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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Montly Donation January

This month is not so much a donation but a compensation. I decided to climate compensate for our flights to Spain over Christmas holidays. I did this trough the company Tricorona Green in Sweden which I found through the webpage Min Planet (My Planet). Apparently the My Planet page will be closed down soon, which is a shame as they have good information, however it says the information will be moved to www.wwf.se/minvardag instead though.

 My yogurt was also CO2 compansated

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

A video my proffessor shared with us on CSR, seems to be done by the University in St Gallen. I didn't know there is a Uni there! (I was there visiting a friend in 2005, took the train from Milano when I was an exchange student in Italy. Really pretty place St. Gallen!)


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Eco Goals for 2013

The Change the World Wednesday's (CTWW) weekly task is to make an eco-task list for the year. My list didn't get too long but the tasks are anyway quite substantial so I decided to call them goals instead of tasks.

  • My first goal is to finish my master thesis by spring, it's more or less related to the video below (Cotton and CSR, corporate social responsibility). Will tell you more about it when it's done!

  • My second goal is to try and get a job related to my studies once I'm graduated
  • and the third goal is to start our own garden project when and if we move back to Finland

    So,  I better get back to thesis writing to get closer to finishing the first one.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Llamas

As I my brain is overworked from thesis work and other stuff I thought I leave the debate on taxing meat in Sweden alone, I'm already quite tired of it. The meat guide (in Swedish) was a good outcome from the discussion though.

I thought I'd just post some cute llamas that crashed the birthday party of a boy in French Riviera instead.





This is not a Llama, but it's cute anyway:

 The pics are not mine but posted with the permission of the owner.

Not all too bad for a birthday suprise! Another cool story on llamas here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Apps I miss

I have now lived without my iPhone for a month and a half, I must have lost it somewhere or it's possibly stolen. I thought that maybe it would turn up but so far it hasn't. Anyway, I manage well with my old Nokia too but the time without my iPhone has also opened my eyes to which apps I do miss, except for the convenience of always having a camera around of course.

First of all I miss my Spotify app. I like listening to music when I'm out jogging or walking (mostly walking now when it is so cold). It's easy to make your own playlists and you can find almost all music on there.

My Ashtanga Yoga app. It was a nice app to have when I did yoga and forgot what asana (position) came next. I saw now that the same app-developer had a lot more yoga apps so if I ever get to use it again I might try some other ones as well.


My learn Spanish app. This is the most fun learn Spanish app I have encountered, and I was having so much fun learning an Argentinian accent!

My Twitter app, this one I miss when there are events and stuff going on on twitter and I don't have my computer around.

But most of all I also realized that I have so many apps that are just a waste of time or apps I really don't use or need in my daily life. So the first thing I will do if I ever get myself a new (or second-hand) Apple device is to delete all the apps I don't feel I need so I can stop spending unnecessary time with my nose staring down at the phone. Now when I don't have a smart phone I can feel all awkward when you socialize and your company is using most of the time socializing with his/hers phone.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Home

The movie Home with beautiful camera shots is available on YouTube in case you haven't seen it yet. Although, this movie should probably be seen on a big screen to get the most out of it! In any case, it delivers an important message about our home, the earth.


This picture is my own taken this autumn.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Espai Verd

I want to share this building (link in Spanish) in Valencia with you even if I didn't go to see it myself. "Espai Verd" means "green space" in the local Valencian language and is a cooperative building, built with the mindset of having as much green as possible in and around the building. It is built for the optimal amount of sunlight instead of following the streetline, like the buildings around. I love it! Why oh why, can we not think more out of the box and build more of these beautiful buildings with green spaces and green walls? Even if the climate in the Nordics is different it should be possible to do something more creative than the concrete "boxes" in the cities.

Here's some photos from Espai Verd :














In general there is quite a lot of green balconies and rooftops in Spain, which is great. When I asked though if they planted any food the answer was generally no, so I guess the concept of urban farming hasn't really taken off there. Perhaps it is also a question of what plants can survive the heat in summer.

Here is a video about a green wall in Barcelona that I found here. The guy explains how the plants helps to clean the air in the city and provide a "home" for birds and insects. I want to see more of these!


If you want to have a small scale green wall it is possible to make a green wall indoors as well, the Finnish blogger Noora Schingler just fixed one to her office in December. You can read more in Finnish over at her blog. Another thing I'd like to have! Here is a video of the installation in their office:


There is probably a lot more of these exciting green projects. Please share if you find some!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

On a Future with Less Work

I wrote a bit about working less before, at least here. Here is another couple of videos on the subject.



