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My controversial documentary on Finland

May 28, 2008

If I had access to a generous amount of financing and got the chance to do a documentary film on Finland, what would be the first images I would show you?

I would not start with a long and slow scene of dragonflies and insects dancing in the summer air above a pristine lake hugged by towering spruces, birches, firs and a few mountain ashes peppered here and there.

Wrong again. It wouldn’t be a full-bloom sunset radiating warmth in early spring, even if it is freezing outside. Nope, I wouldn’t attempt to picture how the full moon emits soft light as a soft pillow to lay your deepest thoughts inside a near-still autumn forest.

No, the documentary wouldn’t kick off with a scene showing modern architecture and of quiet and obedient buildings lined up in cities like Helsinki, Turku or Oulu. I wouldn’t even consider picturing a famous landmark like Finlandia Hall, or the paper mills of Tampere, which must have inspired the late Väinö Linna, the author of the Unknown Soldier.

The documentary would definitely not start with the rude rumbles of war and of scenes showing Karelian refugees abandoning their homes behind them – but not their dreams.

Definitely not: I wouldn’t start by asking an obvious question to President Tarja Halonen such as, “what would you like to tell the viewers,” never mind get into a heated debate with Finland’s last cold war President Mauno Koivisto. Forget Carl Mannerheim, Risto Ryti and Juho Paasikivi as well.

Possibly the documentary could kick off sportsmen like Paavo Nurmi, Lasse Viren, Mikko Ala-Leppilampi or maybe it is not such a good idea after all. What about Jean Sibelius? Mika Kaurismäki? Eeva Kilpi? Mika Waltari? Aino Kallas? Minna Canth? Lordi? What about a group of Finnish folk dancers entertaining a large crowd of Canadian Finns in Thunder Bay? No, no – and NO!

First scene

After the opening credits, the first image you would see is a truck transporting cut logs to a paper mill. As the forest industry got more efficient and produced more money for their owners such as the state, Finland didn’t become richer – but poorer.

Those old-growth forests that were once so abundant 50 years ago, are today like rare tropical islands in the Pacific untouched by mankind and womankind. Forests that are in their natural state, or close to it, cover 1.1 million hectares, or only 5.5% of forestland in Finland. Only 0.4 million hectares (2% of the land) have been protected.

Forest companies have devised new catchwords to justify the devastation they reap: metsätalous, which means in general terms felling your forest so it will generate the greatest economic wealth at the cost of biodiversity.

What about if you don’t want the woods to look like enormous planted fields, where trees grow like wheat or other cash crops? What about if you long to walk in forests that has free will and can decide for itself how it will grow, and die?

In the future, I fear our grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to visit “nature zoos” in order to see how natural forests once looked like.

The next scene would depict how global warming is challenging our country and way of life. It’s December 23 and the camera is focused on a thermometer outdoors: At 10am it’s 2C, but at 2pm the temperature soars to 17C, and finally rests at 35C at 4pm!

OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit, but temperatures have been steadily rising in Finland, increasing by 0.7°C (33.26F) since the previous century. By 2025, they are expected to rise by 2°C (35.6F), and during 2030-80 by as much as 4-6°C (39.2F-42.8F), according to a study by Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Of course these are very tentative predictions. By the time we get to 2025 or even sooner, we may notice that matters are in much worse shape than we expected.

Even though Finland will be hard-pressed by such challenges, our traditional way of life is being undermined by “global warming,” which is forcing us to change our lifestyles.

One of the greatest threats to the soul of this nation – and that of many others as well – are the negative matters that globalization such as excessive greed. Thirty years ago, Finland was another country with different values that didn’t always revolve around the size of your wallet.

So add to this the lethal variable of global warming and our destruction of our forests coupled with our insatiable desire to accumulate more wealth and comfort, and it is pretty clear to understand what is wrong with us.

Hopefully, when it is still not too late, we can look deep behind into time and rescue bits and pieces of where our ancestors and culture came from to rebuild a more lasting society – and world.

Dear reader, as you can see, I would have totally misled you about what Finland is if I’d only talk about the things I omitted at the beginning of the column.

In my opinion, the greatest challenge to our country is the destruction to our environment and biodiversity as well as our way of life.

So help us save Finland – and let’s not forget our planet as well.

Note: This column was published in Suomen Silta magazine.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    June 16, 2008 7:26 am

    I hope you can one day make that documentary. Though in one aspect there: “Thirty years ago, Finland was another country ruled by different values that didn’t always revolve around money.” Well that was the 1970’s when very little significance was put into nature values by the people in charge. That was the time before Koijärvi and such, the Green party was just a wet dream of some ecohippie radicals. Then money really talked and clear-cutting and heavy industrialization were the “values”. The value of the nature was realised later on and we now have nature preserves like the Natura-areas that 30 years ago were sci-fi for of these ecohippies chaining themselves to the harvesters.

