The members of the ESIN Board recently received a call for the next board meeting 25/10, two weeks in advance. It gives them the possibility to check the agenda, the issues and the proposals with all of you: board members of national island organisations and islanders on our 1,400 islands. It also makes it possible to translate the agenda into other languages – Estonian, Croatian, Italian…?
Not much of an islander and not much of an island poet except for his 1960 bootleg recording of Woody Guthrie’s ”This Land is Your Land ” where the text goes “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to New York island”.
New York an island? Well, I know that Manhattan is the same size as my own island Kökar (58 square kilometres) – but there are much more people on Manhattan. I also know that New York has some beautiful small islands: in the Long Island Sound alone there are 20 islands, once known as the Devil’s Stepping Stones because of an Native American fable.
The Upper East Side Reef is populated by 12,300 inmates and their officers, the island is barely 400 acres and serves as New York’s main jail complex. The only way you’re visiting here is getting yourself arrested.
Hart Island is populated only by the dead: it is a cemetary with well over a million souls buried beneath it, a third of them infants and stillborn babies. A sad and beautiful place where you could play Dylan’s ”Forever Young” in your headphones. One of his great songs that merit the prize. Says an old fan.
In Swedish, the word for island is ö – an o with two dots above, like a french tréma. It is a beautiful word, depicting a small, round island with two lighthouses.
Vinön meaning Wine Island is a small, almost round island in lake Hjämaren in Sweden with an area of 5 square kilometres. There are two buoys showing the way to the island from the mainland harbour: Kalvö and Ramberget (although the dots are under the o).
Vinön has 100 full time residents, 400 part-time residents (90 days/year) and 100 weekend dwellers (50 days/year), making the human pressure 212 persons (not 100 as you might think if you just go for the census figures).
Vinön has recently been well described: first, in the “Smilegov” project 17/9/2015 (https://europeansmallislands.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/vinon.pdf), then in the “How to Read an Island” 10 p University course, when student RoseMarie Hellén made a portrait of the island where she lives.
And what a beautiful portrait it is! She observes the island from different perspectives. It is like a Picasso painting where the artist shows that we do not see objects like a camera – frozen images of life – but from many sides simultaneously, with the present being blurred and blended with memories of the past and the future. Like when a man looks at a woman he loves and what he sees is a mix of remembrances from their youth, of how she looked the same morning and of how she looked just a few seconds ago.
That goes for an island, too. We see it as it was, we see it as it is and we see it as we want it to be. Optimism and pessimism are mixed, facts and feelings are shuffled together, creativity and action mingle.
RoseMarie uses Edward de Bonos concept of six thinking hats to make this many-facetted portrait of her beloved island. Each hat gives a different perspective, a new opening on the same old questions we all share on our islands. It is a beautiful portrait which you can find here: https://europeansmallislands.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/threats-and-possibilities-of-a-small-island-society-in-the-middle-of-sweden.pdf
Korpostrom is a strait in the southern Finland archipelago, located adjacent to several major shipping lanes. It has been a local service point for a hundred years, became a marina in the early 2000’s and in 2004 a visitor centre including a marine research station. There is a lecture hall, offices, a restaurant and a hotel, making it possible to organize seminars and conferences on various topics related to the islands of the archipelago
As part of her 10 p University Course “How to Read an Island”, Pia Prost has compared this visitor centre to others around Europe: Île de Batz, Ouessant, Sein, Groix, Belle-île, Houat, Hoëdic, Aix, île aux Moines and Yeu in France, Skye and Taigh Chearsabhagh in Scotland, Liminganlathti, Kalajoki, Kvarken, Blue Mussel and Ekenäs in Finland, Fagelbrolandet, Namdo, Runmaro, Koster, Anholt, Ven, Lysekil, Vatternbranterna and Varmdo in Sweden, Naoshima in Japan, the Channel Islands in UK, Vanouver island and Fogi islands in Canada, El Hierro and Lanzarote in the Canaries, Bere on Ireland, Kastellorizo in Greece and Newport in Oregon.
