Finland 100 years and my national identity

This blog usually focuses on sustainability, but since my home country turns 100 years today, I thought I would write about a different theme: nationalism, love of one’s home country mixed with a love of the world and other cultures. Living in the UK in the middle of the Brexit process, has led me to think about nationalism quite a bit.

This morning I woke up here in London and listened to the Finlandia hymn, ate a Karelian pie and took out a Finnish flag for decoration. There is something different about celebrating a national day, when you are outside of the nation. On one hand, I have chosen to not live in Finland at the moment, because there are things I like about living abroad, that I can’t experience in Finland in the same way. On the other hand, I do love my home country. Most of all I love the nature. I love the sense of trust among Finnish people, like when I was 15 and forgot my handbag in a cafe: I came back 2 hours later and it was still there. I love having two national languages: Finnish and Swedish. I love the sauna and the archipelago. I love how Finnish children are always dressed to play outdoors, regardless of weather. Actually most of all, I love Karelian pies :D.

Nationalism often builds on a feeling of “us” and “them”, which can sometimes be harmful. I am sad to say that some of the traditional Finnish national identity is not only based on positive images of saunas and Karelian pies, but also based on not being Russian or not being Swedish. We fought for independence in the second world war and we have been actively striving to be a part of the West, part of Europe to not be taken over by our giant eastern neighbour. Despite Finland being a neighbour to Russia, few Finns visit Russia regularly and few study the language. It is a complicated relationship still this day. The relationship to Sweden is more nuanced but also a bit complicated. On one hand, there is a very strong wish to be part of the Nordic community, and have close relations to Sweden. On the other hand, there is a very strong sense in Finland of being not-Swedish. There is reluctance to study Swedish and even though Finland was a part of the Swedish Kingdom for over 600 years, there has been active attempts to wash of the Swedish heritage from the Finnish national identity. This is obviously a bit unfortunate as a Swedish speaking Finn. I think the Swedish heritage has been wonderful in many ways, and I am happy to be reminded that the town Ekenäs where I grew up, was founded by a Swedish king. In the past decades, an antagonistic attitude towards Muslim communities has very sadly also become a part of what some Finnish people use to construct their national identity. I will not discuss that further, other than to make it clear that you can be Finnish, regardless of your religion and that I strongly condemn the Neo-Nazi groups claiming to have a stronger sense of patriotism than anyone else.

Hate can very easily be inherited. The Finnish speaking people, who were unfairly treated by Swedish speaking rulers have been dead for many generations. But their children’s grandchildren’s children remember. The people who fought Russia in the second world war are all over 90 years old, many not alive anymore. But children and grandchildren remember. I think the ideal would be if we could be proud of being Finnish, without feeling any hate towards any other nations. These are obviously the sad and slightly uncomfortable parts of Finnish national identity, and I am sure that most Finns define their national identity more from the list of things I listed that I love. Being proud of your roots and your traditions should not mean that you have to hate someone who is different.

I feel Finnish, I feel Nordic/Scandinavian and I feel European. Being proud of the unique traditions of your country, does not mean you don’t like anything else. After all, most humans have more in common than they have differences. Living in the UK and having many friends from different countries in northern Europe, I do think that if you do not look at the language differences and the small differences in what we most typically eat, we are all largely the same. I did not really have a culture chock when I moved from Finland to the UK. European values are all very similar, and mostly liberal. The majority of Europeans believe in liberal values of equality, believe that the state should support the poorest and weakest but that generally hard work is what will bring success to the individual. People are different in different towns, cities, in the north or the south of a country, as well as they are different in different countries. Even the Karelian pie is not traditionally from the Helsinki where I am brought up, but rather from Eastern Finland where I have not been even once. Ideas spread from town to town and country to country, and it is really a bit random what ends up as being typically national. We should focus on the similarities we have, and cherish the richness of differences. The British sense of not being European, wanting to leave the EU makes me sad. However Finnish I feel today, however proud I am of my home country, I also feel very much European, and especially northern European.

So happy independence day, my dear Finland! Independence and self ruling is valuable, but we are not alone in the world. Working together is what will make us stronger. Focusing on our similarities, is what brings peace and not war. Sharing and cooperating will not stop anyone from taking pride in their local traditions. So off I am to enjoy some Karelian pies!

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Annoyed at politician

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I am now on the train back from Amsterdam to London. I have spent the past for days on the European ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) Party Congress in Amsterdam. I agree to a certain extent with liberal ideas about free choice and wholeheartedly embrace liberal values such as LGBT rights. However, I was quite annoyed at some of the politicians. During a panel discussion about the EU Common Agriculture Policy and the future of sustainable agriculture, I asked the politicians what they thought would be good solutions to decrease meat consumption. One of the politicians, MEP Jan Huitema from VVD replied that as a liberal, he is opposed to anyone else interfering with his free choice of what to eat. He also said that even though meat consumption does have a high environmental footprint, so does flying to Japan and the government should not restrict that either.

