner was Bangladesh with their ”lightweight plastic bag ban”. Other countries that have banned plastics are China, Taiwan, Macedonia and the latest, in 2015, was The Gambia.
Other methods of handling harmful plastics
EU legislators banned several toxic substances in plastics. EU countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have passed laws that require shops to charge for all single-use plastic carrier bags. Shops now have to charge customers for plastic bags or else they risk receiving a substantial fine.
When the United Kingdom introduced the law in 2015 it was met by a protest storms from angry citizens. The government had not succeeded in communicating the purpose of the new plastic bag fee.
According to The Telegraph the plastic bag fee law has had a positive effect in the United Kingdom. The introduction of the 5 pence fee (equalling about 5 cents of a US dollar) has reduced the usage of plastic bags by almost 80%!
According to Dutch journalist Arjen Vos, the introduction of the plastic bag fee in stores in the Netherlands was very informative and smooth. Dutch citizens understood the need to reduce the use of plastic bags. The Dutch have become exemplary shoppers and now mostly all use canvas bags!
The country of Sweden is not yet taking action on plastic
In Sweden mayor food chains offer customers thick plastic bags for multiple re-use. The Swedish fashion store “Indiska”, on its own account, charges customers for plastic bags. This is a fee that Indiska’s Swedish customers seem to be more than happy to accept. These examples are however the result of entrepreneurial initiatives and unfortunately not the Swedish government.
Sweden is one of the best countries in the world when it comes to recycling. The country stil has problems to handle plastics from source. Swedish government officials have still to take action on handling the unhealthy growth of the use of plastics.
The Swedish government’s passive stance on handling plastic is easy to detect. One need not go as far as the people of Rwanda to find plastic scrap in Swedish streets or nature.
The next step for Your country
Officials in Rwanda say: ”If we can succeed with a plastic banning then so can any other country”.
We wonder if plastics bag fee’s are enough to reduce the harmful effect on humans, animals and nature? Or is a full scale banning like in Rwanda necessary? Perhaps there is an even better middle way or a third road?
Tellus Think Tank will be keeping our eyes open for further sustainable best practises around the world! We are now aware of sustainable plastic reducing trend. Let’s follow the development of plastic handling – for a sustainable future!
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The five tough rockers from the Cypriotic band “Minus One” will be performing their contribution “Alter Ego” in the 2016 Eurovision song contest in Stockholm, Sweden.
What caught the Tellus Think Tank eye especially is a line in their song “Caught in the middle of the dawn and the sunrise. Life is a miracle.” The Tellus Think Tank editorial team finds this line symbolic to the current state of human life on Earth – global warming, sun down. Improving our ways, sun-up, empowering the miracle of life!
Luckily the gigantic European Song festival is once again held in Sweden, an honour earned thanks to last year’s performance by Måns Zelmerlöf with the song “Heroes”, written By Linnea Deb,
Joy Deb and Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad.
We find that Minus One band is staying just 2 minutes walk from Tellus Think Tank office and make an appointment to see them!
Rocking Minus One
If it where not for that I immediately get stricken by the band charisma I might instead have been scared by tattoos and bad-ass looks! All the guys in the band turn out to be absolutely lovely though. The passionate singer Francois Micheletto, the group rebel drummer Chris J, the happy go lucky blue bearded Harrys Pari on guitar, the man of the times and very aware guitarist Constantin Amerikanos and the quieter but substantial, to-cool-for-school, bass player Antonis Lizides.
I met the band in their hotel lobby and can tell that “work hard, party hard” is a lifestyle being applied during the bands
Eurovision stay in Stockholm! The guys are high on life and going with the flow and we claim a part of the hotel lobby lounge area as our own for our talk.
The song that Minus One will be performing for Cyprus was written by Swedish Thomas G:Son, the writer of 2012 winner song Euphoria performed by Swedish Loreen.
The Minus One band members and I instantly get involved in an intense discussion about how to improve life on earth by living in more environmental friendly ways.
Singer Francois tells us that he got his early life connection to nature from his parents. His father is a beekeeper, which has made Francois very aware of bees, flowers and how we keep our environment and that these things are all interconnected. He worries for the survival of the bees and urges people to look into the micro cosmos – that is all the small things in their lives that can help change the big picture!
What do the band members do to live in a more environmental friendly way?
Drummer Chris J says that it is not so much what they do but more about what the band members choose not to do.
-We try and drive as little as possible and we don’t waste water or electricity, says Chris.
He also says that Cypriots, in general, use solar panels to heat water in their homes.
Guitarist Constantin Amerikanos says he stopped smoking. He also rather takes his bike instead of the car and he is very aware of how he uses fresh water.
Guitarist Harry Pari says that recycling was fairly recently introduced to Cyprus. He immediately picked it up and so did a lot of his fellow Cypriots.
What can Cyprus do better?
Bass player Antonis Lizides says that more of Cyprus should be using solar panels. He means the business sector and organisations of different kinds. The island country, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, is already struggling with a fresh water shortage. Cyprus is already taking salt water from the sea and putting it through desalination processes. The fresh water shortage is not good but at least the desalination process in Cyprus is powered by sun energy!
The band members agree that there is a lot that can be done better in Cyprus. Francois takes up a
crazy example. An island like Cyprus, surrounded by beautiful blue sea water, is still building so many fresh water swimming pools. All in parallel with the current fresh water shortage.
The other guys mumble at this swimming pool discussion, they all seem to enjoy swimming pools! So do I, however maybe salt-water pools could work for Cyprus?
The discussion on swimming pools brings us back to the line in the band’s Eurovision song. It is about being caught in the zone between understanding that we need change our ways but not yet having accepted it. We need to change in order to find the sustainable way to the future and allow for the miracle of life!
The German contribution to the Eurovision song festival 2016
During the Eurovision song festival Tellus Think Tank also gets in touch with German performer Jamie-Lee to hear
what she is doing to support the environment.
While rushing between press meetings Jamie-Lee shares with us that she lives an active vegan lifestyle. This includes vegan foods, vegan clothes and vegan cosmetics. Jamie-Lee finds that the resources humans use to breed animals are immense and could be put too much better use!
Red Carpet awaits
The band members of Cypriot Minus One are getting ready for their Eurovision red-carpet walk this evening. They will be a bad-ass hit I am sure!
Their Twitter accounts support my hunch that they are not only spending time with members of the press. They also take some good time for enjoying themselves!
I wish the Minus One men of Cyprus the best of luck in their future endeavours. Having promised I would vote for Minus One in the contest, I leave through the hotel drive-way. I hope that next year’s Eurovision festival will have official cars fuelled by electricity!
The Eurovision song contest is the biggest peace festivals of our time. The 2016 festival in Stockholm will be remembered as one of the best organised and most fun events ever. Just wait and see!
Read more of Tellus Think Tank articles and learn what can be done for a sustainable future!
It is most probable that we to some extent will be eating meat even in the future. Tellus Think Tank meets a passionate pig farmer that runs, what he calls, an eco dynamic breeding – and we investigate some alternative practises to what is labelled organic meat.
Text: Domi Photography: AnnVixen & Nibble Farm
Momentarily we are being hit with the message, from many places and persons in society, that we should completely stop eating meat and become vegetarians. Media reports that livestock is one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
We have also learnt that meat is expensive to produce because it requires more land and water than plants do to feed us. The growing population on Earth means that we will need to switch to a plant-based diet and there are no excuses left – all the proteins we need can be found in the more efficient plant kingdom, so why should we torment and eat animals?
Why do humans eat animals?
All people on earth do not eat animals, or at least not meat from certain animals. Hindus avoid eating cow,
Muslims avoid pig, Buddhists avoid any kind of animal, and in many countries people avoid eating dogs and cats.