An impressive list of benchmarks. The work has carried Pia Prost around the world. She defines different kinds of visitor centres and uses Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats concept to compare them.
Anyone involved in strategic, long-term development an island visitor centre will be inspired by her work, her methodology and her love for the subject.
Benchmarking of Island Visitor’s Centres, Pia Prost 2016 https://europeansmallislands.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/island-visiting-centres.pdf
Our stats show that the news of our sustainable islands conference in Brussels have now passed 1,000 views on our blog and even more on our FaceBook site (which mirrors what is published on the blog).
We have typically 1,000 visitors a month to our site and have already passed that for October. Most frequent visitors are from UK, Greece, Belgium (=Bussels), Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and France.
Islands as beacons of low carbon and sustainable living
“The Small Islands of Europe are extremely precious as potential beacons of sustainability and low carbon living” was the message delivered at the conference organised at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels as part of the 16th AGM of the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN), the organisation that federates 11 small islands federations throughout Europe.
“The ESIN conference and AGM in Brussels on Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th September were a resounding success” said Máirtin Ó’ Méallóid from Cape Clear island, vice-chairman of Cómdhail Óileán na hÉireann, the Irish Islands Federation, “we are delighted that the European Small Islands were welcomed so warmly at the heart of Europe.”
The valuable work done by ESIN, notably regarding renewable energy issues, and promoting the use of sustainability indicators to describe the small island situation was noted by the European Commission. It also garnered the strong support of Mr George Dassis, President of the EESC, who sponsored the conference, and Pierre-Jean Coulon, President of the EESC’s TEN section who championed the EESC Smart Islands study.
Smart strategies to counter-act brutal love
It is in the islands’ nature to be smart as they have to constantly re-invent new solutions for their issues, notably those resulting from their popularity as tourist destinations. The home of 359,000 all-year islanders, the European Small Islands also have 3 million summer residents and 30 million yearly visitors: they are the objects of a somewhat brutal love which may bring them money but also uses vast amounts of energy and water and leaves huge amount of waste to be dealt with, not to mention the marine waste which ends up on their shores.
Initiatives at opposite ends of Europe such as storage of energy from wind and sun in the small Dodecanese island of Tilos (800 inhabitants), which already boasts unique protection for wild birds (it has 10% of the world population of Eleanora falcons), the well-established Green Grid on the isle of Eigg, an island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides (100 inhabitants) and the brand new tidal turbine providing electricity to the 3 unconnected islands of Ouessant, Sein and Molene in Brittany’s Iles du Ponant, (900, 170 and 216 inhabitants respectively), show what can be done through European programmes such as Horizon 2020 and the European Structural Fund as well as with collaboration with a forward thinking electricity company.
United Small islands of Europe
The total number of inhabited islands in Europe, big or small, bridged or un-bridged, in seas, rivers and lakes, which are states, regions, municipalities or local communities is 2,418 with a resident population of almost 14 million people.
Among these, 1,640 are small islands in the 11 nations that are members of ESIN: the Aland Islands, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Sweden. Founded 16 years ago, the aim of ESIN is to present issues of common interest for its members to the European institutions, and to exchange knowledge and experiences between its members.
“Islands are ‘buttons of the European Coat’ and as such, they are one of the EU’s great assets. It is important that their reality is adequately captured, because it is not the case at present” said Christian Pleijel from Kökar island, Åland, who has presented his pioneering work on the concept of ‘Atlas of the Small Islands of Europe’ at the conference. Mr Pleijel is ESIN’s newly appointed general secretary, working closely with the ESIN board to implement a library of island good practices, zero waste strategies and island product labelling among other projects as part of the federation’s smart objectives. He is also the editor of ESIN’s website.