City-Biking

A friend posted on facebook this opinion from the biggest news-paper in Finland. It's about how biking should be seen as part of the traffic and not as a hobby in the city. At the moment about 11% of people are biking to work and to do their errands in Helsinki but the city is working to increase that amount to 15%; which has not been looked well upon by some who are of the opinion that the city's efforts puts public transport in a worse position. The idea is anyhow to make an effort to improve the situation for both public transport and bikers as most things have been done in favour of private cars in the last 60 years.

When we were in Spain I was somehow surprised to see so little bikes compared to the Nordics. The climate should be more favourable to bike, but perhaps it is too hot in summer? Perhaps it also had to do with the fact that it was holidays but it was also explained to me that one big problem is that cars don't respect bikers in the traffic, so it doesn't feel safe to bike.

Empty bike lane in Valencia:

In the park you could see some more bikers though. This park is really nice and runs for quite a while, it used to be the river Turia but after a flood in 1957 they diverted the river to go around the city instead and built a long park in the middle of the city with football fields etc. Perfect for walking, biking or rollerblading!


In Uppsala the biking culture is quite substantial, I admire the ones that venture out also in snow and minus degrees to bike to school and work! We unfortunately live too far from the city to bike all the way there, one reason for living here is that it is super difficult to find a flat in the city of Uppsala, so I haven't experienced the biking culture in town on a bike unfortunately but we've done some excursions on the bike around the countryside where we live. This pic is taken in summer outside a student residential in Uppsala.

To finish off I thought I'd post some biking inspiration for you:

Video from Copenhagen, which is often called "the city of cyclists":


Copenhagen - City of Cyclists from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.


 Our bikes on the porch:

Bird in bike-basket (pic taken at my Uni in Helsinki, somebody had obviously not used this bike for a while..)

Me biking in snow in Helsinki (not necessarily recommended unless you have bike-tires for snow).


This video is made by the company Holstee insired by their manifesto.



Do you bike a lot? What inspires you to keep on going?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Queen of Versailles

Just saw the Queen of Versailles as Maria recommended it over at her blog, and it is indeed quite interesting and entertaining. I had heard about it before on the radio I think, how the director went out to film it because the largest private owned house in America was gonna be built, then the crisis in 2008 happened and the movie turned out to become something completely different.

Here you have the trailer:



You can see it over at SVT until 14th February, not sure it works abroad but at least if you are in Sweden.

Monday, January 14, 2013

You don't realize what you have until it's gone

Right now I am appreciating the wonderful invention of running water. Our water pump is broken since yesterday morning and I am dreaming of the luxury of a warm shower (or a shower at all for that matter)! We got some bottles of water yesterday for drinking and we have melted some snow for flushing the toilet with but I hope it won't be many more days like this! I feel so...smelly!

And once again I am greatly thankful for the fact that we can drink our tap-water, bringing home 8 liters of drinking water from the store is heavy work and it is a lot of extra plastic bottles that needs to be taken to recycling.


Pic taken in Spain


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tourism and Animals

To continue on the travelling subject still, here is an excellent piece on tourism and poaching. Long, but worth the read!

I get more and more reluctant to go to any zoos or aquariums, especially after hearing this summer that it is normal that they kill animals to make space for others (link in Swedish). Additionally, it seems that zoos are not significantly contributing to saving any species, and if they do, they save the species that are important for them to attract customers and no other ones (another link in Swedish with more arguments against keeping animals in zoos).

When we were in Valencia though we did go to the marine park Oceanografic and as far as I could see it is good park for seeing and learning about oceans. It doesn't stop me from feeling a bit bad though especially about the dolphins and even more about the beluga; the beluga was a sad view swimming around in circles all alone. When I came home I also got reminded (link in Finnish) about that the dolphins in marine parks might be from Taji in Japan.



This is how I'd like to see dolphins:


Although with the current extinction rate we might not see much animals at all in the wild in some years...


On a positive note the marine park had done efforts to inform the visitors about climate change, endangered species and pollution.





Let's hope the visitors take it to heart!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ethical Travel

To continue on the travel subject; Peppe wrote today (in Swedish) about ethical travel and tipped about the book the Ethical Travel Guide and this site for tips on ethical travelling. Those could be a good start if one is interested to learn more about travelling in a more ethical way.