But why do humans eat animals at all? The historical reason has to do with human survival, of course, as the possibility to feed on animals made it possible to live in places where the plant kingdom, for various reasons has not been sufficient, examples of such sites are numerous:
Places with geographical limitations such as islands with a growing population have turned instead to the sea and fish.
Places where the climate does not allowed the plant kingdom to provide food year-round, for example places with long snowy winters or dry periods.
Places where the kind of vegetation growing, such as grass, can’t feed humans but can feed animals such as cows, pigs, goats and sheep.
There are probably even more reasons to why we eat meat but we can probably agree that animals in many cases have offered mankind an alternative when the plant kingdom has not been sufficient and that from a very early stage of mankind the human diet often has been a mix of plant- and animal based foods.
Animal care is important
It is most likely that the human diet, in part, will continue to be both plant- and animal based. This is why we find it extra important that both agriculture and livestock breeding practises are organic and sustainable and that animals are well taken care of and do not live in misery.
Why is Tellus Think Tank visiting a pig farmer? It is thanks to the flowery descriptions from our local grocery store BEA, at Svedmyra, in Stockholm. The Swedish Christmas tradition includes ham in the oven, instead of a turkey. This Christmas customers could read a large sign above the Christmas ham from Nibble Farm, stating how well the animals were taken care of. On the BEA deli counter Linda, Jenny and Leffe where absolutely enthusiastic about the food from Nibble using phrases such as “tastes better”,
“happy animals” and ” they think differently at Nibble Farm” . This raised our curiosity.
The founder of Nibble Farm
A thin cover of snow lies over the beautiful Swedish Västmanland plains around Nibble Farm the morning I
meet Sven-Erik Johansson. He has over 50 years experience of farming and livestock breeding practises.
A few years ago he passed the responsibility for the farm to the next generation, Magnus and Lena Lindahl. Sven-Erik moved out of the main house of the farm and into a Tiny Home on wheels. He is still working as “Senior Advisor” and daily active in the operational tasks of the farm.
Sven-Erik is 76 years, very sharp and still very engaged and enthusiastic about the development of the farm’s breeding practises. Not only has Sven-Erik built and developed pig-breeding practises on the farm during his career but he also co-founded a hospital practise for spinal recovery – to give you a picture of his capacity. During our conversation, he talked about respecting animals and exploring new and better ways to develop breeding practises.
Sven-Erik’s upbringing, background and life reminds me of Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, who started off by selling matches to his neighbours. In Sven-Erik’s case, he took over four chickens when he was eight and started selling eggs to teachers and classmates. The proceeds where used to expand both the poultry practise and later to pay for his higher studies. When in his 20’ies he switched to pig farming.
Nibble Farm breeds 5,000 pigs a year and Sven-Erik describes the development of the eco-dynamic pig practises. One of the farm’s research partners has been the SVA, Swedish National Veterinarian Medical Institution. The research has included filming of pigs to increase the understanding of their needs so that farms can develop operations to fit the pig better. The aim of research has often been to develop practises so that breeding pigs can thrive. It was discovered when filming the pigs that fixed feeding times stressed them immensely. Therefore the farm introduced feeding machines where the pigs could eat whenever they wanted.
Inspiration to develop the practises of the farm has also been sought abroad, much has been learnt from Danish farmers. Legislation in Sweden, however, has been better with an early ban on disease preventing antibiotics, says Sven-Erik.
The Netherlands is also a forerunner in livestock development and Sven-Erik was very impressed by the Dutch company Nedap, with 90 people in their research department working on technology for better animal conditions!
According to Sven-Erik, Nibble Farm runs a mix of breeding practises, positioning their farm between what is
considered pure organic and old fashioned “regular” pig breeding. Nibble calls their practice eco-dynamic and they aim to breed happy pigs that give the meat a great taste. It is equally important that the meat is affordable to everyone. In order to breed happy pigs one important factor is not to rush or stress the animals.
Instead of being visitors Nibble Farm is currently often visited by delegations from around the world– last week they received a delegation from Australia. They are happy to share their ideas on eco-dynamic farming and how the natural cycle of nature is mixed with the farming practises.
Nibble Farm and the natural cycle of nature
Nibble Farm is almost self-sufficient and grows about 90 % of the food needed by their pigs. They aim to run a practise with as little environmental impact as possible in both livestock breeding and agricultural practises and engage in crop rotation to avoid soil depletion, which also reduces the need to add nutrients. The farm also minimizes the use of pesticides, fertilise the soil with natural resources from the pig practise.
They run livestock breeding and agriculture practises in balance with the natural cycle of nature and try to minimize the harmful effects of the farm by, for instance, upgrading the agricultural machinery, such as tractors, to lighter versions to avoid compressing the soil too much.
The tour begins of Nibble Farm begins with the sows and their piglets
I admit to being a true city slicker and that this is the first time I have ever set foot in a real farm. From films
on YouTube I have understood that pig breeding practises are often murky with pigs trapped in dark and confined spaces and running and screaming in fear. Although Sven-Erik has told me that Nibble Farm’s practice differs I still enter expecting the worst.
The newly borns
We visit the sows and their piglets. The contrast between the biting wind outside and the pleasant warmth of this building is palpable. I learn that cold can stress both piglets and sows and that the heat in the building, therefore, is important.
In this large farm room there are about 20 boxes filled with mother-child pig families. Each box is 7 square metres and houses a sow with 12-14 piglets. In addition to the heated building, each box includes a cubbyhole with red heating lamps for the piglets to cuddle under. The sows have special heating tubes to warm them when feeding the piglets. Each box has a pipe throughout it to minimize the risk for the piglets to being squeezed under the sow as she lies down.
We visit one of the boxes and find the piglets to be lively engaged in play with each other. The mother-sow looks tired and a bit discouraged – it must be quite a job to feed 14 piglets. Sven-Erik says that the sow and piglets remain in the box for 31 days after farrowing, i.e. the actual birth. The sow can eat whenever she wants and doesn’t need to wait for fixed meal times, which reduces the stress that the pigs would otherwise experience. Sven-Erik says that this is why we do not hear any screams, the pigs are not stressed, eat when they want and are warm and comfortable. Undeniably, even though the sows are understandably tired, the piglets seem to thrive.
31 days old – time to leave home
Next stop we make is with piglets between 31 and 70 days old. They live together in a different building and are
kept indoors to keep their warmth. It turns out to be a fun visit on our tour of the farm as we visit 50 piglets in a 100 square meter box. They can eat when they want and also have a heating lamp to warm them. However, they seem not at all interested in the lamps as they playfully run around in groups in a style that resembles a tiny soccer team. I’m no pig expert but when I see these pigs, I perceive them to be happy!
Between the ages of two and six months the pigs move into the farm’s most recently built stables where they share a box with about 20 other pigs. This is the last station for them on the farm. The boxes do not look very inspiring but the pigs can eat when they want and if they want to go outdoors they have their own balcony. In the summer the balcony even holds a shower so they can cool down!
Again, I see pigs looking curious and happy. Sven-Erik tells me a few surprising things about the pig. One is that they do not like to stand in hot sun because of their weak pigmentation and lack of protective hair. The pig is one of the cleanliest animals. After researching the area, Nibble Farm now know that pigs prefer the shade and a cool water shower before taking a role in the mud and have designed the farm accordingly.
Not even one bad day
At six months of age, it is time for the pigs’ journey to the slaughterhouse in Skövde.
-So, Pigs only have one bad day? I ask.
-No, they do not even have one bad day! Sven-Erik responds.
He explains that the pigs move in a very easy and stress-less way into the transportation truck and that they quickly fall asleep during the journey as they feel safe and are still together with their siblings. Once at the slaughterhouse, they are calmly moved into a one-pig-at-a-time elevator and sedated prior to the actual slaughter.
During their lifetime they are never separated from their siblings.
The sows in waiting
The last building we visit on our tour is a classic Swedish Falu-red barn. It is one of the most beautiful places
I’ve visited and the air inside is fresh and cool, the birds are chirping in the rafters, and the airy walls let in a beautiful pattern of glorious daylight. The sows live here during their three months pregnancy and it looks very harmonious.
