This blog isn’t really needed anymore

Is this blog needed anymore? That’s what I’ve been asking myself, and why I haven’t updated it for over a year. I’ve been writing for Spark Sustainability every now and then instead. Spark is a sustainable lifestyle consultancy and web platform focused on inspiring individuals to become involved in climate action, that I cofounded in early 2018.

About a year ago, the entire media world literally exploded with sustainability and climate news. Even my grandparents are now constantly updating me on sustainability news. I see my grandparents as typical members of an older generation, who have worked all their lives to increase our living standards and just have quite average European consumption preferences. So I see them changing as an indication that the whole sustainability awareness thing is spreading further than to woke university educated millennials!

My grandmother initiated a discussion on the differences in benefits between electric vehicles and biodiesel, last time I saw her for lunch. This would literally never have happened in 2013 when I started this blog. I started this blog after starting to study environmental sciences at university and just being chocked how it was possible that I hadn’t known all this stuff earlier.

There are of course a whole bunch of people who couldn’t care less about sustainability. The thing is though, I very much doubt that my blog will reach these people. I need to keep thinking about how I could reach out to a wider group of people than my socially conscious millennial friends and their friend’s friends.

In the end I think it’s an utopia that everyone would put the environment highest on their priority list in life. We just need enough “active starters”. Take LED bulbs as an example, if stores would just put them on the most convenient shelf, many people would not even realise that they’re buying the most environmentally friendly light bulb. It would just be the light bulb that you could access without having to bend down to the lower shelves.

Of course, governments can just forbid everything that’s bad, but that takes time. So until then we need to keep getting a large enough group of people to care. That would increase the likelihood of any shop owner realising that they should reorganise their shelf of lightbulbs and make it really uncomfortable to reach down for those high energy consuming bulbs.

In the end, I think my conclusion is that when growing up and moving on in life, I hope I can find better channels to educate and nudge society around me to become more sustainable. Much of the main-stream media has taken up the job that I originally intended this blog for. For example, CNN wrote about how you can have an impact on stopping climate change.  This summer, there’s been so many stories on people skipping flying. Most prominently of course, Greta Thunberg. I don’t feel the need to document every train journey I’m doing anymore.

The fact that the original idea of my blog has become a bit useless couldn’t make me happier. We’re moving in the right direction, keep writing more mainstream media! I promise to keep sharing it all on social media 😉

Perhaps I’ll update here if I get some new brilliant idea on how to save the world. We’ll see!

PS. About that discussion on electric cars vs biodiesel, my opinion is that we should definitely let’s go electric. We need all available biofuel for aviation and perhaps shipping, as those are much harder to decarbonise. So we shouldn’t waste it on passenger cars.

 

Sustainable brands, there’s more and more of them!

pexels-photo-547557.jpegWhen mainstream shops start offering a sustainability section for clothes, it becomes so much easier to combine style and sustainability! We need clothes to keep us warm, for sure. But we also use them to express ourselves! Having a wide variety of clothes to choose from might be a western luxury but many people, including myself, do feel like it’s important to really get to choose what you wear. Combining a wide range of choice with sustainability has however not really worked out that well. But now change has started happening!

Two or three years ago, I had to order clothes or shoes to Finland from for example France or the UK, if I wanted to buy anything marked as a sustainable brand. No more! The web shop Zalando now offers a “sustainable development” choice in the “filter by…” section. When you tick that button, all the page shows you is more sustainable than the market average. They have over 500 items of clothing in that section! I realised that if people always just automatically ticket that box, you would not even see and be tempted to buy anything that’s not marked as sustainable. With functions like that, it’s so easy to choose sustainable that you don’t have to be a major environmentalist to do it.

Obviously, buying more and more new things will never make the world more sustainable. But if you are buying new clothes anyways, switching to more sustainable brands and materials can make a huge difference globally.