    However I am totally confused: “One of the greatest threats to the soul of this nation – and that of many others as well – are the negative matters that globalization has brought, like excessive greed.” – but you yourself fiercely advocate globalization?!

  2. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    June 16, 2008 7:28 am

    And “ecohippies chaining themselves to the harvesters” you google the Finnish Green Party old guard and their “youth photos”. The radicals of the 1980’s are now sitting in Parliament 😉

  3. Enrique permalink
    June 16, 2008 5:19 pm

    Hi DeTant, everything brings good and bad things. I don’t believe that the solution to globalization is shutting one’s borders. Greed is one of the biggest vices of humankind and has been exacerbated by globatlization.

  4. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    June 16, 2008 7:12 pm

    OT – I learned a new word today, but how the heck do you pronounce “exacerbated”?

  5. September 22, 2008 8:20 am

    I have to admit DeTant (Jesus where did you get that name, would you not think of changing it to Jack, Jim or Penti;-) has a point. May as well face it, foreigners are only (for a government) compatible with economic boom; foreigners are attractive to rich wealthy countries to better their lives. The lack of wealth in their own country drives them to countries with wealth: the dream of America, but hey, Europe – not so rich – will do for a start. Wealth increases the need for their service, usually low paid building, hotel and so.
    Look at the Amazon and the effect of wealth/progress is having on the whole world. Beef and Soya farms are burning up the land.
    Once you offer wealth as a possibility for all even though logic tell us we all can’t be rich, you open up the gates of hell.
    Imagine it like the Pop Idol show: they all think they can sing and still wont believe it till they’re told to leave the stage, and even then…………That’s exactly what happened with the free reign given to the financial sector (no regulation) suddenly everybody wanted to get rich at the cost of driving the world into another 1030’s Great Depression, and we’re on course for that right now, just like we’re on a course for bio catastrophe between genetically modified crops, and carbon emissions. Unfortunately it seems we must always be brought to the brink before someone calls a halt; in this case the Bush administration who are stanch advocates of the free market. Bush repeated over and over again about his faith in a global free market economy, now it has collapsed down around his knees and he nor any of the politicians have a real 100% clue how to get it back up again even though they’re pumping billions into the system today Monday 22nd. Sept. the markets are till not responding obviously because the super rich will not play ball having their investment (massive wealth in a phone call move of shares) possibilities diminish before their eyes.

    Back to the beginning. We can’t have it all in a flash, no more get rich (start a little business) quick.
    Ethical behavior – environmental and social ramifications, planning before approval.

  6. Enrique permalink
    September 22, 2008 3:09 pm

    Hi Paddy, yes, it is a funny name. It sounds like from the 1970s, when the US pursued foreign policy towards the Russians. So, are you saying that that all immigration flows in the world will end because we are headed towards a 1930s-type Depression?

  7. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    September 22, 2008 3:25 pm

    Paddy, its just my nick in political debates because I’m a diletant flower-hatted auntie. Just look for a “Pippi Långstrump” movie and Fröken Rosenblom… and ask any Finn what a “kukkahattutäti” is… 😉

  8. September 24, 2008 7:12 am

    It’s happening already with the increase round up of Mexicans; extra powers have recently been given to civic police to apprehend immigrants. Before immigration was solely the business of the immigration police.
    With work getting scarce “ordinary Americans” (if there is such a thing, ha) are now competing for the lowly paid jobs.
    America is the biggest/richest economy in the world and is the macrocosmic barometer (I think I should invent one of those) for the rest of the world.
    Even in Spain/Madrid (I think I mentioned it) the offer is on the table for foreigners to take a two year social security payment- half now and the other when they return home.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again (like I’ve been talking about the next Great Depression For over a year now) immigrants are only welcome as long as there is slave labor (nobody else wants to do) available.
    The very same with the guest workers in (mostly Berlin) Germany Turks mostly. The term “GUEST WORKER” says it all, but it is an honest description none-the-less. I’ll give the Germans that much.

    No country in the world invites foreigners into their country to make life more richly/edifying making happy shiny people. Governments are reluctant to better the condition of the people they serve in any way as far as I’m concerned.

    The (second this year) shooting yesterday tells you the condition of the youth in Finland alone: they’re extremely unhappy, and I see/saw it with my own teenager the nonexistent facilities while growing up.
    Hanging around a broken down shed and a small patch to kick a ball around . Government taking money out of social service year by year.

    The reaction to the shooting: tighten up the gun laws, more crime: build more prisons, people are drowning people with water: turn of/ration the tap water … the usual knee-jerk-reactions, instead of getting to the real root of problems. Taking the cheap option/pacifier every time.

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