I think his reply showed that he completely missed the point. People can only have a free choice if they are offered an alternative. At the ALDE Congress, there was one evening NO meatless food available. The only meatless option was tiny pieces of cheese, and then I got offered a chicken sandwich from which they had removed the chicken. If the choice people are offered is between plain bread and a chicken sandwich, I do not blame people for choosing to eat the meat. To be honest, I do not care so much that I did not have food to eat, I just went to the supermarket and problem solved. However, I do really care about this on a larger scale. How can we encourage people to make the free choice of eating less meat, if you literally do not offer them any vegetarian food? How can we expect people to choose vegetarian food, if we do not make sure that our chefs are trained to be able to prepare delicious vegetarian food?

As for his comment about flights to Japan. I do not believe the government should fully forbid that either, but I do believe the government can play an important role in decreasing flight emissions too. If people are presented with a good choice, they will sometimes also choose not to fly. At the moment, I am sitting on the Eurostar train. I went to the conference with a team of four and can proudly say that we all took the train there and back, instead of flying. I was very active in buying the train tickets for my whole team. Luckily I have a manager who was very supportive of us taking the train, once I had showed her that it would not take more time and it would not cost more money. This shows that by being proactive, you can also impact your workplace to become more sustainable! Don’t just blame bad practices on your workplace, your manmagers or your colleagues. You can take initiatives to decrease paper use, take trains instead of flights for business trips and recycle at work.

Most people will choose to good if you give them a good choice, the right price and the motivation. But that better choice needs to be provided, one way or another. Offering people better alternatives is what gives them a real choice, it is not in any way restricting. That is what MEP Jan Huitema clearly fails to understand.

“When we stop going to conference after conference, that’s when we know climate change is about to be solved”

I went to a panel discussion on green finance titled “Making London the leading sustainable investment capital” at the London Stock Exchange last week. It was an interesting talk. But also it was a talk. Just talk. The quote in the headline is by Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who is the Head of Government Affairs at HSBC Bank. “There are way too few real bankers in this room”, he said. Sustainable investment has become a real buzzword in the latest years, but there is still more talk and less action.

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Talk talk talk. And talk.

COP23 happened in Bonn last week. I have listened to a few talks from it. So far I have not really heard anything new in these talks.  The UN meetings on climate change and all it’s related conferences are endlessly important right now, but hopefully in a few years there will be fewer conferences and more action. The scientific community does invaluable contributions to understanding climate change and other environmental problems. Science also gives us solutions. But it’s time to start implementing those solutions, not only discuss them.

“Sustainability occupies a fringe space. The main space of finance is not yet sustainable, but it is also controlled by normal people”, said Saker Nusseibeh, CEO of Hermes Investment. He’s right: the world is pretty much controlled by the normal people, through billions of micro choices. The problem is that normal people don’t know enough about the environmental challenges our world is facing, and people also don’t realise that they have the power to change things. Companies want to make money, that’s not a secret. However, it is a lie that this always means they want to be unsustainable. They only want to be as unsustainable as their customers or the government allows them to be. Since customers elect the government, it is essentially the normal people who are responsible for demanding companies to do better. It is annoying to hear, because I am sure that both you and I go around wishing that someone else would make the environmental problems go away. Companies need to take responsibility, but we need to demand it from them. The politician present at the London Stock Exchange panel discussion was Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the party I currently work for. He is very in favour of a green economy. The truth is though, that as long as voters don’t demand long term commitments to the environment, politicians find it difficult to truly do something about it. Politicians want to be re-elected, what do you judge them by as a voter?

“Everyone should call their pension provider and ask them to implement sustainability standards to their investments, everyone should write e-mails to the companies from where they purchase their products and ask them to become more sustainable”, said Mr Nusseibeh. When he said that I feel a bit of satisfaction. I write an e-mail to a company probably as often as every second week, asking them to do better. This week I asked O Bar in Soho to stop using plastic straws, Nando’s Restaurant to allow for take away in the customer’s own Tupper Ware and to Amazon to (for the 5th time!) stop using so ridiculously much packaging material when shipping. I always feel a bit silly when writing these letters, like “who actually cares?”. It feels good then when someone older and wiser reminds me that it does matter. If enough people write them, it will make a difference. Companies want to make money and happy customers give them more money than angry customers.

