Sustainable cities built in the country

Editorials by Mikael Eliasson

BROMMA-LINKÖPING, SWEDEN As I climbed into my car to drive south from Bromma, it was three hours since I had left Brussels, a city where the future of Europe is being discussed and decided. I can report that the climate objectives are felt to be competing with economic growth. In our vision for the forest industry, sustainable growth is a natural step on the path to a bio-economy.

The view from the Essinge bridges sparkled with city lights. The cranes stood illuminated like fairground rides, indicating the high rate of construction that is trying to keep pace with urbanisation. What kind of city are we building? What will the future look like for the people of Stockholm?

As I left Stockholm, my mind was occupied with the challenges we face in meeting the differing requirements of our future society . I drove past the concrete monoliths of the ambitious Million Programme for public housing and through the landscape of Södermanland, where the motorway slices straight through fields and forests. I spotted lights from the odd farm. Is there any link between town and country?

The approach to Linköping is marked by what I see as an attractive industrial building that houses a biofuel boiler powered by forest by-products. I could make out the skyline, where the cathedral has had to give way to the expression of the expansive university city’s self-confidence. Soon I had the twinkling lights of the city in my rearview mirror. I passed smaller communities that are still growing, as the truly rural areas are inexorably depopulated. Who will operate the forest machinery in the future?

Several road signs carried names of places that suggest a history of wooden housebuilding and that in the 1970s were involved in building the Million Programme’s low-rise developments. Now it is industrial manufacturing that helps to build cities. As I turned up the drive, my summary of the journey was that the new sustainable city is being built in the country. Building in wood increases employment, while also helping to create added value and a better climate. Fantastic! As confirmation of my hopes for the future, snowflakes floated down like confetti – falling evenly over town and country.

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