Jeff’s travels in Sweden and Denmark

Earlier this month Jeff Griggs returned from visiting Denmark and Sweden. Here are his reflections on his time there.

Both are amazing countries that look after their people. Most are bi-lingual especially the young people. Very old histories makes New Zealand seem very young. They both have high tax rates that pay for a lot of social services. Nobody I met resented this. Both countries are dealing with immigration which is challenging given their social history and openness.

People are very friendly and open. It seems like everybody has summer houses much like the Kiwi bach. The summer is so short that when the weather is fine everybody is out in the sun. Getting sun burnt doesn’t seem to bother them. Summer has long days -light at 4:30 in the morning and still light at 10:00 in the evening. Winters are just the opposite with very short daylight hours.

Both countries excel in the food they grow, which is surprising given the short growing season and marginal conditions. Makes one think of how much New Zealand could do given our ideal growing climate, soils and water availability. windmillsRenewable energy (solar and wind) has had major investment and wind mills and solar panels are everywhere.

There are lots of home gardens but not so many farmer’s markets. I visited a few organic bio-dynamic farms staffed by young people (the equivalent of woofers). When winter hits they all head to warmer climates. There are good distribution systems linking organic growers in Scandinavia to the public.

Recycling is very big around domestic and agricultural waste (e.g. all thatch left after wheat harvest is bailed and stored to burn for water heating). Animal waste is recycled back to the fields in a precise fashion. The European Union has regulated how much fertiliser  farmers are permitted to use based on soil type, crops grown and harvested etc. This has all come about due to the Baltic Sea becoming eutrophic due to agricultural runoff.
Bikes rule and are given priority over cars in cities and rural areas where separate bike paths have been built adjacent to highways.
bikes-rule
New Zealand has a lot to learn from these countries in relation to renewable energy, recycling – especially agricultural and wood waste, bike infrastructure, and looking after each other.
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