Monday, June 13, 2016

Thinking about Home

Post by: Hannah Ostby
3rd-year student at College of the Atlantic

Being in Samsoe has made me think a lot about home. What it means to change perceptions and a certain way of living, transforming as a community, and what Samsoe’s energy transition can mean for my home in Norway and in Scandinavia in general. I arrived by ferry, and the first thing I did when I got off the boat was to get on a bicycle and ride along the beautiful island landscape on an empty road to our campground. I was very tired from traveling over from the US, but there was something so reassuring about arriving on the island. The ease and accessibility of just getting on a bike and being able to go wherever I wanted to, the comfortable bike lanes, the raw beauty of the environment surrounding me, the calm and quiet- together all these factors filled me with peace and hope, and that moment was the first time I started to understand how this seemingly impossible transition had taken place.

 This trip was my first real visit to Denmark, and I was very excited to see this beautiful place I had heard so much about, and to experience a culture very close to my own that I could connect with. And I did feel a connection, although it was hard to put a finger on what it was at first, but I understand now that it was a connection to the place, and by extension to the people around me, through the appreciation of nature.
One day at the Energy Academy, Soeren Hermansen shared a special word with us: “commonity.” This word is a contraction of two words: “commons” and “community,” and it describes the phenomenon of a community sharing the responsibility of taking care of the commons, of their common spaces. It is a word that was invented at the Energy Academy, and I think it is the key to understanding how everything on this island seems to work sustainably so effortlessly. Samsoe has understood that the environment is part of the commons, it is our home, and that we need to take just as much responsibility and care in how we treat it as we do our houses and our loved ones. It is something that should be valued. The environment does not just mean the physical environment, but it also means our work and our interactions, and if we put our energy into doing what we love then the rest will follow.

It seems as though Samsoe has become a great “puzzle” that many visitors try to figure out, but the truth is it is just the same whether we understand it or not. Interestingly enough, it also seems to be a place that all its visitors can relate to in some way because they make it their own. This is my impression of how Samsoe “works,” because the island has made the renewable energy transition their own, and this is why it is sustainable.