Strandengen 1, 8305 Samsø
Solutions when I dare to shape ecology on my lips
“Organic Samsø is an absolutely incredible composition, which can mobilize a rather unusual force of action”
By Målene Lundén, Foto: cover of the book NOTAT
Ecological Samsø invites you to a debate meeting about ownership of the land.
Come and discuss the possibilities for creating alternative forms of ownership in agriculture with a strong panel at the Energy Academy.
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The book has caused great debate in France, the authors made it to the front pages in the French newspapers, e.g. Le Monde and Libération, and it was in the top 10 on bestseller lists when it was published in France at the beginning of 2022. Under what conditions can ecology, rather than simply constituting a series of movements among others, organize the politics around it? Can it aspire to define the political horizon in the same way as it was previously done by liberalism, then socialism, neoliberalism, and finally, more recently, the illiberal or neofascist parties whose influence still seems to be growing? Can ecology learn from social history about how new political movements emerge and how the battle for ideas can be won long before progress can be manifested in parties and electoral actions? In this short text, consisting of 76 discussion points, the world-renowned French thinker, Bruno Latour and the Danish sociologist, Nikolaj Schultz, argue that if the ecological movement is to achieve ideological coherence and autonomy, it must offer a political narrative that acknowledges, embraces and effectively represents its project in relation to social conflicts. Political ecology therefore must accept that it also entails division. It must provide a convincing mapping of the conflicts it generates, and on the basis of this, it must define a common horizon for collective action.
I initially spent a lot of time talking to citizens’ associations and rural residents’ associations to hear how they could play a part in the project. Instead of just going straight to the action, where you come as a consultant and say: “Look, now we have to redo the whole Samsø,” explains Søren Hermansen.
By instead listening, talking about challenges, and letting people define what a self-sufficient energy island would mean for them, a community was created around the development, which was absolutely crucial for success.
“We are actually able to mobilize a force of action that is quite unusual,” emphasizes Søren Hermansen.
“Outwardly, we call the Energy Academy an energy meeting house. We want to gather people who can use the experience we have gained at Samsø,” says Søren Hermansen.
Community in a small community
“Dav Jørgen”, says Søren Hermansen out of a rolled-down car window. He is on his way down to Stavns Fjord, which wedges into Samsø’s northeast coast. Today, Jørgen walks his black labrador here. Søren Hermansen knows the island and the people. How the dialect differs in North Samsø. How the identity is on the west coast. How tourism affects cities. But despite differences, the residents are united by the spot on the map where they live.
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“After all, we are conditioned by a geographical commonality, which is an island with water all around. It defines quite clearly when you are inside and when you are outside – if you go outside, you get wet toes,” muses Søren Hermansen, who has written about communities and communities in the book Commonity from 2011.
If the population – on Samsø and elsewhere – can stand together in communities, then development can move forward. Sustainable development, or anything else on the agenda.
“You can build up a collective idea around an external threat that you have no control over, such as e.g. rising oil prices. The community on Samsø must then respond to the problem, where we look at the same question or problem in different ways. The businesswoman, the farmer and the idealist can create a solution together, it could be an energy transition where the parties can see opportunities separately,” explains Søren Hermansen and adds:
“It is easier to achieve a commonity in a small community because here we meet at crossroads. You don’t do that in urban communities, which make the bureaucracy common – and that means the population doesn’t feel ownership over the decisions. At Samsø, the energy transition is the result of both physical and mental ownership.”
Evening “The significance of the place is far more important than anything else. If you don’t have a relationship with your place, you also have no responsibility for what happens to that place,” says Søren Hermansen.
“The significance of the place is far more important than anything else. If you don’t have a relationship with your place, you also have no responsibility for what happens to that place,” says Søren Hermansen.
And precisely the common thinking can be an inspiration to other municipalities, governments, or companies that may currently have challenges in getting popular support for a project.
If you don’t live on an island, you have to create an island.
“Now I’m going to sound a bit like a schoolmaster, but if you can make an inclusive we, i.e. say we about a process, then you actually have a delimitation of your scope,” says Søren Hermansen and continues:
“When you look at the UN’s global goals and the colorful rosette, which many wear with pride on their lapels, I sometimes feel like this: Maybe we should take them off and melt them down into picks and shovels because we need concrete tools for change and not just airy notions of how the world will get better.”
Søren Hermansen certainly does not think the world goals are bad, but the challenge is to translate them into manageable sizes that we can deal with and do something about. By pressing we.
Søren “Samsø represents a story, a culture and a story about a good life that I can tell anywhere in the world, and then it makes sense,” says Søren Hermansen.
And now what? Samsø has been self-sufficient in energy since 2007. The ferry to Hou in Jutland, Prinsesse Isabella, is a hybrid ferry from 2013. Solar cells and small, private wind turbines are sprinkled over the island. Is Samsø on target? The answer is of course no. Samsø’s current objective is to phase out fossil fuels by 2030, and here the biggest challenge is transport – on land and by sea.
In the first 10-year plan, Samsø compensated for the CO2 emissions from transport by setting up 10 large offshore wind turbines, and on paper the turbines make the island CO2 negative because they produce more energy than they consume – and thus export to the mainland. But offshore wind turbines will not make more electric cars on the roads or the old ferry to Zealand to become greener.
“The big challenge in our plan to become fossil-free in 2030 is about transport, especially our old ferry to Zealand, which runs on diesel, is a really big problem. We would like to replace it with an electric ferry. And then we must have more electric cars on the roads. All in all, it speaks to the fact that the main energy supply of the future will be electricity,” says Søren Hermansen, who definitely believes that the fossil-free plan is realistic.
At the Energy Academy, they are currently obtaining offers from providers of charging stations so that the infrastructure can be put in place.
“It must be possible to run on clean electricity on Samsø,” says Søren Hermansen.
The community on Samsø continues to work.