Sweden often gets branded as the socialist extreme toward which the U.S. may be gravitating as Americans struggle with healthcare reform and environmental sustainability. The Daily Show’s two-part series The Stockholm Syndrome is an amusing spoof on this subject, highlighting just how extreme it really is in Sweden. Taxes are between 50-70% of your income but among the benefits afforded the Swedes are free healthcare, education and five weeks of paid vacation. Employers are even required to provide their employees with massages. Can it be all that bad?
Clearly our cultures are worlds apart but we increasingly share the same global priorities. Many might argue that Sweden has surpassed the US in addressing issues of critical importance like climate change. Swedes are sophisticated, forward thinking and online in high numbers. And we know that by 2020, the Swedish EPA has set the remarkably ambitious goal “to hand over a society in which the most serious environmental problems have been solved.” In contrast, tonight the US House of Representatives narrowly passed complicated legislation that if signed into law will establish the nation’s first national limits to cap greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to 17% below 2005 levels. This climate bill faces strong opposition in the Senate so perhaps we should consider a novel approach in the form of symbolism to engage and sway public on opinion on this critical issue. Here again, the Swedes have built one in the hopes that they will come.
Under development by a Stockholm-based architecture firm are several tree hotels – six cabins under construction that are slated to open to guests in 2010. These futuristic tree houses accommodate two people and provide a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape in Harads, Sweden. The exterior panes on the structures have been equipped with clear ultraviolet shading only visible to birds to keep them out but the challenge is to build awareness of these accommodations so that humans will want to fly in for a stay.
Swedes are known for conversing online about trend-setting fashion, design and architecture so this is one cool project that has started to create buzz on social networking sites, receiving coverage in several blogs.
These “rooms with a view” could segue from a novelty to an icon of Sweden’s devotion to environmental sustainability. These structures provide a birds eye view of the nation’s biodiversity and climate change challenges and could prompt further thoughtful conversations in social networks about ways to meet the 16 goals established by the Environmental Objectives Council (EOC).
The design firm, Tham & Videgard Hansson, and the hotel management firm, Brittas Pensionat, might consider teaming with the EOC on a public/private partnership utilizing social networks like Twitter and those popular in Sweden like Lunarworks to drive both natives and tourists to these unique living spaces reachable only by rope swings. By doing so, these companies could build their brands while marrying the innovation and visionary thinking Sweden is known for with the nation’s new environmental objectives.
Most nations – especially the US – would do well to catch up with the Swedes on the issue of environmental sustainability. These tree houses could captivate the imaginations of people online, planted one virtual seed at a time as the Swedes’ environmental objectives take root on social networks, going mainstream and connecting 21st Century “tree huggers” with those concerned with climate change all around the world.