Text by Hanna Leghammar
Almedalen is a huge, annual political event in Sweden, on the island of Gotland. Thousands of Swedish politicians, lobbyists, companies and activists join on that island to have conversations for a whole week. We went there, too!
Fossil Free and PUSH Sweden decided to jointly take on politicians and the public at this year’s Almedalen. We organised creative activities and flashmobs, two seminars and a climate march through the streets of Visby. Along the way we became a strong team, excited to keep working together in the future! Together we brought the vision of a fossil free future to the tens of thousands of Swedes that had gathered on the island for an intense Almedalen week.
We repeated the success from last year’s event: We dressed up as waiters and served coal and oil on silver plates. With a playful twist, we also had waiters dressed up as renewable waiters this year; serving wind, water and sun. We wanted to catch the interest of the person passing by – and we did!
“Can I offer you some coal and oil? Some fossil fuel investments? The fossil fuel industry always offers large profits!” we cried out among the people we met. Offering them our silver tray, with oil in champagne glasses, a pile of coal and bills covered in oil.
“Or perhaps renewables? They are the future!” shouted the renewable waiters in response, leaning past the fossil fuel waiter with a tray of water glasses, moss and miniature home-made wind turbines.
This way, we got many opportunities to explain in more detail and there will be a conversation about the billions in state, city and private capital being invested in fossil fuel industry. Money that is simply soaked in oil, offering us no future. We were also instagrammed and tweeted about – be sure to check out our hashtag #divestera – Swedish for divest!
We also spread banknotes covered in “oil” all over Visby – we got up at 4 am in the morning to spread our flyers all over the place…
There were many ideas for a divestment flashmob in Almedalen – we spoke of running a race, having a water war between renewables and fossil fuels, and for some reason my favorite was the mud wrestling idea… What we ended up with, though: West Side Story!
The image of a song and dance battle between the fossil fuelled and fossil free future took shape. The result was so good that we did a double flashmob and felt like doing it several more times 🙂 If you don’t believe me, there is a flashmob video coming up soon..!
Being a campaigner, Almedalen is an intense and special week of the year. Apart from creative campaigning, we organised two successful seminars.
“Vadå divestera?”, “What do you mean divest?”
Jens Hylander and Olivia Linander from Fossil Free Sweden kicked of the seminar with a talk about the divestment movement – how it all began as a student-led single campaign at Swarthmore college in the US and today: a global movement, with hundreds of campaigns all over the world. Then followed a discussion with the campaigners Caroline Westblom (Fossil Free LU) and Fanny Sannerud (Fossil Free UU) about setbacks, successes, milestones, and the Swedish word for divest that we have made up ourselves: “divestera”.
Fanny and Caroline spoke about the work of Lund and Uppsala University. How it started, the university management’s responses, the students’ involvement, the encouraging spirit of university staff and the exchange happening between campaign groups.
“This changes everything”
This seminar filled our venue, a terasse, to the brim. What had brought people there was mainly the exclusive interview screening of Naomi Klein, but there was also a brilliant panel; Yonna Waltersson, Olivia Linander and Johan Rockström guided by moderator Beatrice Rindevall.
What followed from this was a long conversation about the Swedish climate politics and climate movement, as well as expectations and needs ahead of the climate talks COP21 in Paris in December.
Both seminars were filmed and will be published on our website this summer (excluding the exclusive Klein interview).
Climate march through Visby
Finally the highlight of the week: A joint march on Arctic oil drilling, coal mining in Germany, limestone mining in Ojnareskogen (forest at Gotland), divestment and climate issues in general. The joint message was:
Over 300 people from 16 organisations joined forces on Visby’s streets during Thursday evening: we sang, danced, chanted in chorus and spoke to the crowd while we passed like a long colorful snake through the narrow alleys. There’s something special about joining with others who care and who are fighting for the future. Even if it is just for an hour long march, it becomes clear that we are many and strong although we sometimes feel alone.
We found a bunch of new favourite slogans after a while: “I like the oil – but only on my salad” and although we had soon had enough of the hot sun, we joined together in singing the Swedish artist Ted Gärdestad’s popular hit translated to English; “Sun, wind and water are the best things in the world”.
You’ll find many more great images of the colourful march at the bottom of this blog post and even more on Miljöaktuellt’s website. There’s also this lovely short video made by the Greenpeace team:
An amazing week
It may sound as though the only thing we ever did all week was campaign…
However, Almedalen fills another beautiful purpose: when so many committed young people gather, the best we can do is to spend time together, and build relationships. So we did: we socialized, got to know one another, talk, laugh, swim, dance, have picnic in the grass during political speeches, sharing our energy!
When thinking of this week, my body twinkle of happiness and the common change-making with friends. As I sat on the ferry heading for the mainland a sadness hit me: the week is over, then I came to think of that this is only just the beginning of it all. Cause it’s when we get out there and do things together – having loads of fun along the way – that all the hard work from the rest of the year pays off.
Every successful chat with an Almedalen visitor, seeing the change glance in their eyes’ and sharing this with other change-makers: it feels like I’ve hit the Jackpot!
Hoppas vi ses i Almedalen nästa år!