…or is there?
C’mon, play a game with me. I had an easy time feeling at home in Sweden because the landscape reminded me of home, of Wisconsin. So play along. See if you can guess which pictures here are of Wisconsin or Sweden.
Yes, we love water. A few interesting statistics. There are approximately 636,000 boats registered in the state of Wisconsin. If I’ve done my math correctly, there is one boat registered in Wisconsin for approximately every nine people. It is estimated that there is a boat for every seven Swedes (International Boat Industry website). For the record, the same source estimates that, overall in the US, there is one boat for every 23 people.
Other comparisons: Sweden covers approximately 450,000 km2 (174,000 sq. miles) and stretches from south to north, latitude 55° N to 68° N. Wisconsin covers about 37% as much area – 170,000 km2 (65,500 sq. miles), from 42° N to 47° N. Stockholm is Sweden’s most populated city with 819,000 inhabitants within city limits and 1.9 million in the metropolitan area. Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest city: 605,000 people within the city and roughly 1.7 million in its metro area.
What else struck me as familiar?
Away from the urban centers, Wisconsin’s landscape is dominated by agriculture and forests. Hmm, so is Swedish geography… Sweden’s and Wisconsin’s northern regions have been famous for iron, copper and zinc ores, but mining is not as important an economic driver as it once was.
And back to water: Sweden boasts about 3200 km (2000 miles) of coastline, most of it along the Baltic Sea. Wisconsin’s ‘coastline’ totals roughly 1600 km (1000 miles): 800 miles along the coasts of the Great Lakes and 200 miles bordering the mighty Mississippi River.
The Swedes apply a concept called allemansrätten – the right of public access – which taught me something about their relationship with their natural environment. Allemansrätten refers to the right of each person to benefit from the bounty of nature, by hiking through someone else’s land, travelling by boat and picking wild flowers, berries and mushrooms.
When I learned this, I immediately thought of the the public trust doctrine, which provides that the state of Wisconsin holds the waters of the state in trust for the public. The uses held in trust include navigation, fishing, hunting, swimming and other recreational enjoyment. As a Wisconsin native, I could relate to the underlying concept, that some resources are too precious to all of us to belong to any one of us.
Back to our game. Have you decided which photos picture Wisconsin scenes and which are Swedish?
You’ll find the answers in the first comment to this blog entry. Click on the highlighted COMMENTS link under the title “There’s no place like home”