ESIN

European Small Islands Federation

Archive for Islands

The 11th Nation

11th-nation-1d

At the EESC Public Hearing 7th of February, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula mentioned that the islands of Europe, if grouped together, would rank as Europe’s ninth nation. I double-checked him, making a table based on Wikipedia, from which I excluded islands that are nations (Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta) but included all the remaining 2.136 ones, summing up their areas and their populations.

The result is a complex, widespread, divided, illusive island nation with an area of 454,753 km2 and with 18,889,077 inhabitants. Were it a nation, it would population-wise place itself after Romania but before Kazakstan[1]. Counting by area, it would rank as the 4th nation of Europe, just after Norway[2]. Assuming humans are more important than land, the islands of Europe grouped together would rank as the number 11 among the 50 sovereign states of Europe. Were it a nation, it might be called ISLANDIA.

Is this 11th nation of Europe different from the other 28 nations of Europe? Yes: it has some very valuable assets: (1) shores, that attract hundreds of millions of tourists every year; (2) seas, that contain tides, waves, oil, gas, fish, motorways of the seas as well as more ordinary waterways; (3) unrivalled natural and cultural heritages.

This 11th imaginary nation also has an invisible obstacle surrounding it: remoteness – a permanent handicap causing extra costs for its small-scale societies, enterprises and inhabitants. There are 671 ro-pax ferries connecting the islands with the mainland. On the one thousand smaller islands, 38% of the total energy spent is used for sea transports, larger islands somewhat less[3]. To reengineer these sea transport systems would be an economical, ecological and social revolution.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_population

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_area

[3] https://europeansmallislands.com/smilegov/

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Ensō

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Enso by Torei Enji (1721-1792)

Susanne is a friend of mine who paints ensō’s. It is a Japanese word meaning ”circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is perhaps the most common subject of Japanese calligraphy, symbolizing strength, elegance, the universe, single mindedness, the state of mind of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of imperfection as perfect.

To me, it is a picture of an island. They can be drawn with or without an opening. Susanne’s ensō is an island with no opening. The island has its residents who move around paths and roads inside the island. Outside of he “o” there is a lot of traffic mainly at the bottom of the painting. Maybe, maybe there are some small connections?

When drawn with an opening, it can suggest that imperfection is an essential and inherent part of existence, a part of something greater.

I prefer to see islands as open ensō’s. No island can exist with a harbour which is the opening, the connection to the mainland, the acceptance that the island cannot survive as a secluded, self-supporting society.

I am, of course, heavily influenced by the fact that the Swedish word for island is ”ö”. It is a word of Germanic origin meaning “land close to water”. It is, as you can see, an ensō, a ”o” with two dots on top, like a French ”trema”. It’s could be a pictogram of an island with its round shape supported by two skerries or rocks or lighthouses.

In Danish, the word for island is ”ø” (not too bad), in Norwegia ”øy” (no ore a pictogram). In Finnish it ish ”saari” and in Estonian ”saar”, both languages have of Slavonic roots. Germans say ”insel”, French say ”île”, English people say ”island and so do the Irish and the Scots if they aren’t saying ” eilean” or ”innis”. The Italians say ”isola”, most of these are derived from latin and have to do with isolation. The Croatians say ”otoka” and the Greeks say ”νησί”.

I believe there is no more accurate and beautiful word for island than the Swedish “ö”. Open or not, you decide.

susanne-enso

Ensō by Susanne Frunck

stay-open-enso

2014 enso by Jaysen Matthew Waller

PS

A monk asked his master to express Zen on paper so that he would have something tangible to study. At first the master refused, saying, “Since it is right in front of your face why should I try to capture it with brush and ink?” Still the monk continued to plead with the master for something concrete. The master drew a circle on a piece of paper and added this inscription: “Thinking about this and understanding it is second best; not thinking about it and understanding it is third best.” The master did not say what is first best.

Zenga: Brushstrokes of Enlightenment

Top ten island books?

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 TV covers the small islands of Europe

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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

Wow!

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.

tarja maria

All in all: a fantastic portrait of ESIN (the only thing missing is English subtitles).

You can’t be an island on an island like this

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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.”

the-press-and-journal

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvXcZ110ngk

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.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/27/easdale-argyll-video-island-settlers-scotland#img-1

 

An island seen from many angles

fiske-vinon

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).

hjalmaren

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.

picasso

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

Island visitor’s centers

SkŠrgŒrdscenter Korpostršm / Saaristokeskus Korpostršm

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

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