My five favourite sustainable brands

  1. Filippa K (clothes)

  2. Veja (Sneakers)

  3. Bourgeois Boheme (shoes for work)

  4. Under the Same Sun (yoga wear)

  5. Monkee Genes (jeans)

 

A discussion on paying tax

I had dinner with two of my best friends the other night and we started discussing how different university educations primed you to be more left wing or more right wing  politically, because of which society problems you got exposed to during your studies. I should mention now, this post has very little to do with the environment.

This night, me and my friends were specifically comparing a business school offering economics, finance and business leadership as degrees, and a school of social science offering social work and social psychology to mention a couple. You can probably guess which one primed you to be left or right wing ;)?

I have a problem both with left wing and right wing politicians. The left wing, both in Finland and the UK have this really weird style of shaming wealthy people. As if they were deliberately trying to screw everyone over and make poor people miserable? That’s obviously not the case.

We live in an economic system of capitalism with inheritance rights and property rights. If you are born to parents who have the resources to raise you into a well educated person with high work ethics, you have more of a chance to become rich. Blaming and shaming wealthy individuals is absurd, because they just behave according to the circumstances and system they were born into. This mentality is quite common in Finnish culture though.

To the next point, the right wing has this absolutely absurd way of shaming people who were unlucky in life. People who were born to poor parents with mental health problems, are shamed and blamed for inheriting both the poverty and the other problems. Imagine a child who does not have access to any kind of after school help with studies, who does not have an adult with the time and capacity to prepare healthy meals, and has no role models for choosing careers that make you rich. It’s not their fault that their parents had to work evening jobs to make enough money.

If you are poor and you become seriously ill, for example, you just might become so stressed about the money situation as well that you can’t even focus on properly recovering from your illness. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, but in many cases it’s really this way. Sometimes right wing parties blame these people in an unfair way, based on false accusations about being “lazy” when its really just that someone has been more unlucky in life than most of us would be able to cope with.

Finland ranks as the number one happy country in the world this year. I believe a big reason for that is our high taxes. However, this system won’t be sustained if the people paying the highest taxes are being blamed and shamed. Then the people earning the most will move abroad, and Finland is left with too little tax money to support the people born into less lucky circumstances.

How people feel about paying taxes depends on how it is psychologically presented. Right now, the way the Finnish state presents if feels to many people who work hard like “We are going to take 50% of your income to punish you for trying to be better or work harder than other people. Shame on you for earning to much, give the money here right now!”.

What if instead of lowering the tax rate to make these wealthy people feel better, we just changed the psychology behind paying tax? First of all, I think that wealthy people need to do a little bit to let go of the thought that “I’m worth all this money”. In my opinion, we should never be psychologically motivated to work just for the benefit of ourselves. We should be motivated to work harder to make also other people’s lives better.

What if you really started realising that the money that goes into tax was not your money to begin with? You and the job you did really was worth only 3500 euro a month, not 5000. That extra 1500, it was destined to be a gift to children. That money was never even meant to be yours, it was meant to make sure that all children can receive an equal education. Humans have an amazing capacity to empathy, and we have strong instincts to care about our community. So instead of pointing fingers at wealthy, hardworking people: make them realise how much good they do for the community.

People who contribute with much work but little money also deserve thanks and feeling good, the fact that our buildings are clean and our babies are being delivered safely are worth being grateful for. It is not an “either or” situation, it is possible to let wealthy people feel good about contributing without being afraid that it would mean people who pay less tax are worth less. The left wing seems to thing that letting someone else feel good is somehow away from them.

I think there has to be income differences, because different people have different preferences and we should be able to have some free choice of how we want to live. Someone does not like big houses and think the idea of working more to get a big house is absurd, whereas someone else would literally give up all their free time to get a big house. Those differences in preference are fine, and they do not make one person better than another.