And on the subject of criticising someone who is trying to live environmentally friendly for flying (link in Swedish), isn't it better to be as environmentally conscious in one's everyday life and fly a little than to not be and still fly? I think all people that do something for the environment should get a pat on the back, even if it's the smallest things. We don't want to have our environmentally friendly people all burned-out from trying too hard, and my logic is better to do something than nothing.

While we were in Spain I started thinking about why we mostly always see beautiful holiday pictures but nothing bad from the places we go. Perhaps my eye was also a bit more sensitive this time around as I've been thinking more about pollution and such but the perspective from a camera lens is probably one way to alert people on environmental issues.

For example, this beach

 Is the same beach where I encountered this:
 and this:
 and this:

 The recyclable trashes were not even that far away:

 

On a good note though these sand dunes had been recreated with EU money and a building project for the whole area had been stopped. Imagine there would be only buildings the whole way from where you can see the buildings in the back of the photo all the way up the beach. Instead, it is now luckily a great area to go for a walk, bike or hike and the wildlife probably enjoys it too.

 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back From Spain

Our holidays in Spain are over and we are back in Sweden. With my luck I caught a stomach-flu just the day before we left so I am more than happy to be home and in my on bed now, still haven't eaten much more than soup though.

On the subject of travelling, Maggie (blog in Swedish) has written quite a lot about it recently and has made me think more about our consequences of travelling. I have mostly written about the flying emissions when writing about travelling before on this blog but of course there is a lot of other topics related to it as well. She refers for example to this article on how backpackers have cleared the way for mass tourism in remote areas in Asia and how such harmless things as cameras might actually interfere in the local traditions (monks being disturbed by camera-shots while they try to meditate for example). She also linked to Ponks post (in Swedish) about a bad volunteer experience on a orphanage in Guatemala. It seemed like the money sent to help the orphanage stayed in the hands of management which rarely was seen around the orphanage. Additionally, the environment for the kids wasn't all that stable as the volunteers only stayed for about three months which meant their teachers were continuously replaced by tourists that spoke their mother tongue quite bad. In fact there is a word for this sort of mass tourism volunteering; "voluntourism", which might be doing more bad than good, even if the intentions are all good.

On the other hand, I do think some sort of travelling can help to grow as a person, usually people who have travelled a bit and "seen the world" are more open minded and less judgemental towards foreigners and new ideas. However, I don't think mass tourism to resorts with people from your own country would contribute to a more open mind, neither I like the idea of exposure of local cultures and pollution all tourism contribute to. So here is just a few of my thoughts (questions) after reading and thinking about this subject; Is it necessarily to travel to learn about other cultures? Is it necessarily to travel to have great experiences?  Is it necessarily to always have the camera around when travelling? If there is a more sustainable way to travel what way would that be? Is it "enough" to travel short distances? How much tarvelling is really needed for work purposes?

What's your thoughts and reflections on this subject? I am surely not the one to answer these questions, and I don't expect you to, but it's nontheless an interesting subject to discuss. Feel free to post more questions if you like, no need to answer them.

We spent most of this holiday doing non-tourist things spending time with family and friends but there is still a few reflections from the holidays that I'd like to write about, but it will have to be in later posts as for now I'm gonna return to bed and rest.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Repair Manifesto

I encountered this manifesto while we were visiting my sister-in-law and her boyfriend in Valencia. He's an engineer and therefore much better than me at fixing at least technical things but I like this manifesto non-the-less, it's never too late to learn and you can always ask for help, right? Additionally, there are nowadays a lot of webpages that can help you out with different things, like howstuffworks and iFixit.
I started the holidays by following the rules above and fixed my jumper which had broken. I hate it when my favorite jumpers break! That's probably one of the only downsides with shopping less, you wear your favorites a lot more, which wear them out. On the other hand, you learn to know which are your favorites and what to look for when you need a new item. The jumper in question here though has seen a good amount of years already but with some stitches I hope it can survive a few more.




The manifesto can be downloaded here if you feel like having a print-out or sharing it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

On the Economic Crisis

Here's a hint that some people in Spain are not completely happy with the banking/economic system. During the night somebody had painted the white footsteps in the picture below outside the bank door and the text "tu pagas, ellos ganan" on the door when we were in Valencia. This means more or less "you pay, they gain" in English, referring to that the bank gain of course, and the footsteps show a guy entering the bank with shoes and leaving without.