The sows can choose if they want to be in their outdoor courtyard or stay in the straw filled barn. The sow quarters have been designed so they can move around freely and exercise during their pregnancy. During my visit the weather is dull and most decide to stay indoors snuggle down in thick layers of straw. Some are curious and greet us upon arrival and when we go to look at their concrete yard some of them follow us out!
The Nibble pig feed
Nibble Farm grows 90 % of their pigs food. The food consists of roughage (hay), herbs such as camomile, bird’s-foot-trefoil and catsfoot but also peas, broad beans , linseed cake, rape seed and cereals. The last ten per cent of the diet consists of various nutritional supplements.
Nibble eco-dynamic farming compared to organically labelled breeding
Swedes consumers find several different kinds of sustainable labelled food and the one that is the most difficult to produce is KRAV. Another widely used organic label is the EU organic logo, which is usually somewhat easier to produce.
Here are some examples of organic requirements that Nibble Farm follows:
The pig should be able to go outdoors at any time of the year. The pig should always have the possibility to root. During hot weather the pig should be able to cool off. The farm should be self-sufficient up to 50% of their pigs’ food (Nibble produces 90%). The pig should have free access to a bed of hay. Pigs should not routinely be given preventive treatment with antibiotics. During castration male pigs have to be provided with anaesthesia and analgesics.
Nibble Farm has chosen to deviate from some organic label requirement and Sven-Erik explains why:
According to some organic requirements pigs must obtain field grazing in the summer and have large areas to move around. Nibble Farm doesn’t provided this and Sven-Erik explains that for centuries pigs have become accustomed to a life indoors, that their pigment can’t handle strong sun and they don’t like to protect themselves from the sun by rolling in mud. Therefore, the animals have the ability to go out but they always have the opportunity to go back indoors and during summer they can take a cooling shower whenever they want.
According to the current organic requirements sows should be allowed to build nests. Nibble considered that pigs’ nests require so much straw that many piglets are “lost” in it and more easily squeezed to death. The sows are instead presented with enough straw to be able to make a nice bed and a heat lamp as a replacement to a full nest.
Additional organic requirements state the pig should only eat organically grown food, not treated with any chemical pesticides. Nibble Farm want both plants and animals to be healthy and therefore use pesticides when needed but not routinely. Pigs are also vaccinated to prevent disease but are not given
I understand that there are discussion about which approach should be accepted in the livestock industry,
ranging from “ordinary” to strictly organic according to official guidelines.
Nibble Farm has chosen its own path and conducted research in areas that have not seemed apparent to others, respecting the cycle of nature in balance with the urge to produce good meat affordable to the many.
My day at Nibble Farm is coming to an end and we pass the silo, the storage of the self-grown animal food, and the farmhouse where the air-dried hams and salami hang. During summertime Nibble Farm opens for visitors – I would recommend anyone that wishes to learn more to drop by!
To summarize my day at Nibble Farm it has been informative and full of happy and curious pigs!
If we are to continue eating meat in the future I believe every farm should be breeding happy animals.
A sustainable population. At the beginning of 2016 Australia reached a population of 24 million and worries where cabled over the Internet on how to handle the large population. It intrigued the team at Tellus Think Tank because the Australian continent, in size, is equal to the USA, Europe and China (with populations of 320 Million, 740 Million and 1,3 Billion). Why worries about the meagre 24 million? Text: Domi. Featuring photo: Hanna Isabelle Sjöberg. Photo’s in article: Annika Hals Molnar & Hanna Isabelle Sjöberg
We where lucky to get in contact with Sandra Kanck, President of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) for an on-line interview that turned out to be very interesting and enlightening. Tellus Think Tank normally strives to share inspiration on sustainable happenings around our globe, to be able to help people and societies chose a more sustainable path.
Our interview with Sandra showed challenges, some still without solutions – which can be inspiring to problem solvers. So let’s hope this interview shares some enlightenment and helps enhance problem solving in that force of friendly individuals that we know exists around the world!
Sandra Kanck, President of Sustainable Population Australia, March 2016.
Sandra, where were you brought up and what brought you to where you are today?
I grew up in Broken Hill, a rural city in outback Australia, and was the oldest of seven children. I learnt early on that my school friends who all came from smaller families had more money to go round. In my early 20’s I became involved in the anti-nuclear movement, and from that progressed to the peace movement and wider environment movement. From there it was a matter of joining the dots and finding the right group to join.
How was your connection to nature in an early age? Do you have any specific memory that sticks out?
Broken Hill was a town of 30,000 people surrounded by arid lands, where kangaroos and emus were common outside the city limits. The dry climate meant I occasionally experienced fierce dust storms, and I was brought up to understand the importance of conserving water.
You are the national president of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
What kind of an organisation is SPA and what does SPA stand for / aim for?
SPA was formed almost 30 years ago. We are not a political party, although a significant number of our members belong to at least seven different political parties to my knowledge. We are registered with the Australian Federal Government as a Registered Environment Organisation, which allows people who donate to us to claim tax deductibility for their donations. Our specific aims are set out in our constitution as follows:
SPA visions a relationship between humans and the natural environment which ensures the integrity and sustainability of the Earth’s life support systems, the on-going evolution of natural living systems and the well-being of every person in a sustainable population.
The mission of SPA is to establish Australia as a global model of, and to assist other nations toward, a sustainable ecological life-support system, retention of species diversity and human wellbeing, by influencing public debate and policy with particular emphasis on population size.
How did you get engaged in SPA?
Sandra tellus us: Senator John Coulter employed me. We had worked together in the Conservation Council of South Australia prior to his being elected to parliament. He gave me a membership application form.
The country of Australia is equally as big as the USA (population 320 Million) and China (population 1.3 Billion) and Europe (population 740 million). The population of Australia has just reached a population of 24 Million. SPA and others in Australia are wording worries about the 24 million population of the Australia being to big.
Why is the, in comparison to demographics of other regions on Earth, small population of Australia something to be concerned about? Australia is still very sparsely populated in comparison?
While Australia’s land mass is relatively large, so too are the environmental constraints:
Only six per cent of Australia’s land mass is capable of producing food, and that small amount is being trespassed on by urban sprawl as a consequence of population growth.
The climate is overall arid to semi-arid and impending climate change will exacerbate that.
The average altitude for the whole country is 330 metres, meaning that there are only a few areas where snow falls with subsequent spring melts.
Deserts predominate in central Australia where drought is the norm
with no potable water sources.
Geologically, there has been no major uplifting, land building or glaciation for millennia, and the consequence is highly infertile soils with a very low soil profile of no more than 7cm in arid areas.
The poor soil has been extensively over-grazed. Introduced species such as cats, rabbits, foxes and cane-toads wreak havoc on the natural wildlife.
So Australia is a very arid country, has it not always been dry?
Yes, and to give an idea of the water problems facing Australia, it’s important
to understand that drought is the norm in most of the country. Droughts used to occur once in twenty years, but they now occur in six out of ten years. Major flooding used to occur once every 5-7 years, but now occur every 14 years.
Australia’s major river is actually a cluster of 23 rivers in what is known as the Murray-Darling Basin. By European standards it is little more than a stream. Although the basin and its tributaries spread over one-seventh of the continent, the annual flow is equivalent to less than a day’s flow of the Amazon. Of the rain falling on the basin 94% evaporates. The basin still produces 40% of Australia’s agricultural produce.
But while Australians are so very dependent on that river system, a 2014 study from Australia’s major science organisation, the CSIRO, predicted a worsening of this situation with a reduction of rainfall in this region of up to 70% by 2070 because of climate change.
