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
Raffaele Cattaneo and Gary Robinson (courtesy of Shetland News), the attendees and the auditorium (courtesy Raffaele Cattaneos Twitter)
On Friday, the EU’s powerful Committee of Regions (CoR) held a one-day seminar in Lerwick (Shetland), entitled ”Overcoming Barriers To Economic Development – A Remote Island Perspective”.
Among the attendees were chairman of the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN) Bengt Almkvist, Scottish Islands Federation chairman Camille Dressler, Orkney Islands Council convener Steven Heddle, University of Edinburgh’s Professor James Mitchell and Gary Robinson, Shetland Islands Council leader last year.
The EU’s Committee of the Regions’ territorial cohesion chairman Raffaele Cattaneo backed Gary Robinson man by suggesting the EU exit was a “great mistake” for Britain. Gary Robinson is one of a handful of Scottish members on the CoR, which aims to give a greater voice to local areas.
The overarching objective of the seminar was to give the CoR a better understanding of the issues faced by rural locations like Shetland when it comes to economic development. One of the key issues of the seminar was connection to high-speed broadband, while transport and an ageing population was also highlighted. The auditorium was packed with delegates from countries as far flung as Greece, Latvia and Slovakia.
See the Shetland News http://www.shetnews.co.uk/news/13274-eu-exit-could-be-disaster.
Bengt Almkvist was brilliant, says Camille Dressler, and continues: It was a wonderful farewell to ESIN involvement for Bengt. He is retiring after 15 years devoted work as founder and chairman. Bengt was born on a Wednesday 25,568 days ago, turning 70 today. Congratulations!
Bengt Almkvist – 70 years today
In Sweden, previous attempts to decentralize natural resource management have partly failed because of opposition from the authorities. The chairman of the Swedish small islands association Bengt Almkvist (who is also chairman of ESIN) has, together with other stakeholders, written a much noticed article in one of Sweden’s biggest newspapers. They have identified ten key policy measures to strengthen the local government:
- Support decentralized management: previous attempts have partly failed because of opposition from the authorities. Hence the need for clearer directives and regulations from the government to the provincial governments and the local players.
- The vital biological diversity that exists in Sweden has been shaped by people’s cultivation of natural resources. We must recognize the importance of reindeer and pasture farmers and of small-scale fishermen.
- Develop a comprehensive rural development policy.
- Make natural resource management part of the climate transition.
- Develop the skills of the county administrative boards. Research has shown that previous initiatives did not yield the desired effect, partly because of resistance from the authorities to use the new knowledge.
- Integrate local management and green infrastructure: there is a need for better planning of the landscape and its resources named by various terms, such as the ecosystem approach, regional landscape strategies and most recently green infrastructure.
- Evaluate and research: we need an independent investigation of the effects of the government’s work for the local administration. Research is also needed to develop models of local governance.
- Population and Nature Conferences are important platforms for knowledge sharing and dialogue between the local community level and politicians.
- Create a permanent hub for local and traditional knowledge: continuous, long-term efforts to integrate different kinds of knowledge, perspectives and values in the management structure.
- Refund from natural resources: wind, hydro, mining and forestry are some examples of areas that should be analyzed in order to develop national guidelines for optimized resource management. This may involve reallocating some national taxation powers to the municipal / local level, the reversal of the natural resource fees and improved opportunities for participation. This could involve the development of incentives for greater democracy, greater commitment, better conservation and generally improved opportunities for rural development.
Researchers Luca De Benedictis and Anna Maria Pinna from the University of Cagliari have launched the term ‘bad geography”. They have explored the geographical dimension of insularity, measuring its effect on trade costs. An interesting report with many different aspects on insularity http://www.siecon.org/online/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/De-Benedictis.pdf.
I quote: ”Insularity is not in general considered the worst condition in terms of ’bad geography’. According to both empirical and theoretical literature, the most immediate case of exterme geographical condition is the lack of direct access to the sea. This is considered to be a fundamental cause of heterogeneity among countries. One out of four countries in the world is landlocked; in Africa, it is one out of three. On the contrary, having direct access to the sea is the geographical condition that has been found to be the most advantageous for the economy of a country: coastal countries are wealthier and experience 30% more trade than landlocked countries But the direct access to the see can generate extreme geographical conditions. Islands are completely surrounded by sea. This full land discontinuity raises costs by eliminating alternatives in the connection system of an island and by raising the level of uncertainty for the remaining alternatives. The small and remote nature of island countries should be considered in view of these characteristics, revealing the crucial physical difference between islands and coastal countries. But also not all islands are made the same.”
Benedictis and Pinna conclude that to be an island is not bad per se in terms of trade costs. Bad geography can be reversed by connectedness and open institutions.