However, we live in a community and by living in a community, you can’t just do a complete solo race and not give a f*ck about anyone else. I don’t have an idea of a better system right now, so I think we stick with capitalism for sure, but the redistribution that the Finish state does, is not “stealing from hard working wealthy people”, it is making sure that we have a working community where happiness is maximised. Then again, I might not always agree with what the current government does…

I have two ideas of how to make paying taxes more fun. One is that you would get to indicate a preference where 5% of your taxes should be spent. Children, elderly or the environment, for example? That would psychologically trigger the feeling of giving a gift, a feeling that most people love! Then, whenever you get your tax form sent to you, there would be a letter showing how much good you did and how your indicated preference was improved.

The counter argument to this would be that it allows rich people more control in democracy. However, IF it proved to be a good way of avoiding tax evasion, this little trade off would surely be worth it.

We should remind ourselves that it can be really motiving to work harder and better for the benefit of our community, and not just for ourselves. Giving gifts makes everyone happy. Receiving gifts should also never be seen as something shameful. The fact that someone was not able to pay for their own hospital care does not in any way make them a worse person. We live in a community with individuals with different weaknesses and strengths. Let’s also be happy if we are not able to contribute that much with either money or work, let’s remember that we can all contribute with love for our community, and that’s what matters: showing that you care about other people.

How to travel by train – tips and ideas for your next holiday

 

 

I’m so jealous at everyone turning 18-year old this year, they get free Interrail tickets this summer! I am trying to go back to my good habits of travelling by train in Europe instead of flying, and I thought I would share some tips with you guys. Summer holidays are coming up and if you are planning a trip anywhere in Europe, why not do it by train? In this post I’ll go through costs, how to plan your route and how much in advance you should book.

Ideally, I would take the train much more. I have high ideals, but I am in no way a “perfect eco citizen”. Because of my flying, my carbon footprint is three times the sustainable level. Many people are true eco-heroes without thinking about it even! They live in a small flat, they buy the food that’s about to go off with the 60% tags and they travel by public transport. Often, the people who spend least money are the one’s we should look up too. Those guys are your real heroes, I’m just a spoiled millennial who want to raise awareness among other spoiled millennials. Enough about that, now to train travel!

Why chose train?

If you want to see many destinations in Europe, train is the obvious choice. If you are going to just one destination, most people I know see flying as the obvious choice but train can offer the benefit of giving you a “bonus destination” on the way. Seeing things on the way and more flexibility are two great aspects about train travelling. Taking the night train is the best. For every night you spend on the train, you gain a day for sightseeing and avoid the cost of a hotel.

The other obvious benefit is that most train companies run on electricity that is largely produced from renewable resources. That means that taking the train can on many routes have zero carbon emissions! A typical flight trip in Europe has at least 500kg of carbon emissions. Just one flight roundtrip is almost 10% of the average EU citizens annual emissions, so taking the train can give you some serious saves. Also, taking the train is a real adventure! You meet people, you explore and you learn to enjoy the little things along the way. Most trains are also very comfortable and if you have the chance to travel by night train, you won’t even notice you spent time travelling.

Where to start planning?

The Interrail.eu website shows the best train connections within Europe. I can put in Helsinki to London and it suggests me the quickest route! I keep using that distance as an example because I have made that journey three times but I have also travelled by rail from London to Milan, from Amsterdam to Madrid and obviously the Eurostar routes from London to Paris and Brussells. Interrail.eu also have an app called the Rail Planner that I recommend downloading when you start planning your app. Click here to get to the planner. Plan your journey well in advance if you want to travel during popular times and you have to be on certain trains, the most popular routes on the fastest trains can sell out. You can be more relaxed about planning if have all the time in the world during your travels and you don’t mind having a journey by local trains with several small stop overs and occasionally wait even a day extra to catch a cheaper train the next day.

I would suggest planning your route and your timetable before purchasing an Interrail pass, as for some journeys single tickets can be cheaper. To save money,  I really recommend booking the high speed rails such as the Eurostar from London or the Thalys trains in France, Germany, Spain and the Benelux countries well in advance. The prices for these trains tend to go up if you leave booking too late. The Eurostar from London is not included in the Interrail pass but the Interrail pass entitles you to a small discount on your Eurostar ticket price.