Meanwhile, at the present time in Australia, a 400 km stretch of the Murray River has been subject to an algal bloom due to slow-moving water and high temperatures, making that water toxic for human and animal consumption. The algal bloom normally resolves with cooler weather but each year the algal bloom outbreaks are more frequent, more extensive and last longer.
At the same time the southern-most state of Tasmania, which has long prided itself on being energy self-sufficient by using hydro-electricity, has found itself in a crisis situation where the dams that feed the water to produce electricity are at less than 17% of their capacity.
What is the root cause of the sustainability problems in Australia – is it only the growing population?
Sandra gives us some facts: Basically the problem is a fragile environment, which can sustain no more than 23 million people according to The Australian Academy of Science. Some estimates set the sustainable level at a much lower figure of 7 million. Whichever of the two figures is correct, at a population of 24 million we have gone beyond Australia’s environmental limits.
What is the main reason for growth of the population?
Over more than a century, successive Australian governments have actively campaigned to increase Australia’s population, and particularly to increase immigration. Until very recently, 60% of the population growth has come from immigration and 40% from natural increase. In the last two years that has altered to a 55%/45% ratio, due in part to a pro-natalist policy introduced a decade ago called the ‘Baby Bonus’.
What would happen if the population of Australia grows, according to some forecasts, to 33 million by 2050? What problems would be directly visible due to the population growth? And indirectly?
Sandra tells it as she sees it:
Directly attributable to population growth:
Increased demands for water. Lowering of water tables. Reduced water flow in major rivers including an increase in algal blooms. Increased demands for food production. Declining fish stocks. An increase in the infrastructure deficit. Shortage of affordable housing. Enormous waste management problems. Ingress of saline waters into estuaries and rivers. Increased urban traffic congestion with associated reduction in air quality and an increased demand for fuel. Loss of open space and biodiversity habitat. Urban pressures on agricultural land.
Indirectly: the backlog of infrastructure maintenance will further increase; social dysfunction and political instability related to economic inequalities; possible racial tensions
How will Australia have to do cope with problems arising from a growing population…
The business lobby has convinced the two major political parties that growth
is good, and so they do not see problems arising, and therefore have no solutions.
What would SPA prefer to be the current (year 2016) action?
Acknowledgement from government that there will be big problems in the future has to be first step. Until that happens a conversation about what we need to do is all but impossible.
According to some people – SPA is a racist organisation – what would be your response to this?
I would tell them they are speaking nonsense. SPA has consistently called for a significant increase in our humanitarian (refugee) intake, cutting our immigration intake to allow this to happen. The source of refugees is generally from politically unstable areas in the Middle East and Africa. If we were racist we would set out to exclude them rather than encourage an increase in their numbers.
If the global warming continues it has been predicted that large movement of people over the globe would become a reality, as many will be in search of better living conditions with fresh water etc. If the climate warming continues would people be moving to or from Australia do you think?
Sandra shares insights from the region:
Leaders of some Pacific nations have already indicated that they will want to
move to Australia. The Australian Government announced at the COP-21 climate change talks that is has allocated $1bn to Pacific nations for adaptive purposes. I believe they think by doing this it will stop them from emigrating. One other choice, in the region, would be New Zealand, as I do not expect they would want to move to another developing nation such as Papua-New Guinea.
Examples of Pacific Nations in trouble because of Global Warming are the Pacific Nation of Tuvalu, with a shrinking population. Inhabitants are emigrating to avoid effects such rising sea-levels, cyclones and high waves. The highest ground on the islands is 4 meters (12 feet) above sea level.
Do you have a view on how the world in general should be handling
The Global increase in population and the increase in migration between regions on earth – due to Global Warming making living regions useless to live in due to the climate change?
In the BBC documentary How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth? Sir
David Attenborough commented: “humanity needs to reduce its impact on planet Earth urgently. And there are three ways to achieve this. We can stop consuming so many resources and we can change our technology. We can also reduce the growth of our population. We probably need to do all three.”
I think that says it all, the question is how to make governments recognise this and act accordingly.
SPA is lobbying the Australian Government to redirect more funds to family
planning and contraception in its foreign aid budget. We believe there is nothing more crucial than directly intervening to provide this particular form of assistance to the millions of women in developing nations who seek it.
While we agree with aid organisations giving priority to the education of women and girls, we keep working to get these groups to understand that this method will take a generation to bring about the necessary changes, whereas contraception and family planning almost immediately empower women.
Environmental refugees are not recognised in the Refugee Convention, and the UN should be looking at this. Without that recognition, no signatory countries would have any obligation to take in environmental refugees.
Do you see any light in the tunnel?
What hope do you see for the world? What can globally be done to increase the possibility of living in better harmony with nature?
SPA members are very pessimistic about what the future holds. We see a
Malthusian future ahead of us given that so many indicators of collapse are coming together at the same time such as population increase, climate change, peak oil (and other resources) and economic instability and with no forward planning by governments.
US environmentalist Ernest Callenbach’s four laws of ecology state: “All things are interconnected. Everything goes somewhere. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Nature bats last.”
Nature will assert itself, we will be given little say, and it will not be kind.
Tellus Think Tank thanks Sandra Kanck for helping us understand
the challenges of Australia and how they are interconnected with the challenges of the Pacific Nations and the rest of the world. Tellus Think Tank, being for a sustainable future, is hoping solutions will be found that will help handle the growing population on Earth. Do you have any ideas or sustainable happenings that you would like to share, send us a message!
Next article: We meet a Swedish animal breeder and farmer – with 50 years experience of building an “eco-dynamic” practise. Click here to be notified…
Autonomous cars. You might be wondering why Tellus Think Tank, wannabe world saver, is caring so much about the future of vehicles? Currently cars pollute our air, cause huge carbon dioxide emittances, are loud and limiting to lively outdoor urban communities. The Tellus Think Tank team looks towards the future of vehicles to find a better more people friendly way of conducting our daily traffic. We are visiting Gothenburg – a city soon equipped with 100 self driving autonomous cars! Text: Domi, Tellus Think Tank. Photo: AnnVixen
Self driving autonomous cars may seem weird or scary to some and inspiring and exciting to others.
Imagine some of these scenarios of what could be possible for the future of transportation – when only self driving autonomous cars are in traffic:
It’s 08.00 and you are getting ready to leave home to go to work. You ask your mobile wrist phone to send a car, tell it how many people will be travelling and where you are going…you are going to work, on your own and want the fast, cheaper and comfortable commuter train to take you the largest part of the way. The central traffic system sends you a message that an autonomous taxi for one person will arrive at your doorstep within 2 minutes to take you to the commuter station. This is exactly what happens. You arrive at the station with two minutes margin and easily catch the quiet commuter train to the city and arrive at work on time.The cost of travelling is deducted from your account. When you left the car at the station drop-off zone the central traffic system sent the car directly to a new assignment. There are no visible parking spaces around the commuter station but you feel at ease with that as you will have an autonomous taxi pick you and your spouse up at the commuter station on your way home.
Your 12 year old twins and four neighbourhood children have football practice this
evening and at their request an autonomous electrical minibus picks them up to take them to the field together.
You and your family of 5 are visiting your parents, about 1.5 hour drive from your home. The autonomous taxi gets you there safely, cleaner and faster to your destination by joining a car convoy on the autonomous-only highway. You and your family are using the travel time to engage in the game of monopoly that you brought with you for the ride.
Road signs were taken down years ago, as autonomous traffic relies on online data
from the central traffic system. There are no cars parked in the streets. Your community is discussing if the overcapacity of the local streets could be turned into a community urban farm, make room for a new sportsfield or more houses. Or would all three options be possible?
It is even cheaper to use the autonomous self driving local buses, they run silently, fast and safe. Even though it is raining you don’t mind walking 5 minutes to the indoor bus station where the buses come in with a high frequency, and you enjoy the ride down to the supermarket or to the gym down the road.
