In 2011 I ATTENDED A CONFERENCE CALLED “CREATING SUCCESSFUL AND SUSTAINABLE SOCIETIES” IN THE UNIVERSITY OF GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN. IN THIS CONFERENCE I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO LISTEN TO SØREN HERMANSEN, THE PIONEER ON THE PROJECT IN THE ISLAND OF SAMSØ. THE PROJECT HAS BEEN AWARDED WITH THE GÖTEBORG AWARD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
In 1997, a project to turn the small island of Samsø into a sustainable society started in Denmark. The island has a population of 4000 people and is known for its dairy and pig farms. The island used nonrenewable sources of energy that were mainly coal and oil. However, in 1997 an initative to change the energy sources for windmills came to the island and Søren Hermansen, a teacher of environmental studies and energy expert that is also a native of the island decided to contribute and lead the project.
The work was not easy at the beginning. It needed a lof of efforts from the engineers and visionaries to change the mentality of inhabitants by showing them the opportunities and benefits from the change. By 2001 fossil-fuel use had been cut in half and by 2005, the island was producing from renewable sources more energy than it was using. Today, the total carbon emissions of the island are actually negative compared to the world’s average and the inhabitants have received incomes from the energy business and self confidence by being united into the project.
Today, this story shows us that sustainable societies are possible and achievable in a short time period. Samsø island is an inspiration for sustainable development and represents a project that is built upon trust and collaboration between neighbours. Today, articles on The New Yorker, TIME magazine, CNN and others have reported this case and the people from the island are really proud of their accomplishment.
Søren ended the conference by saying “Think locally, act locally”, and then I ask you what can you do to make the change in your local community? How could this be implemented in British Columbia?