The journey reaches its destination at last, after treading through several green nation states and understanding countless green technology. Back to where it all began, maybe we should ask ourselves, what is ‘waste’ after all?
Sweden, a nation state at the forefront of environmental protection, has set its target to become a fossil-fuel-free nation by 2050. Malmö, the nation’s third largest city, is transformed from an industrial-based city to one that combines green consciousness with technology, made possible by the implementation of a green strategy. Stockholm, the nation’s capital, is the first European Green Capital. These outstanding achievements are not so much engineered by green organizations or business, but each and every one in the nation.
Since its inception in 1967, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has been debating, researching and exploring for a few decades and the nation has developed a comprehensive policy on waste management. Today, only not more than 1% of domestic waste of the whole nation ends up in landfill. The remarkable achievement of the Swedes is the result of strict implementation of guidelines on waste hierarchy. Yet, the environmental protection sector thinks that there is room for improvement still. Göran, who works in an incineration company, opines that although Sweden’s waste-to-energy performance is first-class, his vision for the nation is that there will not be any waste for incineration.
Environmental protection, as an industry, is not a novelty. However, is it always profit which drives the sustainable operation of the green sector? Maybe Kim, the person-in-charge of a material recycling organization, can give us another answer. He firmly believes that the practice of putting ecology as an important factor in business is an education in itself. It enables the next generation to understand that one cannot take more than one can give. We always think that sustainability and economic development is mutually exclusive. Through the implementation of different measures, from using bees as ecological indicators to the soon-to-be-completed nature path, Airport Director Peter Weinhandl and Environmental Manager Maria Bengtsson of Malmö Airport try to resolve the contradictory nature of ecology and economics. They are very proud of their work.
Tracing the green footsteps of Sweden for the past 50 years, it is not difficult to discover that sustainability is not purely an ecological issue. It is also a way of life rooted in culture. If it is the people of Sweden who made the Green Nation possible, it is indeed their conception of conservation, nature and life itself in the more minute sense.
The story of a sunken ship in Northern Europe has a strange resonance with the oriental sensibility of ‘everything is useful, however useless it might seem’. With a failed maiden voyage, Vasa has been hidden deep in the sea for three hundred years. Yet, she is given a new life through its failed history. On the Midsummer’s Day, after saying goodbye to the flora and fauna, we cross the forest which belongs to everyone. Allmansrätten – the right to enjoy nature – is written in the Swedish constitution. It enables every civilian to access even private forest, to ski, walk, fish and pick fruits, and to enjoy nature. Chatting with a young Swede. What effect does the green education has on the new generation of Swedes? How does it affect their perception of the future and imagination?
Everything has its own course. We are all passer-bys of time and space. Waste, from being useless to become useful, undergoes a never-ending cycle of journey. In this sense, what can we take with us and leave behind during our own course of life? In the final destination, we visit a small island near Gothenburg and meet a biologist. Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak is the founder of Promessa who promotes the self-researched Eco-burial actively. With advanced freeze-drying technology, coffin with human remains would be turned into powder, which is transformed into harmless nutrients for the soil. It is ‘dust to dust’ truly indeed. Though this ideal is yet to be realized, the scientist believes that this is the most sincere remuneration human beings can give to mother nature as its steward, complying with its course.
Journeys start from the here and now. Stones of other mountains might seem far away. Yet, be it the cosmic world or our own insignificant conception, any new journey begins with the transformation of the mind in order to become one with nature. May we walk on for this city and this world?