You dare send your 5 year old across the street to ask for a cup of sugar, it is safe as the autonomous cars that might be passing will be aware of your child’s presence. Before dinner your children will be biking in the street for an hour, playing with their friends.
Traffic is quiet. You stand on your toes and peek over the high fence at the back of
your garden to look out over the peak hour traffic of the motorway – hundreds of cars are passing and you didn’t hear them once – forgot they were there, did you? You normally sleep with your windows open and are woken only by the song of the birds.
I hope that these scenarios give an insight as to how important electrical and self driving cars are – and what all the fuss is about – they will shape our future way of living.
So what is being done to move society towards the traffic of the future?
Is the car industry on track to making the future happen?
The ascent of the autonomous car might be the descent of the larger car industry and the car producers are keen to be in the first line of the autonomous car development as the earliest marketed autonomous cars might be the market winners of the future.
Many of us have heard or read about the Google Car trials in fair weathered Mountain View in California. In my online research I find that Google is also performing trials both in the hotter climate of Austin in Texas and in Kirkland, a suburb to the rainy and snowy city of Seattle in Washington state – all three trial areas are found in the USA.
You might also have read that the United Kingdom is requesting that Google Cars are introduced to trials in the streets of London.
Exactly how Google is planning to commercialise their car trials is not clear yet however John Krafcik, former CEO of Hyundai and TrueCar and by some called a “car guy”, was recently recruited to the role as CEO of Google Cars.
I turn to Swedish run Volvo Cars as they are planning the largest real customer trials with 100 autonomous cars running on real streets in the urban area of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Taking the seven scenarios of self driving cars into consideration Marcus Rothoff must currently have one of the coolest jobs in the world – Autonomous Driving Program Director and head of implementation of Volvos self driving cars. He smiles and nods in agreement and humbly says it is very inspiring to be able to work in an area that might just change the way we live in the future.
According to Marcus all major car manufacturers are currently looking at the autonomous car development, to mention some: Audi, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Mercedes, BMW, Tesla, Nissan, Toyota, Renault, Ford, GM.
Online rumours say that Apple are doing something too, as they are hiring one thousand engineers in the area of autonomous cars, but nobody seems to know exactly what they are up to.
The eight scenarios above of fully autonomous traffic is still far away. How far down the autonomous track will the first cars on the market reach?
DriveMe is an autonomous car project run in cooperation between Volvo Cars, Gothenburg City, Swedish government agencies and Chalmers University of Technology
The Swedish DriveMe trial is a project built on a unique collaboration between parties that CEO of Gothenburg City, Lars-Bertil Ekman, calls academia, industry and community.
The parties are Gothenburg City, the Swedish Transport Administration (vägverket), Chalmers University of Technology, Autoliv and Volvo Cars.
Marcus Rothoff is also Götethe project manager of the DriveMe project and plans to be placing 100 self driving cars on trial on the streets of Gothenburg in 2017.
-The city of Gothenburg is participating in the DriveMe-project as we want to remove the overpowering amount of cars from the city core, says Lars-Bertil Ekman.
Lars-Bertil talks about keeping cars in the city center but adjusting parking to the pre-requisites of the autonomous self driving cars. Autonomous cars could be packed tighter than today in buildings with lower ceilings, less lighting and wouldn’t need to be located in the very centre or even above ground as humans would very seldom would be entering the parking building.
Lars-Bertil’s parking vision for the city is still far away though, especially as the DriveMe-project will initially not be running cars in self driving mode in the city but rather on the motorways.
Volvo Cars asked drivers what part of the driving they liked the least and would wish to be rid of. The almost unanimous answer was commuter driving in queues to and from work. The DriveMe-project is therefo
re focusing their first autonomous trials on motorways so that drivers can do other things when travelling.
Marcus and I engage in what happens when the human driver hands over the control to the car. Marcus says it has to be very clear who is in control and that there should be no unclarity here, either it is the driver or it is the car. The biggest risks are when handing the control back and forward it seems. Marcus gives me a morning scenario:
“You get in your Volvo and tell the navigator your destination and start the drive to work. You manoeuvre the car up on to the motorway where you ask the car to take over. It considers circumstances like weather, reported traffic incidents and checks that the road is equipped with a barrier between you and meeting traffic and then takes over. The car informs you that it would like to give the control back to you in eight minutes which gives
you a two minute margin to take over before you arrive at the motorway exit by your workplace. During these eight minutes you pick up your computer, read, send a few emails and are ready to take back the controls when the car says it is time”.
I ask what happens it the driver doesn’t take over when the car requests to hand back the control and learn that the car then goes into “safety mode”. The car manoeuvres itself to the closest safe parking space so that you can take over the controls again when it suits you.
This gives you time to finish sending your emails or your phone call. Volvos first autonomous self driving cars will be Plug-in Hybrids with an electrical range of 40 kilometers, the fuel part will be petrol fuelled. Marcus says that most people have their workplace within 40 kilometers of their home. It will also be possible to choose when to run the car on the electric drive or petrol. All Volvo Cars are built on fuel efficient 4-cylinder engines since a couple of years back and have even won prizes such as the Volvo SUV that was appointed SUV of the year in US, 2015.
The trial, where Volvo will lend 100 real customers a self driving car, will be running on real streets in the Gothenburg region from 2017. Marcus says it is important that the 100 trial drivers use the cars differently but frequently so that as much data as possible can be gathered during the trial period. Google Cars already communicate having 1 million miles of test data.
The period up until the start of the Volvo DriveMe trial will focus on developing the most
safe self driving car possible and the trial itself is considered to be a period to gather evidence that the car is really safe.
We hope to have the first self driving Volvo cars on market by 2020! Says Marcus Rothoff. And 2020 is also the year that Volvo has set as a goal for their vision of zero lethal accidents in a Volvo car which I find to be a very inspiring goal, lets hope they make it!
When introducing self driving cars on roads they will not only be self driving at times but guided by information from a central traffic system.
Developing self driving autonomous cars and central traffic systems to guide them will include disciplines like technical development, digital development, human psychology, interaction between humans and machines, artificial intelligence, community development, traffic statistics, incident- and accident statistics, safety, legal systems to mention a few.
The high complexity of multiple disciplines when introducing self driving autonomous cars and developing the traffic systems of the future is a very good reason for this not to be an area solely developed by car manufacturers, or only by men (which is often the case today).
The most challenging period is still ahead. It will be when two traffic systems (manual driving and autonomous driving) have to be run in parallel. The current traffic system is based on humans driving cars with guidance from signs etc. In parallel autonomous cars will be on the street, not needing street sign guidance, but will have to deal with them too. Double systems will mean double costs for a period. Driving might first become more expensive before it gets cheaper. Hopefully society can make a fast transition by phasing out “the old system of manually driven cars”.
The DriveMe project, as Lars-Bertil Ekman told us, is unique. There are many parties cooperating in developing a future traffic system for the Volvo self driving cars. The Swedish Transport Administration, one of the parties, is also involved in both national investigations and an international cooperation with the purpose of laying the foundation for future international traffic guidelines for autonomous self driving cars.
Another party involved in the DriveMe project is Chalmers University of Technology that runs about 20 sub projects with articulately defined deliveries, fitted in size to fit PHD students heading towards a doctor degree.
We have seen that cooperation between community, industry and academia can be very successful – check out the four Tellus Think Tank articles on Newcastle– which makes me believe that the Volvo DriveMe project will be laying some very important parts for the foundation of the traffic systems of the future!
Next week:We start an investigation on organic food, first talk will be with a passionate breeder of pigs, if your are interested in what you are eating you might find this article interesting! Click here to be notified when Tellus Think Tank’s next article is available – investigating inspiring sustainable happenings around the world!
Stockholm is the largest city in Sweden and its population is estimated to grow by 15% during the next 8 years. The City Council is, in spite of the population growth, decreasing its vehicle fleet and still planning to keep the inhabitants happy! Read more about the plan…
Stockholm city has a population of 900 000, in the 1,8 million Stockholm county. The city employs over 40 000 people to provide the service needed by Stockholmers and companies and owns 800 cars!