When you plan your trip I suggest putting in your starting point and final destination first, just to see which stopover places the app suggests. You want to spend more time than the shortest stopover time in some of these places, so do not religiously follow this first suggested timetable. For example on the journey from Milan to London I decided to have a 13 hours stop over to enjoy a day in Paris, instead of just a 1h stopover where I would have to rush. Search for the timetables of the two journeys separately: Milan-Paris and then Paris-London.

About the cost – Interrail pass or individual train tickets?

An Interrail pass is ideal if your goal is to see as many places as possible and you don’t mind moving from one place to another. They sell both International and one-country passes. I have myself not done a proper Interrail trip with many stops over a month or so, but read a bit further and you’ll see the tips from two of my friends who have done it.

If you are under 27 years old, the price of the Interrail pass is about 25% cheaper. The prices for the International youth passes range from 208€ (£192) to 510€ (£470) depending on if you travel for the minimum of 5 days or up to a whole month. On top of this, many trains charge a seat reservation fee to be allowed travel on that train. Comparing rail travel to flying is very difficult because you can see so much more when you travel by train.

Tips for shorter train journeys

When you are travelling less than 5 days during a period of two weeks, which is the smallest international Interrail pass, it might actually become cheaper to book individual train journeys. Sometimes it can be worth paying the little extra with the Interrail pass even if you are travelling a shorter time because it allows for flexibility. The benefit of the Interrail pass is if you miss a train connection, you can just take the next train instead. On some distances, you might also want to take bus or boat instead of train. For example, all my journeys out of Helsinki include a ferry ride. If you travel by the fastest Intercity trains, for example from Paris to Barcelona, you might as well not have an Interrail pass because the mandatory seat reservation fees for these trains can be quite high. I bought most of my individual train tickets from Go Euro because they sell both bus and train tickets from many countries on just one site.

My experience of shorter one-way train journeys in Europe. 1-4 are with individual tickets, nr 5 is with an Interrail pass:

  1. Helsinki to London (via Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels): 235 euro (£210)
  2. London to Amsterdam (via Brussels): 58 euro (£51)
  3. Amsterdam to Madrid (via Paris): 205 euro (£180)
  4. Milan to London (via Paris): 195 euro (£175)
  5. Helsinki to London in 2016 (via Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Brussels) 295 euro (£265). This sum includes the following costs: Interrail ticket 180 euro, ferry to Stockholm from Turku 55 euro and Eurostar ticket 60€. 

Tips for longer Interrailing

My friends who have done some longer Inter railing share their experience here.


Emil: No train no gain

Emil train 2Back in 2013 I went on my first inter rail adventure. I took a three week-ticket and decided to travel as much as I could in three weeks. I remember counting that we travelled through at least 18 countries. We had a quite quick pace, because I was eager to see as much as possible. For me the train rides themselves are the main part of the journey. Different landscapes and countries passing by in the window are the beauties you miss when you take that oil-drinking-Dracula, called an airplane.

I good tip for traveling longer distances with train is to take the local trains. Take your time and skip the superfastultrafancygodzillahyperloop-trains that travel approx. 900 km/h. Use the local trains instead. Because that’s where you find the locals. You’ll see the smiling school kids, the praying nuns, the stressed-out office worker and also the weird people inter railing with a shitty guitar on their backs. Note that I might be that guy.


Sofia: Bring a padlock and a copy of your passport!

SoffiatrainSome years ago I went inter railing for 4 weeks in Europe. It was in August, which is the most busy month in Europe with a lot of tourists. Because of this, I would advise anyone planning an inter rail to go in June or July, since it will be less tourists and also cheaper prices. Plan your route beforehand but account for one extra day or some extra hours at every place you want to visit. Strive for a good balance between planning and being spontaneous. For example, we planned to stay three days in Verona, Italy, but after one day we spontaneously decided to go to Venice since we had seen everything Verona had to offer in one day.