People often don’t have enough information and time to actually research to know what they should even demand from companies. I have really high hopes in our newly founded Spark Sustainability company. My friend Amanda Bjornberg asked me to be a part of an awesome team to build a website and later an app that will make it easy for people to know where they can have most positive environmental impact. Stay tuned for our website to launch in January at sparksustainability.com 😉 “We are creating the change that makes people go from wanting to save the world to actually saving it”. Spark will empower people with the information they need to be able to demand more from companies, to demand more from the government and demand more of ourselves in our every day lives.

Please start demanding now. Demand sustainability at your bank, at your supermarket, from your clothes store, from your energy supplier and from your elected member of parliament.

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Fantastic when people enable change

The average EU citizen produces 161 kilograms of packaging waste per year. 161 kilograms is an insane amount of waste! Globally we produce 420 million tons of packaging waste. This is only packaging. 420 million tons that is literally wasted. Many products come in excess packaging. The typical example is bananas, they have a great peel and really don’t need any plastic packaging to keep fresh!

Packaging waste mainly includes paper and board (40%), glass (20%), plastics (19%), wood (15%), and metal (6%). That means lot’s of trees unnecessarily chopped down!

Luckily there are people who actively try to turn around the trend of increasing packaging waste. Ingrid Caldironi has recently opened London’s first package free shop! The Bulk Market in Dalston is a small but well stocked store. I think it’s fantastic and the world needs more people who do concrete actions like opening a zero waste store to tackle large-scale problems. I would not be able to even try to live zero waste if it weren’t for the people who decide to sell packaging free products.

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I had the chance to visit the store last week. For 5 minutes only because had to visit in such a rush after work and before the store closed but the service and the products were excellent. I had with me a washed glass jar that used to contain pickled cucumbers, my favourite reusable bag from the Finnish Red Cross webshop, and two tupper ware boxes to fill up with deliciousness at the Bulk Market. I ended up buying soy sauce, popcorn, pasta and plastic free toilet paper. I wanted to buy a reusable straw but I want a long one and they had run out of them and had only short ones at the moment. Buying popcorn in my own bag was pretty awesome, I’m back on track with my snacking I can tell you 😉

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Sources:
2015, Qingbin Song, Jinhui Li and Xianlai Zeng: Minimizing the increasing solid waste through zero waste strategy
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095965261400849X#sec2.4

2017, Emma Henderson/The Independent: Inside London’s first plastic free shop
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/bulk-makert-recycling-zero-waste-first-plastic-free-market-london-hackney-a7924781.html

 

No disposable plastic this week

This week I try to live completely zero waste. It just feels absurd when I walk into any normal store or supermarket. Whenever I visit a beach I find trash everywhere. Whenever I visit a supermarket there is plastic every where, shelf up and down. Whenever I read the news I hear more and more about kilometers after kilometers of plastic waste. Some researchers even think plastic waste is a greater ecological catastrophe than climate change! Did you know that 70% of European tap water is contaminated with micro plastic? In the US this rate is over 90%! Even the sampled bottled water contained plastic.

Knowing this, it is just absolutely absurd that humanity keeps producing more and more plastic. I usually avoid plastic and packaging as best I can but doing it 100% takes a lot of energy. This week I try harder than normally and I try to get as close to 100% as I can!I got inspired when I saw a Facebook event called “Muoviton Marraskuu”, plastic free November in Finnish. I’ll see how long into November I last but I’ll try my best! I have not yet made my own toothpaste though…

So my first totally zero waste day was yesterday. Many people trying out zero waste find food shopping to be the hardest part. You can avoid buying many things but you have to eat. So I am going to share my Zero waste dinner from last night with you! For any readers living in London, there are a few good zero-waste places to shop: for East London, head to the Bulkmarket in Dalston. This is Londons first absolutely zero-waste shop! For Elephant & Castle, head to the FareShares co-op. Borough market at London Bridge is also great. I am lucky to have a store called Greensmith’s near Waterloo station which is right on my way home from work! They sell most of their vegetables without packaging. I always carry my own reusable bags with me (it just lives in my backpack) so it is really easy to do even spontaneous food shopping on my way home, without causing any waste! I’ll post the recipe for this zero-waste meal later this week.

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Not the inspiring sustainability role model anymore?

Lately, I have felt like I don’t really have much new sustainability hacks to share with everyone. It just feels like I have not been particularly environmental, just living my normal life. I have not written this blog in a few months now. I often strive to be a good example. To practice as I preach. To show other people that hey, I’m just a normal girl and I managed to cut my carbon footprint and waste, why don’t you try as well? I do feel good about writing this blog and I am now trying to restart the writing again.