New Chair from the Scottish Islands
French born Scottish resident of 35 years on the isle of Eigg, historian and social entrepreneur Camille Dressler is new chair of ESIN. Being also the chair of the Scottish Islands Federation, she says: “The Scottish Islands Federation has been involved with ESIN from its very beginning and took an active part in the very valuable 3 years exchange of experiences financed by the INTERREG 3 C programme. Along with all the ESIN members, we are extremely encouraged by the support we have now received from European institutions such as the EESC and the interest shown by the European Commission. It sends a very strong signal to everyone that that the EU has a strong interest in supporting grass-root organisations and help European citizens exchange examples of best practice. I am delighted that the work which the Scottish Islands Federation has put into ESIN has been recognised by my appointment and I will ensure that the Scottish Islands can continue to share their valuable experiences with our friends and colleagues throughout Europe. ESIN will also work closely with the CPMR’s Island Commission to help tackle the effect of climate change on our islands and we are also very excited by some of the ideas mooted at the conference such as a possible Erasmus plus for our small islands’ youth and the setting up of a ZeroWaste Island strand within ZeroWaste Europe.”
Mrs Dressler takes over from Bengt Almqvist, resident of the small island of Sankt Anna in Sweden, founder of ESIN, who has been championing ESIN issues from its inception in 2001. The board as a whole and its national members all expressed their gratitude to Mr Almkvist for his devoted contributions to the small islands of Europe
Making the most of our opportunities in the EU
As to Scotland’s position in the EU, Mr Gary Robinson, member of the EU Committee of the Regions and political leader of the Shetland Islands Council, who also attended the conference as panel member on the discussion about the need for new island indicators, was unequivocal: “Scotland is in Europe until such time as someone tells us we areu8788 not. For that reason, we’ve got to make the most of our opportunities.”
Just such an opportunity for close collaboration between all ESIN members is the ESIN INTERREG Europe proposal – Developing Island Entrepreneurship – which one of the two ESIN vice-chairs, Eleftherios Kechagioglou from Hydra in Greece, will be taking forward with the Hellenic Small islands Federation (HSIN) as lead partner. “We want to help those who want to help themselves,” said Mr Kechagioglou, “and especially our young islanders. We need to help them find ways to stay on the islands and contribute meaningfully to island life. All our islands in Europe have a huge natural, cultural and renewable energy potential that we must learn to utilize to the best advantage in the digital age.”
Here is this pressrelease as a Word document in English, Estonian, Greek and Italian (the latter ones are google-translated, please excuse our bad language):
Arranmore is Ireland’s second largest island, covering 22 sq km with a resident population of just over 500 people and about 1,500 summer residents.
Arranmore was part of the ESIN cluster in the SMILEGOV project through its Energy Committee, made an Energy Plan for 2012-2032 and applied for funding to save energy. Now, the Irish Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment announces that “Arranmore Island Energy Committee has been included as part of 38 community energy projects who are to receive €20m in grant funding through the Better Energy Communities scheme operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.”
The total cost of the project on Arranmore is estimated at €656,962, with a grant on offer of €411,552, to retrofit 47 island dwellings and the community hall on Arranmore, in addition to the upgrade of eight non-residential buildings on the mainland, including four community buildings, a national school and three private service stations.
The private organisations are helping to fund the community projects by donating a percentage of their grant to reduce the cost to communities. The local credit union is providing low cost loans to support the residential elements. Some renewable energy technologies are included in addition to standard retrofits measures.
Today, ESIN received this message by email from Séamus Bonner at the Arranmore Energy Committee:
I am writing with a quick update on the application we were working on for the island earlier in the year. We got some good news in June that the application was successful. Work is continuing at the moment and will hopefully be finished at the end of the month.
The project is to receive €411,000 for a project value of over €650,000. Thank you to yourself and ESIN for your support through the application process.
Best Regards, Séamus”
DAFNI reminds us on its FaceBook page of SMILEGOV, an inspiring and innovative EU-funded project that brought together islands across Europe to work together for the promotion of sustainable development on their territories. The DAFNI Network which coordinated the consortium of 13 partners whereof ESIN was one, recalls: https://www.facebook.com/Dafni.Network/posts/1393866447308153