Try to book hostels in those cities you want to spend more time in. Also, if you are travelling in August, book ahead! Otherwise you might find yourself in a difficult situation when arriving in your destination. Me and my friends were forced to spend the night on a beach since the all the cheap hostels were booked and we did not feel like paying for a hotel.

Last tip: look after your stuff and be super careful! Take a copy of your passport and bring a padlock with you.

Felicia’s comment: It sounds like Sofia may or may not have somehow lost her passport haha 😉


How much time to allow for a distance?

If the route you are taking requires changing trains, allowing for some extra time is really the key to enjoyable rail travel. The Interrail planner says it will take me 42 hours to get from Helsinki to London. I have made the journey in that time once, and it was quite stressful. I had 6 stop overs which were all less than 3 hours long, and the worst stop over was in Hamburg at 3.30 am. I do not recommend for anyone to change trains at 3.30 am and I will never do it again. Unless there is a proper night train that allows you to sleep your 8 hours, I really recommend staying at a cheap hostel and just adding 10 hours to your journey time. Believe me, you will be much happier about your journey iof you sleep properly!

In the summertime (May to September) there is a night train from Stockholm to Berlin with a shorter stop in Malmö. Check it out at Snälltåget.se. In the wintertime when travelling between Helsinki and London there is no night train, so I have to sleep one night at a hostel in Copenhagen to avoid travelling during the night.

Basic tip: allow at least one more day than what the Interrail Planner says is the shortest possible time to travel. The app says it takes 51 hours to go from Helsinki to Madrid but you definitely do not want to make the journey in that time. You can get to Madrid in just two days but it might be a bit stressful. The journey includes stop overs in Copenhagen, Paris and Barcelona and you definitely want to explore at least one of them on the way. Maybe you want to explore them just for a few hours but still, you don’t want to follow the inconvenient suggestions of stop over times that the Railplanner app gives you. Why on earth would you want to be in Lyon between 23:56 and 07:06 for example? You might as well take the later morning train from Lyon to your next destination and enjoy a cute brunch!

I travelled from Arezzo in Italy via Milan and Paris to London in just 24 hours. That was quite good because it included a 40 minute stop over in Milan (time for buying snacks), a night train to Paris, a whole day of museums in Paris and a 2 hour train back to London late in the evening. If you have convenient connections you can make even longer distances in only 24 hours. Short distances like London to Amsterdam take only 4,5 hours. How much time to allow depends on both the distance and the connections, the fewer connections you have, the quicker your journey will be and the less risk there is of missing a connecting train.

The new normal

Recently more and more people in Europe are starting to choose the train over flying. In fact, there are many discussions on political level that some of the night trains that were shut down year’s ago would be brought back. When on holiday, more people are starting to realise that they can enjoy the journey as much as the destination. As for business trips, quick routes like the Eurostar also helps people choose trains over flying. If you are planning your next journey in Europe but you feel unsure about how to join the train-trend, please comment below and ask any question, I will always reply!

It starts with a Spark! The founding of a company

_DSC2957-3 smaller (1).jpgI have co-founded a company called Spark Sustainability! Above, you can see my awesome team: Anna T., Amanda, Anna E. and Johanna. Spark is all about spreading information about how individuals can help stop climate change. It’s about positive encouragement and reminding you that many small actions add up to something big and significant. You can subscribe to our newsletter at sparksustainability.com.  I still think that governments should take more responsibility for stopping climate change, but as long as they just keep being a bit useless, every one of us can do as much as we can by ourselves! After all, 70% of global GHG:s can be linked to individual choice.The website also has a carbon calculator, making it easy for everyone to start seeing where their carbon footprint really comes from. Spark will help everyone make better one’s.