Easy said, hard to do. Let me quote Spilanis, Kizos and Petsioti “Accessibility of Peripheral Regions: Evidence from Aegean Islands”: On islands, where “everyday transportation is not available, many services are provided locally even if their quality or variety may not always satisfy local needs. Therefore, the increase of the availability of intermediate services locally in bigger mainland settlements is unsurprising, since the size of the population justifies the provision of private services (selling furniture, electric appliances, home products, physiotherapy services) and the existence of public services (tax office, town planning). Establishing and maintaining such services in areas where the level of population is lower than the threshold for its “spontaneous” emergence raises the cost for both private and public services. For public services, a revealing example is provided by ESPON (2011) for Notio Aigaio Region (40 inhabited islands). If all its population was living on one island, a maximum of three ports would be sufficient, while now there are 50, along with 14 airports instead of one, 21 power production plants instead of one, five hospitals instead of one, 90 primary schools instead of 211, 35 waste water treatment units instead of eight, and so on.“
If the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea (Notio Aigaio) could be grouped together, life would be so much simpler for everyone. Same thing were they municipalities in Germany. I believe they do suffer from ‘bad geography’.
Some Aegean islands grouped together
Some of the Aegean islands migrated to Germany (adapted from Jean-Didier Hache, CPMR)
Peter Gill is an Irishman living on Clare Island but he is a also a Professor Emeritus in Sweden, living what he calls a ‘bifurcated life’ between Clare Island and Sweden. He has a deep interest in islands and islandness (se for example http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03033910.1994.10558011?journalCode=riri20 from 1994). Together with Gráinne Kelly, he has just pu blished a report entitled ‘Rural Schools as Hubs for the Socio-Educational Development for the Community’.
Dr Gill argues that ‘a classic challenge to the survival of small rural communities is the closure of the local primary school’. He has examined the huge trend of migration towards urban centres and the purchase of island properties by ‘the bourgeois for holiday homes’. The bourgeois of the urban regions have, first of all segregated themselves, by habitation segregation, usually economically, through the price of houses.
Dr Gill compares Ireland and Sweden: “In 2009 more than half the world’s population lived in urban regions, and this drag to municipal centres remains unabated. Islands are at the forefront of this demographic perturbation, which involves significant depopulation and symbolic, partial, repopulation in the process called ‘gentrification’. While Ireland’s more-populace eleven inhabited islands have 13 schools, Sweden has 541 inhabited islands, with 39 schools on 33 of them. “The facts are hard for at least four of Ireland’s islands, with two to eight children in their schools. In the Swedish ‘gentrified islands’, for example Sandhamn which has over 100 all-year-round inhabitants but over one thousand summer residents. It has no children of school-going age.’
Thanks to the fish farm on Clare Island, there are as many families with children in the school as there were in 1963. The school is vibrant, and the evidence is overwhelming that, contrary to a supposition of educational deprivation, the children from Clare Island school have done amazingly well,” he continues.
Clare Island is one of only four of the Irish islands in the study which experienced an increase in population between 1996 and 2011 (25 percent) and the least decrease in school enrolment (23 percent) between 1992 and 2015. It had 20 pupils enrolled in 2015, as opposed to 26 in 1992.
Co Cork’s Sherkin, on the other hand, experienced a 16 percent increase in population between 1996-2011 but a whopping 86 percent decrease in school enrolments between 1992-2015. Co Mayo’s Inishturk experienced the same dramatic decrease in enrolments (86 percent), says Dr Gill, with a 36 percent decline in its population from 1996-2011.
The islands included in the study are Bere, Cape Clear, Sherkin (Co Cork); Tory, Árainn Mhór, Inis Meain, Inis Oirr, Inis Mór, Inishbofin (Co Galway); Inishturk, Clare Island (Mayo).
Thanks Rhoda Twombly for observing this interesting article which can be read in full on the Mayo News here http://www.mayonews.ie/news/28453-island-primary-schools-a-litmus-test-for-future-sustainability. The full study – which is still a draft – is included below.
As reported here on the ESIN blog in February, the Koster islands https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koster_Islands have a “water problem [that] puts an end to everything”.
To solve this problem, a project is describing Koster’s geophysical water resources (“the water of the island”), the human water footprint on the island (“the water of the islanders”) and way the water is distributed, how the system is managed, financed and administrated (“the water of the municipality”). The project’s website is http://kostervatten.com
The project will present a three-level description of the island’s freshwater systems, and a sustainable system solution that takes all three levels into account.
Meanwhile, it is already evident that the islanders need to save water. A first water saving project will start now at the new built hotel “Kostergården”. It will monitor, in real time, how hotel guests use water for different purposes – showering, flushing the toilet, drinking etc. Each guest can follow their own consumption and the consumption of the whole hotel. They will be involved in saving water in a fun and simple way, backed up by information on the ferries, in the hotel reception and on websites. The hotel – and the island – has the ambition to be a benchmark of sustainability among large hotels on small islands.
The project is using professor Andy Bäcker as an advisor. It will by no means be penalizing or pry into people’s private life, just be smart, fun and creative, turning something repressive into something positive as for example the “Speed Camera Lottery” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iynzHWwJXaA did.
Koster island would like to start an “island water lab” project with a handful of other small European islands to explore the possibilities of saving water, both by technical means and by changing human behaviour. Islands who are experimenting simultaneously with smart water management techniques could learn from each other and eventually show others how to save water.
Such islands would typically be under 100 km2 in (land) size, have a maximum all-year population of 1,000 people, have a scarcity of freshwater and lots of tourists.
Interested? Just comment here!