The prices to rent or buy apartments here are really cheap compared to prices in Helsinki, which are for me the best reference. 53.000 Eur for 70 square meters in Valencia, also there are apartments for rent and sale wherever you go. I just did a quick search and the cheapest apartment I could find for sale in Helsinki with 70 square meters is 159 000 Euros; even though I am not sure the cities are comparable.


Here's a text I wrote for an assignment on the Spanish mortgage and property crises in the autumn because I wanted to understand it better.

Spain’s mortgage and property crisis had a lot of causes that blended all together to hit the country hard.  The beginning to the property crisis for Spain could have been the entry into the Euro-zone that lowered interest rates and increased the demand in the real-estate sector, which in turn increased inflation (Shachmurove and Shachmurove, 2011, p. 14). However, another reason can be traced back to the 70’s and the deregulation of the banking system and tax-regulations in Spain that encouraged ownership of houses instead of renting. (Hill & Myatt, 2010, p. 259-260; Shachmurove and Shachmurove, 2011, p. 14).


As the property owning was encouraged, Spain had one largest number of mortgages per capita. However, as the construction sector drove the country’s economic growth, companies kept on building which eventually hit a turn with the bubble burst (Daley and Minder, 2010). One of the banking policies that were utilized was long loans, up to 40 years or more (Shachmurove and Shachmurove, 2011, p. 12), and additionally, the loans were sub-primed or primed, sold off as securitized mortgages to financial companies (Landon and Minder, 2012). Now, homeowners are stuck with the loans, which they probably never can repay, or have to consider selling the houses but losing 40-50 percent of equity (Chakrabortty, 2011). Banks in turn are trying to get rid of the property rights in their Balance Sheet with big discounts and special mortgage rates. (Daley and Minder, 2010).



As previously stated, some argue that the bubble could have been avoided without the change from pesetas to Euro. Krugman (2010) argue that if Spain still had pesetas they could easily solve their economic problem now with devaluation of the currency. However, another reason was probably the deregulation that pushed growth but destabilized the global market (Hill & Myatt, 2010, p. 261-263). 



So what could have been done differently and what sort of regulations could have been put in place? These are my own reflections: banks could have had better background checks on who they loaned to and stricter evaluation of properties and land. Government could have had stronger regulation on urban planning, not to build too much, and encourage renting as well as purchasing. They could also have pushed for stronger transparency and better reporting from banks. The people taking loans should perhaps have been informed better on the risks of long loans and the benefits with renting. There could probably have been actions taken towards corruption as well, however, this measure should be taken from an institution that is not already involved in politics in Spain.


Sources:



Chakrabortty Aditya, 2011, Nightmare for residents trapped in Spanish ghost towns,  The Guardian, retrieved 29.9.2012 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/28/residents-trapped-spanish-ghost-towns

Daley Suzanne and Minder Raphael, 2010, Newly Built Ghost Towns Haunts Banks in Spain, New York Times, retrieved 29.9.2012 from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/world/europe/18spain.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

Hill Rod & Myatt Tony, The Economics Anti-Textbook-A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Micro-Economics, Fernwood Publishing and Zed Books

Landon Thomas and Minder Raphael, 2012, Cost of Spain’s Housing Bust Could Force a Bailout, The New York Times, retrieved 29.9.2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/business/global/cost-of-spains-housing-bust-could-force-a-bailout.html?pagewanted=all&_moc.semityn.www&_r=0
 
Shachmurove Tomer and Shachmurove Yochanan, 2011, String of Defaults: Spanish Financial Crises through the Years, Aestimatio, The IEB International Journal of Finance, 2011. 2:2-21

....

You can go back to look at the video I posted before on the crises of credit and how sub-prime loans work if that's a new concept to you. And as we are on the subject of banks I still want to post a video with Ben Dyson and Andrew Jackson from Positive Money and their view on what is wrong with the banking system.

 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tired of Monopoly?

It's not often I play boardgames but every time I do I remember how much fun it is. During the holiday we played a bit of Pictionary, Charades and Scrabble and it was a blast!

Perhaps the next big board game will be Co-opoly? Would be fun to try at least! It's a while since I played Monopoly but I have the feeling you usually end up negotiating and disliking each other playing Monopoly, am I right? Perhaps a game like Co-opoly could teach us the advantages of coopertives and be a nicer game to play without so many conflicts. It would be interesting to see the same group of people playing the both games and see what happens in the group dynamics! You can find out more about the game here and to learn to rules; just watch the video below.



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

What better way to start the year than woth some happy thinking? I decided this will be my goal for 2013, to think more positively.