Already a couple years ago, I was writing on different blog pages trying to find someone to keep a sustainability blog together with. I wanted to share my message in a more professional way, but I also did not want to spend 20 hours a week on my personal blog. Back then I did not find anyone, and I kept blogging here. So when Amanda, who has studied environmental and energy technology, asked me last summer if I want to co-found a platform for inspiring positive climate action, I was THRILLED! I get to keep writing about climate change, but I can develop, learn, become better and more professional.

A study by UNEP showed that sometimes environmentalist actually put people off the idea of sustainable lifestyles, because some loud environmentalists act like suffering martyrs who sacrifice a lot. An environmental lifestyle can actually add more happiness too, by increasing health, connection to local community, the joy of learning and being in nature, just to mention a few. While I personally sometimes get angry and annoyed at both myself and the world for not being more sustainable I have realised that negative comments often are a mistake. I recently received a comment on my blog which really criticised me for flying. She was factually 100% correct, but the comment still hurt. Also, I noticed that an angry comment did not increase my motivation for taking the train next time at all.  I am learning more and more that positive encouragement is much more likely to make people change. Tell me that you’ll be proud of me when I take the train, and I will. This attitude is what Spark is all about, telling people how they can do good and making them feel good about themselves. That’s why I am so happy to be a part of this new company!

We will launch in less than a month! Wiihiii!

 

The Great Barrier reef is not dead – why the exaggerations?

 

 

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One reason I really wanted to travel to Australia was to see the Great Barrier reef before it is completely gone. All coral, around the world, will suffer and die if waters get warmer and climate change continues. I wanted to see other things and visit my friends but I did really want to see the corals, after reading about them maybe being gone soon. It turned out that the news stories had been exaggerated, it is very threatened but not even nearly gone! The whole tourism of “seeing things before they disappear” is not great, because flying contributes and speeds up that exact disappearing. I know that it was quite selfish of me to fly out all the way but now that I have already been, there is no point regretting it.

I saw the Barrier Reef twice. We went to the outer barrier reef outside Port Douglas with a company called Wavelenght that was operated by marine biologists. They were really good about protecting the reef, did not put an anchor down, made sure no one walked on corals or touched fish. They also pointed out that tourism is really important for saving the barrier reef. The flying to Australia part is really bad, but the taking a boat out to the reef part is really not bad at all, especially if you go with a company that has an “Advanced Ecotourism” certificate.

I also went to a lecture about the coral reef at ReefTeach in Cairns. I learned so much! Apparently a few types of coral have already started adapting to climate change and morphed into “super coral”. It is more important than ever that we can protect this new super coral because it is still very rare and only exists in very few places! The coral in Australia also protects cities and agriculture on the coast in the case of storms. Coral is the birthplace of much of the worlds fish, so if you like seafood you better like protecting coral reefs.

Three common misunderstandings about the great barrier reef:

  1. Bleached coral is dead coral. This is false. Coral gets it colour from algae that lives on it. The algae is providing the coral with food and nutrition, but when the water gets too warm the algae starts producing toxins. That makes the coral get rid of the algae by expelling it from its surface. That means that suddenly the coral has no source of food anymore! Bleached coral is not dead, but it will starve to death within a few weeks or up to two months if the water does not get colder. If the water gets colder, it can take the algae back and get back to a healthy life.
  2. 90% of the Great Barrier reef is gone. Completely untrue. 90% of areas of the coral reef have been affected by coral bleaching because of warm water as a result of climate change. As point one states, bleaching does not mean dead. During the warm summer months many corals bleach, but as the waters get colder again a month later or so, they get their colour and their nutrition back. The barrier reef is very threatened. About 30% of corals in the area where the mentioned company operate have died in the past two years. 30% is a lot. But it’s not 90%. The entire Barrier reef is the largest coral reef in the world. It is 348,700 km² big! That means that there is still a lot to save!
  3. Tourism destroys the reef. This is partly true, partly untrue. “Tourists want to see a beautiful barrier reef, and the fact that tourists bring in so much money makes politicians more likely to support efforts of protecting the barrier reef”, says one of the marine biologists on the boat. Then it is another issue that some companies are irresponsible and do not interfere enough when stupid people for example walk on the coral. The coral burns like jellyfish, so the joke is on the people walking on it. Other things tourists do to destroy the reef is by using sunscreen containing Oxybenzone, which unfortunately is most normal sunscreen but there are many reef-friendly alternatives. I bought mine from Feel Good Inc.