The current traffic situation is already strained and inhabitants of the county are daily squeezing in subways, commuter trains and car queues, the region is undergoing rapid expansion. According to the prognosis Stockholm city will be
growing by 15% in the next eight years. By 2024 the city will have another 140 000 citizens, also in need of transport, putting further strain the city traffic situation.
Stockholm politicians are aware and cooperating to make a change. The current City Hall majority, a coalition between the Social Democrats, the Green Party, the Left Party and the Feminist Initiative have ambitious plans for a more sustainable city – see last week’s article in Tellus Think Tank.
Johan Seuffert is Fleet Manager for Stockholm City and responsible for the vehicle fleet strategy of the city. Johan says that Stockholm City is positive to growth but that many new residential homes need to be added to an already dense city. He says that it will be an important task to adjust the cityscape to the growing population.
-Car traffic is becoming a question of democracy, he explains, as a car needs at least 6 square meters compared to public transport busses with 40 passengers that only need 40 square meters. Busses are very seldom parked and don’t cram city streets.
Johan Seuffert reasons in similar lines as Stockholm City Traffic commissioner Daniel Helldén, when saying that it could be considered unfair that cars are covering the cityscape at the cost of public transport, cyclists and pedestrians. Read more.
There are several reasons that the City wants to prioritise pedestrian-, cyclist- and public transport traffic:
Cars take a considerable amount of the cityscape, space that could be used to more sustainable traffic such as bicycle lanes, bicycle parking, sidewalks, bus lanes or even more residential homes.
The cost of parking spaces when building new homes are making both streets and new residential quarters more expensive.
The environmental reasons as equally important, fossil fuelled cars emit greenhouse gases and poisonous particles from fumes and tyres. They are the reason behind much of the sound pollution of the city.
Stockholm wants to increase the sustainability of the city. Johan Seuffert, what plans do you have for the 800 cars in the city vehicle fleet?
Stockholms city has several ambitious targets!
100% environmentally classed cars in the fleet
This target is not new and today 98 % of the 800 cars can be sorted under the Swedish national definition of
There are some exceptions that have had to be made, Johan tells me, and mentions some emergency vehicles as the lake ice-plough used to clear snow for skaters. It has an emergency exit in the roof!
Johan Seuffert tells me that Stockholm, in all other cases try to adjust the fleet to the national environmental definition which the city, undeniably, has succeeded well with!
Tellus Think Tank has in earlier articles written about research that led to the sorting of diesel emissions under carcinogenic substances. Read more in the article about Urban Foresight. The Swedish national environmental definition still includes diesel fuelled cars as it has not been adjusted for a couple of years. However, Stockholm city only keeps a small amount of diesel fuelled vehicles in their fleet of 800.
The Stockholm City environmentally classed car fleet is allocated like this:
Petrol fuelled 2.5%
Diesel fuelled 5.8%
Plug-in hybrids 7.3%
Electrical / fuel hybrids 9.8%
Electrical vehicles 11.2%
Ethanol fuelled 16.9%
Gas fuelled 44.2%
Johan, with his vast experience of vehicle procurement, says:
-There is a good supply of electrical vehicles up to medium size, such as a Volkswagen “Golf”.
Cars in a larger category such as electrically fuelled service vans with a longer range are not currently available. Therefore the city has had to find alternatives such as gas fuelled vans until better options are available.
One reason that the amount of electrical vehicles in the present fleet is relatively low is because the city is reducing the amount of cars and choosing to use the them for a longer period. Consequently the city is currently buying less cars which is both economically and sustainably beneficial!
Fuel targets. Stockholm has set fuel targets to encourage employees to tank with renewable fuels such as gas or ethanol. There is a bi-annual follow up on all fleet vehicles.
Increase electrical vehicles. Stockholm has set a goal to increase the portion of electrical vehicles by 2% a year.
Not accounted for in the numbers above are the electrically charged “golf club cars” that the city uses for property and park maintenance
Stockholm fossil free 2030. Stockholm city has set an overall target, in accordance with the Swedish national target, to be fossil free by 2030. Johan explains that big changes will have to be made, all vehicles of certain types with a 10 year lifespan will have to be electrical from 2020. He mentions large trucks as an example.
What else is Stockholm doing to make the fleet greener?
Reducing the vehicle fleet. The city is purchasing less new cars and encouraging employees to walk, cycle, use public transport or carpools. Thanks to the initiative the city has been able to reduce the amount of cars in the fleet with 400 vehicles since 2007.
Encouraging increased movement by foot, cycle and public transport. The City is actively encouraging employees to walk, cycle and use public transport in the line of duty.
The City is joining car-pools. Johan says that several city departments have joined a car-pool (Sunfleet). The car-pool owns the cars and civil servants and other customers handle their own reservations, pick-ups or drop-offs through a mobile App.
-The beauty in this system is that city employees use the car-pool vehicles during office hours and private individuals are the main customers at other times. It’s a perfect example of effectively used vehicles as they are seldom unused and serve several people’s needs instead of just one, says Johan.
What other car fleet improvements can we see ahead?
Stockholm City will continue the work of reaching current targets and increase the amount of car-pool usage. Johan foresees that new types of vehicles could come in use and mentions electrical bicycles or smaller electrical vehicles such as Renault Tweezy or Toyota iRoad. These two vehicles are still very new and untested by the city.
With Johan’s vast knowledge I ask him for his view: Are there are any excuses left for a private person, in order to buy a new car, not to choose an electrical car?
-The question is if one should buy a car at all? It would be better if we could all use the alternatives; public transport, car-pools, walking and cycling. If one needs to go on a road-trip then one can rent a car for the specific trip.
I think to myself that what sounds radical today might be normal in everyone’s life in a couple of years. At the end of this interview I am feeling happy as my city, Stockholm, is moving in the right sustainable direction!
Next week: We meet 20 people from around the world to hear what they are doing to save our planet! Let us notify you when the article is available, click here!
Stockholm, capital of Sweden, is often called “Queen of Lake Malaren” and considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. However, the once lively street life is being intruded upon by the growing amount of cars. To improve the situation Stockholm is turning the traffic pyramid upside down by prioritising pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Join Tellus Think Tank and meet the Stockholm City Commissioner of Traffic, Daniel Helldén! Text: Domi, Tellus Think Tank, 2016-02-25 Photo: AnnVixen
I grew up in Stockholm and love this city for several reasons! It’s not only a beautiful city, close to nature, but it’s the place where I went swimming during the summer, my parents taught me to bicycle and I spent most of my work life. Now I am watching my own children grow up here.
The city has changed a lot since my friends and I played in the calm streets of our neighborhood, with no cars present. We played tag, jumped with skipping-ropes, played land hockey and climbed trees!
The children of today have little room left to play as the streets are full to the brim with parked cars and aren’t safe with bypassing traffic. Consequently, children play more indoors and often with their computers, a situation shared by children in urban societies all over the globe.
A while back Tellus Think Tank met David Beeton, founder of Urban Foresight. The British company helps cities plan for a more sustainable future traffic situation. After this meeting we wondered about what was being done to improve traffic in our own hometown, Stockholm.
This week Tellus Think Tank meets with Daniel Helldén, the current City Commissioner of Traffic in Stockholm and elected as a representative of the Green party of Sweden.
Next week: We meet Stockholm City Fleet Manager, Johan Seuffert, would you like us to notify you when the article is available, click here.
City of Stockholm – Queen of Lake Malaren
Stockholm was founded on the Island of Gamla Stan over 700 years ago. The island is one of many in a cluster of islands in the eastern part of lake Malaren. The region has since grown and the city is now spread over several islands and onto the mainlands north and south of the lake.
