Allemansrätten Posted by Katja on Oct 24, 2011 in Culture, environment, Living in Sweden
Have you ever heard of “Allemansrätten”? Translated to english we would call it something along the lines of “Right of Public Access”.
It is almost universally seen as a symbol for Sweden, or maybe at least for most of Europe’s nordic countries. The right to walk freely in the woods, (even private ones) picking berries and mushrooms, camping on somebody’s land but not in their backyard, all of these are rights most Swedes have grown up almost taking for granted. What children in Sweden are taught about common conduct in nature, can be summarized as “stör inte, förstör inte” meaning “don’t disturb, don’t destroy”. In essence plain commonsense. In elementary school most classes do group work about “Allemansrätten” talking about what it actual implications of what our rights are.
Many Swedes, myself included, have great appreciation for this right and use it more than we actually realize. I have proudly told many of my friends in other countries about all the privileges and of course about the responsibilities that come with them. How on a brisk autumn day I can simply walk, walk and walk. Not really having to think about my destination or who owns the land. If I have brought a basket with me I can pick berries or mushrooms, and when I feel tired I can just sit down and have a little break with a thermos full of hot chocolate.
For me, this is one of the best things about Sweden. As a Swede, growing up with this wonderful privilege I have probably never stopped to consider that this is actually something unique and special.
In recent years berry companies have sent out so many people to pick berries in the woods, that many consider this to be an act of exploitation of “Right to Public Access”. Moreover, orienteering events and competitions are held on such a large scale that the forests actually get damaged. The problem with the legislation “Right to public access” is that it is so vague that there is nothing really preventing companies and larger organizations from behaving similarly to individuals, even if the consequences are more severe.