It’s not only the Great Barrier reef that is threatened and similar coral bleaching have become more common all over the world. Coral reefs are really important for marine life globally. So the joke is really on me, who flew to the reef furthest away from where I live. Oh well, now I have seen it and it was beautiful. I am more motivated than ever to donate to organisations trying to protect the reef.

So why the exaggerations? As I said it is threatened, and some scientists think that an alarmist message will wake up people to try to protect it. They also think they will get more funding if they point out how bad things are. I think that they need to change the message into something more positive and make people realise that we can and should save the reef. Saying it’s dead will make people give up hope. It’s not dead and it needs your help to protect it! Try to minimise your carbon footprint, support the most sustainable tourism companies, donate money to marine conservation efforts and vote for the politicians who appreciate the enormous positive effects that the coral reef has.

A couple of success stories – it’s not all bad news

Some people are just tired of hearing about environmental disasters. It’s just easier to live in one’s own bubble of happiness and not worry too much about the wider world, right? Media has a tendency to write more negative news than positive one’s. “No news is good news”. Well, luckily there are many stories of success when it comes to environmental protection. Maybe if we did a better job of spreading those stories, people would find it easier to stay engaged with the wider world? I just found an example of how the actions of an individual can make a great difference. I found another example that gives me hope that the world can come together and make decisions that benefit the greater good.

When I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis about how climate change is portrayed in the media, I came across many articles saying that people suffered from “climate fatigue”, that is, they were tired of hearing about the disasters of climate change. I have heard many of my friends saying similar things too. “Why bother when everything is going wrong anyways?”. I think there should be more positive news that show people that change is possible, and disasters can be avoided.

I just watched this short documentary about a man in India who single handedly planted a forest larger than New York’s central park and saved his home-island from an environmental disaster. I also read about how the Montreal protocol, forbidding chemicals that cause the ozon layer to diminish, has had an effect. The hole in the ozone layer is now smaller than it was in 2005! The chemicals, called chlorofluorocarbons used to be found in refrigerators and hairsprays but their use was restricted in an agreement made in Montreal in 1987. The ozone layer in the stratosphere helps catch harmful UV radiation. The destruction of the ozone layer lead to increased rates of skin cancer in Australia. Now the problem is being reversed and I am so happy! It is perfect news since I am going to Australia on Monday.

Eco Edit online shopping

Looking pretty or saving the planet? There can be a balance. Whereas I would prefer not to encourage anyone to consume more, I am also a realist. Most readers of this blog will buy consumer products such as clothes at some point.

68% of all Finnish Carbon footprints are directly a consequence of personal choices. My choice of consumption, and yours. Globally, this number is quite similar: around 70%. In Finland, about 25% of this goes to goods and services. Like clothes and travelling. It’s easy to complain about industry emissions but in fact, if all Finnish people stopped buying new clothes and flying, the impact on the national carbon footprint would be fantastic. The study I am talking about, estimated that it would be fully possible to reduce this type of consumption by a third!! They said the best way is to extend the lifespan of products.