The region has a population of 1.8 million people. Daniel Helldén represents the most central part of the city with 900 000 inhabitants. Stockholm is growing rapidly and estimates show that the central parts will be expanded with another 140 000 inhabitants during the next eight years.
The traffic situation of Stockholm is challenging, a situation shared with many other cities. Cars often
dominate the cityscape and the character of the city. At times cars and buses stand still in the daily traffic queues. Peak hour traffic is expanding over a longer period as more people drive their car to work and try to avoid the queues by leaving earlier or later. On Friday afternoons weekend traffic starts as early as 13.00 PM.
Daniel Helldén, City Commissioner of Traffic, is responsible for all roads, pavements and bicycle paths in the city. The regional council, another organisation, is responsible for the public transport vehicles.
Daniel Helldén, thank you for meeting Tellus Think Tank and our readers! You have been Stockholms City Commissioner of Traffic since the elections in the autumn of 2014. What were your initial ambitions for improving sustainability of the traffic situation in Stockholm?
My ambition was and still is to improve the sustainability of Stockholm which demands many changes in the infrastructure of the city, so that traffic by foot, bicycle or public transport is prioritized instead of car traffic. There is a common understanding about this that is shared by all parties in Stockholm. I would really like to make a difference in this area, which will include decreasing traffic by car and contributing to the Swedish national climate targets.
What are the biggest challenges in the Stockholm traffic situation, from a sustainability perspective?
The amount of cars is a large problem, from two main perspectives:
Cars emit both poisonous particles and greenhouse gases.
The amount of cars in the city corks traffic, extends commuting time and also claims a lot of living space that could have been used better.
The amount of cars in Stockholm today makes the city unavailable, not just for drivers but also for bicyclists and people on buses. The space that cars claim when driving and parking could be used for bicycle paths, bus lanes to enhance the speed of commuter traffic and for cleaner pedestrian paths.
We would like to improve the living space of the city so that traffic flows better, people can spend time outside and walk or take their bicycle to work.
What progress has been made during your first year as City Commissioner of traffic?
Daniel Helldén looks a bit surprised and I realise that my question comes early in the change process,
what changes can be achieved in just a year? Daniel has some early improvements to share, either implemented or in the planning stage. Daniel talks about a general understanding between all political parties in Stockholm, however other people say that “the Greens” are very driving in matters of improving the sustainability of the city.
New boat line. Today, says Daniel proudly, is the opening of our new commuter boat line that runs between two of Stockholm’s central islands. Now pedestrians and bicyclists need not walk miles around the waters of the central city but can instead use the city’s new boat line! The boat line is the result of cooperation between the County Council and Stockholm City.
Bicycle path infrastructure expansion. Stockholm city is focusing investments worth 100 million
Euros on expanding the bicycle path infrastructure and making it safer. Several roads and parking places are being removed from the city because of bicycle path expansions – Daniel mentions streets such as Norrmälarstrand, Skanstullsbron and other areas under planning.
Increasing the speed of public buses. Because of the amount of traffic and cars parked in the streets the average speed of public buses is currently only 11 km/h! Several steps have been made to increase their speed such as more bus lanes and changing intersection traffic signs and directions so that cars don’t slow down the bus traffic. Some roads have been closed to private cars all together.
Increasing pedestrian areas. During the summer of 2015 experiments were made to try and increase the street life in the city and two streets were closed off to traffic, Swedenborgsgatan and Skånegatan. The purpose was to increase livability and street life of the areas involved and create more sustainable spaces for city dwellers.
We find the developments that Daniel has spoken of so far are inspiring and interesting and see how they could help lift the quality of living in Stockholm.
What will Stockholm do to improve sustainability of the traffic situation further?
Continued investigations. Several ongoing investigation will lead to a more sustainable traffic situation for the inhabitants in the expanding city and will help Stockholm move towards improved public transport, pedestrian- and bicycle traffic.
Increasing the possibility of street life in the city during the summer of 2016. Being wiser from the experiments during the summer of 2015 Stockholm will close even more streets to traffic during the summer of 2016. Daniel mentions areas that might be affected: Swedenborgsgatan, side streets to Biblioteksgatan, Humlegårdsgatan, Rörstrandsgatan and Skånegatan might be on the list again.
Parking strategy. Another thing that Daniel believes will improve sustainability is the city parking
strategy being developed. He hopes the formal decisions will be made during the summer of 2016. The strategy will most probably suggest implementing parking fees in the more central suburbs of Stockholm.
Why are parking fees needed in the suburbs?
-Implementing parking fees will, for one thing, help increase the flow of traffic in the city but there are several positive effects expected, he expands his reasoning:
The current urbanisation process is making Stockholm grow rapidly and the building of new dwellings such as apartment houses needs to continue to house the expanding population. By decreasing the amount of parking in conjunction with new estates costs of building can be lowered and the space can be used for bicycle garages, car pools or even more residential homes.
However, when new estates are built without parking lots the risk is that cars are parked on the streets instead. This leads to a slower traffic pace and less space for pedestrians, bicyclists and public transport. Introducing a fee on street parking promotes use of public transport and bicycles.
It seems like there are many good initiatives going on to improve the sustainability of the Stockholm traffic. Daniel, which three initiatives would you prioritise during this term, 2014- 2018?
We would really like to see big improvements on the bicycle path infrastructure and see broader
bicycle paths be implemented on streets with many bicyclists. We want Stockholms bicycle infrastructure to feel safe, all year around and have a plan to make it happen!
We’d like to see Stockholm street life and cityscape become more lively during the summers as an effect of closing of car traffic in certain areas and implementing a pedestrian plan for the city.
We want to increase the average speed of public buses from 12 to 20 km/h. It doesn’t sound much but is an ambitious project. I would like Stockholmers to trust that public transport will get them to their destination on time.
Tellus Think Tank thanks Daniel Helldén for an inspiring meeting. We hope that Stockholm is able to continue on the path towards more sustainable traffic situation that makes a more lively cityscape possible. The Stockholm approach to the traffic pyramid might change the city in ways we would never have thought off!
Next week: We meet a civil servant of Stockholm, in charge of the city car fleet! What is done to increase the sustainability of the car fleet without having to decrease citizen service – would you like us to notify you when the article is available, click here.
Last week we had the pleasure of investigating living in homes on wheels, this week we further investigate alternative ways of living in Skattungbyn, Sweden. Maybe you will find something in Skattungbyn that might inspire a change in your own life? Text: Domi. Photo: Agata Mazgaj, AnnVixen, Daniel Zetterström. Tellus Think Tank 2016-02-17.
The village of Skattungbyn has about 350 inhabitants and maybe half of them have at one time taken a course at
Mora Folk School. After having finished the course, some remain in the village and keep exploring alternative ways of living.
What fascinates me most is not the beautiful landscape, the fresh air and the harmonious atmosphere of the village but the insight that it is possible to live quite differently to what I am used to from my suburb life in Stockholm. f
A person in Skattungbyn can live for less than 200 Euros a month, including rent, food and phone costs – further ahead in this article. In most parts of Sweden the normal monthly rent for a one roomed apartment would be between 300-700 Euros, food costs of about 150 Euros per person to be added. City life is much more expensive!
Several people in Skattungbyn have chosen not to work full time or have more radically decreased the amount of hours they work a week. In most other parts of Sweden adults work full time, regardless of marital status. Generally we talk about the treadmill of the 24 hour day divided into: 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep and 8 hours for organising one’s life so one can keep on working – i.e. picking kids up from school, commuting to and from work, cleaning, washing and shopping.
How can the differences be so big between a group of people in the village of Skattungbyn and the rest of the western world?
The answer is that there are several things that contribute to the possibility of living inexpensively in Skattungbyn:
Good prerequisites to grow or buy inexpensive food and other things that might be needed in special types of local shops – read more below
Markus arrives at Skattungbyn
Markus Skoog, 34 years old, left the rush of the city for an alternative life in Skattungbyn.
