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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

Another, Simply Wonderful Nordic Concept: Sweden's Allemansrätten

Article by: Naima El Hawary

Photo credits: Lenka Petkova

Facts that will Astonish you

Sweden is home to vast untouched landscapes; mountains, archipelagos, beaches and an incredible number of 5,111 nature reserves to explore. The country boasts an abundance of nature, with 85 percent of Sweden’s land being protected nature reserves. Fittingly, this plays a great role in society. Simply put, in Sweden you can go anywhere you want. This is not an exaggeration; the old-age Swedish tradition of ‘allemansrätten,’ or ‘right to roam’, enables you to pick mushrooms, fish, climb, kayak or set up a tent almost anywhere.

What is the Concept of Allemansrätten?

The philosophy of this right is that everyone, citizens, and tourists, have the right to freely move and explore different parts of the country. This has been enshrined in the Swedish constitution since 1994. It  states that ‘everyone shall have access to nature in accordance with allemansrätten.’ The right to roam comes with a few responsibilities, which are regulated by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket). Do not disturb locals or wildlife, exercise caution and always take your litter with you. Generally, the right does not include activities such as hunting or setting up a fire which could damage nature.

History of Allemansrätten

The regulation of nature in Sweden started in the Middle Ages, when food was hard to access due to the general poverty of Sweden. Unwritten customs were established for how many berries one was allowed to pick in the forest. In the early 1940s, the so-called ‘Fritisutredning,’ or Leisure Enquiry, aimed to give the population greater access to nature. Many of the rural population considered the growing interest in outdoor activities as a threat, but roaming rights were never restricted. Allemansrätten was finally included in the Swedish constitution in 1994, which states that everyone shall have access to nature.

Helping to Find Your True Love?

Allemansrätten is also connected to Swedish cultural history. According to old Swedish folklore, if you collect seven flowers from seven gardens during Midsummer, and sleep with them under your pillow, you will dream of your true love. Midsummer is a Swedish celebration originally celebrated in the agrarian Middle Ages to welcome the fertility season and beginning of summer, which has been taking place since the 1500s. It involves raising a maypole to dance around, wearing flower crowns, and having a traditional Midsummer meal, such as pickled herring with potatoes, salmon or spareribs. True love lies in the gardens of your neighbours in Sweden, so why not use your right to roam?

Allemansrätten: Quite Unique

One aspect of allemansrätten is about coexistence with other species and people, whilst knowing when not to encroach on their land. In most places, it is illegal to be on the property of others and nature is not accessible to all equally. In fact, the Western concept of property rights clashes with the idea of the right to roam, as it allows individuals to access private property in nature. For example, ABBA bought an island in the archipelago of Stockholm which was a private island but was still legally accessible to everyone. But when Mark Zuckerberg bought land in Hawaii, it became inaccessible to the local population, especially as he filed lawsuits against those who claimed ownership to parts of his property. This made coexistence on his land impossible and is very different from the Swedish model of land rights.

Sustainable Allemansrätten

Sweden ranks second in the UN Sustainable Development report and first in the Global Sustainable Competitiveness index. The Nordic country also has extensive environmental policy, such as a Carbon Tax and government initiatives. Common results of these include almost all waste being recycled and the highest global rate of organic food consumption (37% in 2018). Studies have found that individuals live more sustainably when they value nature. Without relationships with nature and animals, people may lack a sense of preservation towards the planet. In Sweden, where nature is so omnipresent and tangible, it is highly valued by its residents. Considering the climate crisis, it is important that younger, as well as older generations are in touch with nature and learn its value.

Enjoying Allemansrätten in Southern Sweden

A prime example of allemansrätten can be found in the Swedish region of Blekinge, which has 117 nature reserves to explore. Here, you can experience your own adventures and make use of allemansrätten yourself. People have been living and coexisting with nature and animals here since the end of the last Ice Age, 11700 years ago. The Blekinge archipelago in the south of the area, a landscape of coasts, islands, forests, and fields, was named a biosphere reserve by UNESCO and considered a model area for sustainable development of interconnected and unique natural and cultural assets.  These include traditional fishing methods with natural resources, the preservation of pasture-raised farming, and the protection of threatened species. You can visit the ARK56 in the Blekinge archipelago, which consists of several connected trails. Along the routes, you can kayak, cycle, sail, or trek while changing transport at different stops. You can swim in glistening lakes or go camping in the wilderness. The choices are abundant.

Enjoying Allemansrätten in Northern Sweden

In the region surrounding twin-town of Harparanda-Tornio, which lies on the border between Finland and Sweden, you can freely explore both Swedish and Finnish Lapland. This is made even easier by the fact that both countries are members of the EU and no visible border exists between them. You can see the magical Northern lights, go snowshoe hiking, or even skiing, to see nature up close. Alternatively, many camp in the Haparanda Archipelago, in tents or camper caravans, and enjoy hiking. Even on private land, you can stay for up to two days. The Torne River also plays a great role in connecting to people with the outdoors. Whether that be by gliding down the river on a kayak, pike fishing (a traditional technique originating from ancient times), or once again pitching up camp on one of the river’s beaches.

Allemansrätten Summarised

Allemansrätten is a truly unique Nordic cultural concept, enjoyed not only in Sweden but Finland, Iceland, Estonia, and Norway. It challenges traditional ideas of property, with a profound impact on how nature is viewed and preserved. It has had a profound cultural impact on Sweden by allowing everyone access to nature. Research has shown that it is beneficial to the preservation of nature and culture, which means it is a great measure to implement in other countries. If this article has made you curious and you’re excited to experience your own adventure in nature, try it for yourself and explore the endless Swedish nature.

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