Sweden - Geography
For simplicity’s sake, the country can be divided into three major regions: Götaland in the south, Svealand in the middle and Norrland in the north. The capital of Sweden, Stockholm, is also the country’s largest city, with more than 850,000 inhabitants. Other large cities are Gothenburg, in western Sweden (population 532,000), and Malmö (population 300,000) in the south. Uppsala and Lund are well-known university cities.
Less than three per cent of Sweden’s land area is built up and forests cover 69 per cent of the country. Sweden is long – some 1,574 kilometers from top to bottom – and can be divided into three major regions: Götaland in the south, Svealand in the middle and Norrland in the north.
The Scandinavian Peninsula, with the exception of the interval between the Gulf of Bothnia and the Arctic Ocean, is surrounded by water — west by the Atlantic, south by the SkogerRack and the Baltic, with the intermediate channels, and east by the Baltic and Gulf of Bothnia. The length of the peninsula is about one thousand one hundred and fifty miles, and the extreme breadth along the sixtieth parallel about four hundred and fifty miles.
The two countries are divided from each other in the north by the Kiolen Mountains, and south of these by a somewhat conventional line which makes for the inmost angle of the Skager-Rack. Sweden lies east of this boundary, and extends south over the peninsula between the Kattegat and the Baltic to fifty-five degrees twenty minutes north latitude. Norway, on the other hand, overlaps Sweden in the north, and entirely shuts it off from the Arctic Ocean.
One element of Swedish geography is the "60° Latitude Problem". Simply expressed, unlike Norway and Finland which have little or no territory south of this latitude, Sweden has consistently taken her cultural and intellectual identity from the lower third of her landmass, the land south of the 60° parallel. Even the most recent archaeological textbooks have this remarkable bias. The northern two-thirds ofthe country have been viewed as a peripheral wilderness which only becomes part of the Swedish past when agriculture and bronze and iron age hegemony and history, emanating from the south, extends northward.
The Swedish countryside is dotted with thousands of lakes, freshwater streams, mountains and rolling hills. Starting up north, villages are few and small, nature fills in. The landscape is very dramatic, and rolling hills rise into mountains. On the way south, there are endless numbers of lakes, streams, and pine and birch trees.
On the Baltic island of Gotland, limestone columns rise dramatically from the sea. And in southernmost Sweden, there is everything from deep-green potato fields to some of the richest apple orchards in Europe. So if there’s one thing Sweden has plenty of, it’s open landscapes. Even those living in large cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg have direct access to hundreds of unspoiled islands – just a short boat ride from the city center.
Sweden once seemed doomed by nature to be a poor country. Her most southern districts are beyond the limits of the temperate zone, in which alone the finer and more valuable kinds of grain, and the richer fruits, come to maturity. Her scanty harvest consisted solely of rye, bigg, and oats, scarcely accounted as food in more favored climates. Scandinavia was described generally as one unbroken boundless forest, varied only in its aspect by little patches of cultivated land. . But nature has gifted these bleak regions with an almost inexhaustible store of timber and iron, two of the prime necessaries of human life.
Sweden is filled with forests and open landscapes and one of the unique joys of living in Sweden is allemansrätten, or the Right of Public Access. It allows anyone to roam freely in the countryside, swim and travel by boat in someone else’s waters and pick mushrooms and berries in the forest, as long as the land is not cultivated, and as long as no damage is caused.
Although landowners can put up signs to exclude visitors from certain private lands, and areas that are particularly vulnerable to damage are always off-limits, the general rule is that visitors are allowed to walk across lands at a reasonable distance from houses, yards, gardens and fenced-in areas. With this right comes the responsibility to tread carefully and to show consideration for landowners and others.
Swedes hold nature in high esteem, which is one reason why environmental issues are so important here. Only one per cent of solid waste goes to landfill in Sweden – with the rest recycled or used to produce heat, electricity or vehicle fuel in the form of biogas. Renewable energy sources account for nearly half (48 per cent) of Swedish energy production. Swedish environmental technology companies export their green knowhow to the rest of the world in technology areas such as biofuels, bioenergy, windpower, solar power and wastewater treatment.
Climate change caused by the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases [GHG] is one of the foremost global environment problems today. Since Sweden accounts for less than 0.2 per cent of total global emissions, the country could easily have gone unnoticed in the climate debate.
Instead, Sweden has chosen to do more than many other countries on issues regarding energy and the climate. Since the mid-1990s, Sweden is one of few industrialised countries that have managed an absolute decoupling between economic growth and GHG emissions: a rising economy paired with falling emission levels. In 1995, Sweden became one of the first countries in the work to introduce a carbon tax.
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