He grew up in a suburb of Stockholm and soon understood that his high school teacher’s diploma would never enable him to buy his own apartment in the Stockholm area. He changed course and started off as a carpenter’s apprentice and was soon making more money but the life he led, building small exclusive apartments in the city, didn’t give him the satisfaction he was looking for. Markus searched for ways of living closer to nature and shortly after was accepted to the Mora Folk School.
Mora Folk School
The course at Mora Folk School followed the farming year and started in January, continuing throughout the season. Sessions were held in growing and preserving food, how to eat more nutritiously and lessons in different crafts such as weaving and making homespun clothes. The pedagogical narrative of the school is sustainability and global human rights.
-During the course, my fellow students and I came to understand just how much work lays behind just one t-shirt sold by the retail industry, says Markus.
Markus initially moved into the dorms of the school dorms but soon he and a couple of other fellow students decided to build their own homes on wheels, according to the Skattungbyn-way.
The most important lessons for Markus where on how to grow food and living in collectives can not be done successfully with just anyone. One needs to be selective when choosing with whom to live.
What kind of people have chosen to investigate alternative ways of living in Skattungbyn?
Skattungbyn villagers that investigate alternative ways of living have often attended the Mora Folk School. Markus first calls them “hippies”, “greens” or “alternatives” but in the next breath he says people are difficult to group.
Persons that after school succeed in finding a job in the area often stay. They start off living in the dorms at the school and some move into Tiny Homes on wheels, others buy their own land. After a couple of years most look for a somewhat more spacious way of living and often keep a strong alternative focus in their lives.
We make a short stop at the home of Anna Berggren that came into possession of an old farm high up on the south slopes of Skattungbyn. She has an amazing view over the nature of
Orsa Finnmark and herds her sheep on the mountain. Anna recently built out the old farm with an orangery that gives her lemons in the midst of winter!
Markus tells me about the 86 year old woman who down-sized as she got older and moved into a home on wheels to avoid an old peoples home.
-She was the most hard-core person of all Tiny Home dwellers, says Markus Skoog. He was very impressed by
her. She only had about 7 m² which gave her space for a bed, a small cabinet and a wood stove. She lived there without electricity and running water and loved it!
Markus has his home on wheels on a plot of land that belongs to FrejaLina. FrejaLina recently bought the estate of Flurlundar farm and started a collective on the property. Today there are five persons living in the mother house of the estate and another four residents that live in their own homes on wheels. Some of them have access to electricity and fresh water, and some of them live totally “off grid”.
Life at Flurlundar farm reminds me of my university dorm where we also had a very positive fellowship community going on with film evenings etcetera. There are several differences here such as, members of the collective are involved in their community farm and also take turns in cooking vegetarian dinners for each other.
There are no children in the collective, yet. One person owns the dog, Birk, that is one of the most cherished dogs I have ever seen – he has a lot of different people to take him for a walk!
Dumpster diving for food
Most of the people who have chosen an alternative lifestyle in Skattungbyn eat vegetarian and buy or grow their own food. Markus tells me that there are some that dumpster dive for their food, meaning that they “dive” into dumpsters behind food stores for food that has past its best date. Markus avoids dumpster diving as some locals find it annoying. He was once invited to a friend for a really lovely salmon ceviche dinner, and learnt that the salmon had been found in a dumpster!
Are the alternative of Skattungbyn idlers?
Skattungbyn is becoming known to be “hippie” and is famous in the Swedish alternative circle but the village also has a lot of inhabitants that do not count themselves as “alternative”. Markus says that there are some prejudiced ideas circling about the alternatives, such as that they probably idle and live on welfare. He strongly opposes this.
Markus says that it is possible to live very inexpensively in Skattungbyn, if one wants to, and that neither a full time job or welfare is needed to survive. A friend lived during a longer period for under 50 Euros a month. How could he do that? He took care of people’s houses when they were abroad, dumpster dived for food, worked for food doing things like chopping wood. One job gave him a couple of Euros that he put used for his mobile phone subscription.
-It is difficult for some to understand that such inexpensive living is possible, says Markus, which might lead some to believe that welfare is in the picture, which it is mostly not.
Some people he knows work a couple of hours a month in the Folk School and live for under 200 Euros a month. Markus lived with costs less than 180 Euros a month, during a period. Costs included rent for his Tiny Home on wheels, electricity, water, mobile subscription and food.
-Vegetarian drygoods are pretty cheap, Markus explains with a smile!
Today Markus works fulltime at a refugee camp in the neighboring village of Orsa and estimates that his monthly living costs have increased to 500 Euros as he needed a car for work. Some of his friends also work at the refugee camp and others work at the local hospital or in youth care.
There are several “shops” in Skattungbyn and none of them can be considered normal but they all help the inhabitants to live more inexpensively!
Skattunge Handel was once the only food store of the village but was deemed unprofitable and about to be closed. To avoid having to drive 15 miles for food or gas the villagers took over shop and founded a cooperative association. Today the shop holds the same assortment as a small food store. It has employees to run it but much of the administration is done by the co-op members.
Slåttergubben is the second food store in the village. It is also co-owned by some of the villagers but classed as a procurement association. The shop buys large sacks of locally grown food or European organic food. Customers bring their own packages to fill.
The shop is very much cheaper than a normal store. It is only open between 13 pm and 15 pm on Saturdays so that it doesn’t compete with Skattunge Handel. The village is too small for competition but big enough for cooperation it seems!
Hansen’s House is run by the Swedish study association for study circles and theatre groups. On Saturday afternoons Hansen’s House becomes a meeting places for the alternatives of Skattungbyn they then hold a “folk kitchen”, serving vegetarian meals to anyone that might be interested. The kitchen is financed by donations from both guests and donors.
The Free Shop – this might technically not be a shop but rather a place where villagers can bring unneeded clothes, books or utility articles and also help themselves to anything that they find. Markus Skoog tells me that the Free shop isn’t owned by anyone and doesn’t have a formal administration but is run by anyone who is interested. We meet Malin who
currently has chosen to organise the Free shop, it looks absolutely lovely and pittoresque!
Interestingly enough, all of the shops in the village are non-profit making and run either by a cooperative or by driving spirits helping other villagers to a more inexpensive life!
Some people in Skattungbyn do their Saturday shopping tour by first visiting the two food shops and then passing the Free shop to either pick up or leave stuff off and then continue to Hansen’s House for a meal. The latest news is the recently opened tool library where villagers can borrow good quality tools.
-Because “life must be able to be better than this”, he smiles!
He wanted to document his own learnings of alternative living and share it with others that might be interested!
What about the farming?
At Flurlundar farm the collective recently laid the foundation for a 2000 m2 farming plot. The soil isn’t as good as it could be yet and the collective is planning for an all organic farm. It might take up to 8 years before the yields hit their highs and make the collective self sufficient in beans, peas, red
cabbage, kale, artichokes, onions, squash, pumpkins and potatoes. They also built a greenhouse, “The Dome”, to be able to grow their own chili, basil, cucumber and tomato.
A second greenhouse will soon provide the collective by providing the possibilities of biannual crop rotation to avoid pests. Most of what they know about growing food was learnt from their very appreciated teacher Patrik Ytterholm at Mora Folk school.
Will Markus always live like this?
Markus is happy in his Tiny Home on wheels but is planning to buy his own plot of land and build a real house on it. He also has plans to allow others to move onto his property to
gain a passive income from rent. He doesn’t mind working but wants to do things that matter to him such as giving a course this summer on how to build you own Tiny Home on wheels!
The visit to Skattungbyn has been an eye-opener showing that life can be more free and not so structured as life often is in urban areas. There are of course pro’s and con’s with every lifestyle but Tellus Think Tank is happy to understand this alternative!
Next week we investigate the development of Stockholm as a green and environmentally friendly city from a traffic perspective, would you like to be notified when it is available, click here!
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