So guys, buy quality, not quantity. Expanding the lifetime of products can either be done by expanding the lifetime of the product itself, or by it’s materials. I buy about 2 pieces of new clothing and probably one pair of new shoes per year. In 2017 I bought zero new shoes, I’m so proud of myself because I used to be a major shoefreak! It would of course be better to buy nothing, but sometimes even sustainability-freaks like me love treating ourselves. I just bought this swimming suit made from recycled yarn, expanding the lifetime of the oil-based material of polyester. The world is becoming a better place when even companies like Asos start using recycled materials for their clothes! I will have to wash it carefully so that it does not shred micro plastics into the ocean, but as long as I take good care of it and do not slide on rocks, it should be fine. Now we really have the option of choosing better, which means there is no good excuse to ever again buy a swimming suit that is not either the most durable thing you have ever seen, designed to last forever, or then made from recycled yarn.

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Source:

https://media.sitra.fi/2017/10/23144245/Consumption_choices_to_decrease_personal_carbon_footprints_of_Finns.pdf

 

A book about economics for a better world

I started studying Economics in 2014 at Hanken in Helsinki. Motivated to understand what it actually means when people say “money runs the world”, I hoped to learn about the economy in order to one day be able to affect it and use it to make the world a better place. But what is the economy really even trying to achieve? I was still a bit confused after 3 years of studying. Economics has an important role in our society, but the way it is taught to undergraduate students is too simplified and does not challenge them to think for themselves enough. I recently finished reading “Doughnut Economics”, a book that discusses other, more sustainable ways of organising our economy. I am still not sure I can ever understand all aspects of the global economy, but I really learned what economics could achieve from reading this book.

The Doughnut is an economy with two boundaries: a minimal social boundary that we hope everyone can be above, and an ecological boundary that we can not exceed without seriously harming ourselves long term. This is so self evident to me. Economics is all about making sure that people have a tolerable life, while making sure we do not overuse natural resources.

But studying economics, no one ever said this was the goal or purpose of economics. Instead, the goal was said to maximise “utility”. Micro economics assuming that people’s behaviour is driven by only a strive for “utility” left me not knowing whether I should laugh or cry, because it just seemed so absurd. Utility, things that are good only for oneself. Research show that people who have studied Economics tend to be more selfish than people who have not studied the discipline. More money and more things.  Do we really want to teach young people that good behaviour is to be motivated only by money? I certainly don’t think we should. Therefore, whenever I hear a politician justify something by talking about economic theory, I instantly become very sceptical of whether they are just quoting 200 year old ideas of Adam Smith, without really reflecting on what kind of world she or he is advocating to create. There have been many really interesting economic theorists since Adam Smith but it seems like the stuff they teach at undergraduate is stuck in history. Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes are studied but really not much more, the discipline need more debate and more opinions.

My favourite Economics teacher at university said it very well “Economics is mathematics of social science”. Mathematics is great for understanding large concepts and simplifying is not always wrong but I think it is wrong to calculate based on false assumptions, assumptions that also teach people to behave in ways that can lead to inequality and environmental destruction. There has been ideas in my studies of Economics that I have found very interesting. The discipline has provided me with quite interesting tools to think about the world in. I however disagree with many of the values that underpin current economics taught at undergraduate level of university and repeated by 60-year old top-bankers. Most of all, the notion of eternal economic growth is just absurd. My first lesson in economics taught me that “economics is how to manage finite and scarce resources”. If resources are scarce, how on earth can the economy keep growing?

So I was thrilled when I finally discovered a book that offered an alternative to the current economics that is being misused by politicians. Raworth talks about why many economic theories that are taught to undergraduate students are just plain wrong. She envisions a future where economies are “growth agnostic”, where the goal of the economy is not growth. She talks about how different currencies, such as time banks, can promote a non-growth economy. She talks about how it is damaging to have a system that rewards people for being selfish and unsustainable.Inequality pushes for growth, because the poorest aspire to become more like the richest. If we share more, we don’t need growth to take care of the weakest in society. Finance does not have to be built to make the richest even richer.

She does not offer the perfect solution of how to get to this sustainable, equal dream-economy. But I think she does a lot more than most economic policy makers who are currently given a voice in media.