India in comparison to Sweden and what we can learn from each other

India is a country were you can find beautiful nature, great cities and people with different culture, religion, visions and goals. Some struggle with providing food, housing and basic necessities for the family, and some struggle to find the best place to get a suntan.

I have not a lot of experience with low income countries; I have mostly been in Europe on vacation where the standards have been quite high. So coming to India is a new world to me. My first week in India has shown a country where poverty is found next to wealth, fancy and westernized stores next to a small store that is missing walls. But still there is a sense of brotherhood and an understanding between the people in India. The people I have meet in Auroville are friendly, eager to help and try to make the world a better place, both for the present but also for the future. It is called Sustainable Development.

We have been visiting many different organizations, and they are all consciously trying to focus on improving the standards of India and thinking about a sustainable future. For example, we visited a solar panel system organization called Sunlit Future and another organization called Naturellement that made jam, marmalade, and lemonade but also had a garden cafe. Their focus was on making natural products and empowering women. The fact that this organization is in rural India does not make a difference, when a problem arises the people come up with innovative solutions. According to Sunlit Future the demand for solar power has risen since the cyclone, and this is because the people of Auroville want to be “off the grid” and self-sufficient. By “off the grid” they mean when the houses/buildings are not dependent on outside systems.

So I started thinking about how Sustainable Development is functioning in Sweden. Several issues come to mind when reflecting on Sweden. I am from a little village in Sweden, and I will reflect mainly on the place were I grew up on. For example, waste management is quite easy to handle in my village since most people have compost stations in their gardens, and there are garbage stations were you can separates the household waste. I do not claim that everyone separates their household waste properly but they have the chance to be responsible and take action against pollution. The scary part is that it is only 2 percent of the waste that comes from households, the main part is from industries. How the industries handle their garbage in Sweden is a question I have no answer for.

Another problem is the heating of the houses. Sweden is a cold place. We may not have polar bears roaming the streets, but we do have a lot of snow and rain. Many use oil, wood and electricity, which is not very sustainable for the future. Many in Auroville uses solar panels, but since Sweden has few days of sun, this may not be an appropriate way of heating. But there are several other options that will not contribute to the pollution of the world, and Sweden might benefit from exploring these options further. Here the Aurovillean way of being innovative could serve Sweden well.

In conclusion, Sweden might have certain things to learn from India and especially from Auroville, such as being more sustainable and not putting convenience and comfort first; also having an innovative way to solve problems.  Likewise, India might learn other things from Sweden such as household management or women’s empowerment. Furthermore, India is an exciting place, and even though some things should be improved there are many things that I hope will remain the same, such as the sense of brotherhood you can find in Auroville.

By Martina Mattsson, Linnaeus University

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