Archive for Islands
Which books, songs or poems have had the strongest influence on our common image of what an island is?
Is it Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” or Ernest Hemingway’s “Islands in the Stream”? Is it Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” or Enid Blyton’s “Five on a Treasure Island”? Is it Paul Simon’s “I am a rock, I am an island” or is it John Donne’s “No man is an island”? Is it Jules Verne’s “l’Ile Mysterieuse”, Walt Disney/Carl Barks’ “Floating Island” or Hergé’s “L’Ile Noir”?
Which literary contribution has had most influence on the human concept of an “island”?
Greek journalist Kostas Argyros, seconded by Eleni Korovila and a film team, has been island-hopping around Europe, covering some of its small islands. On Sunday evening, the Greek television program “28europe” showed his 45 minute long report https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AVzC1LvOCw
Such great contributions from islanders Bengt, Lefteris, Tarja, Camille, Christian, Denis, Laurids and Maria. Such beautiful portraits of Skaftö (though Bengt seems a bit mislocated), Prangli in Estonia, Eigg in Scotland, the Åland Islands, Houat and Ouessant in France, Sejerø in Denmark and Tilos in Greece. But not just beauty – Kostas catches some of the important issues regarding life on small islands.
I especially like the interviews with Tarja from Prangli and Maria from Tilos.
All in all: a fantastic portrait of ESIN (the only thing missing is English subtitles).
Georgia is a golden-haired, 18-month-old girl whose smile lights up the room. Being the first person to be born on Easdale for 80 years, she occupies a special place in the hearts of everyone on this rocky island lying east of Mull, close to the coast of Scotland.
It seems almost everybody of the 70 inhabitants played a part in her safe delivery into this world last July. She is the daughter of Lyndsay and Dave Munro and, as her time approached, a helicopter complete with doctors and midwives was scrambled to fly her to Paisley and the security of a consultant-led team. “However, she had obviously waited long enough,” said Lyndsay, “and decided to make an early entrance. The midwives and doctors simply decided to make the house a maternity ward as it became clear there would be no birth in Paisley that night.”
Her birth, it seemed, was like a sanctification of Easdale and some of those who witnessed it were profoundly affected. Lyndsay said: “I even received gifts for her from some Americans who were visiting the island that week and were caught up in all the drama.”
Easdale belongs to the sprawling council area of Argyll and Bute. Mike MacKenzie, the MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has his home on Easdale, where he has lived for 36 years after being brought up in Glasgow.
“Easdale is a microcosm of what’s been happening in this part of Scotland for many years,” he said. “Now we want to address the situation and maintain this island’s long-term viability. I’m originally from Oban with roots in Argyll going back generations, like many on the island. But after being reared and educated in Glasgow, I knew I just had to return here to put down roots. I only got involved in local politics because I simply didn’t think the council properly understood how much potential we have here and how to develop it.”
This is a place that, on your first few encounters, seems to offer the prospect of gifts to requite the yearnings of any soul. With this though, comes a challenge to any sense of self-reliance or instant gratification. It calls for the humility of having to rely on others.
“You can’t be an island on an island like this,” says MacKenzie.
Last month the islanders’ gentle Mayday message was carried into the world in a stunning eight-minute film called “Easdale – A wild Community”. It was shot and produced free of charge by Patrick Rowan, who works with the island outdoor activities firm, Seafari Adventures. Using time-lapse and pull focus filming techniques, it captures the beauty of this place in all its car-free glory better than mere words.
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):
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.