There is an attitude that one should not brag about good things. I don’t think sharing my thoughts about sustainable lifestyle here on this blog is bragging, any more than people posting pic from their holiday’s is.  If I stop and think, I know that I am still living a pretty sustainable lifestyle. It is just that it has become the new normal. The things that a couple of years ago made me feel like an eco-hero, don’t really make me feel that special anymore. Is that sad? Not really. Because it means I don’t have to think about how to be eco-friendly. It means many of my habits have become so rooted that they don’t require any effort. Therefore I thought I would make a list of things I do that I am proud about, even if I don’t even remember to be conscious about it anymore!

 

Sustainable consumer

I buy less than one piece of brand new clothing per year. I buy some secondhand clothing but underwear I obviously prefer as brand new. About half of the new lingerie I get is from sustainable brands such as Luva Huva. I repair my things when they break, little things like replacing my phones battery instead of buying a new phone. Even when I can afford to buy new, I often choose to repair. The same goes for my shoes, I have had some of my shoes for 7 years now! Whenever I need to buy stuff, I always first look online to buy secondhand. Like yesterday, I bought a stool from a guy on “Shpock”, which is an app for selling unwanted things. Sometimes I fail my ideals, and buy stuff from Amazon that comes packed in thousands of dead trees because they use way too much packaging material at that firm. Most of the time, I do good. I recently bought a hemp shower curtain from Drapers Organic, because most shower curtains are PVC plastic that cannot be recycled. For festivals and parties, I bought biodegradable glitter from Wild Glitter!

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Wild Glitter doesn’t litter

Sustainable eater

When I started this blog, I was not a vegetarian. In fact, I documented my first stuggles of cutting down on dairy products and becoming a vegetarian on this blog. Now, even though I am essentially a pescatarian, I have managed to cut down my fish consumption to 1-2 times a month as well. Sushi, fish and chips remains delicious but luckily I don’t eat them that often. I buy package free as much as I just can. I don’t go out of my way to be zero waste, I could probably do more to go to farmers markets instead of local Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s. If I have a choice, I always buy package free though. Today, I managed to find an aubergine that wasn’t wrapped in plastic in Sainsbury’s! Happy day! I also found a zero-waste cooperative down in Elephant and Castle which is close to where I live here in London. I have been there only once but I bought so much organic, British quinoa in my own reusable bag, that it will last for the rest of the year!

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Always treat yourself, but better do it with a Bamboo Reusable Cup from Ecoffee!

Sustainable transport

I cycle or walk to work most days. I am wearing a pollution mask here in London to stay healthy while cycling, it feels good that at least I’m not contributing to more pollution with my method of transport! I try to avoid taking taxi’s or Uber’s, but on some rainy day’s I am not perfect. I have a rule: if it takes less than 10 hours to get somewhere by train, I will not fly. I currently fly about 5-6 short-haul roundtrip flights per year. 10 flights in total, it is not ideal. I am currently looking into offsetting these flights via Climatecare.org. I rarely drive a car. I recently rented a car for 1 day and drove about 200 km to explore nature in Scotland, and sometimes I drive to our summerhouse. However, I try to not drive more than 1000 km per year.

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I wear this when I cycle, to protect myself from pollution in London!

 

 

Sustainable companies

I have devoted time and some money to Secco, an online secondhand fashion shop. It is really nice to try to build sustainable business. We are launching in November at our new international site, Secco Collection! My friends Anna and Ellen founded Secco two years ago, and I am so grateful to have become part of their team, trying to tackle sustainability issues of the garment industry together. I am also involved as a co-founder for a company that will hopefully formally exist next month, Spark Sustainability! My friend Amanda, who is a sustainable energy engineer and a team of me and 4 other girls are going to build a website and an app where people can track their environmental footprint, and become inspired to make changes. Really grateful to soon be part of the Spark project as well!

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I probably will never be a famous sustainability role model like Lauren Zinger, writer of the blog Trash is for Tossers. That’s fine, because I am not trying to live sustainably to get fame or recognition in any ways. Don’t get me wrong: I think Lauren Zinger and many other sustainability bloggers are absolutely fantastic. My blog is not nearly as professional as many but still, I notice that keeping this blog makes me happy. In the same sense that someone who spends a lot of time at the gym might be happy to keep track of their results on a blog, I feel good about keeping track of choices I feel good about here on this blog. Writing this blog also helps me push myself to be even better. To always carbon compensate my flights, and to make even more effort to live zero-waste.

 

 

I did it again! Moved from Helsinki to London by train

I’m back in London again for at least 6 months to do an internship! Since I had holiday before my work here started, I had the time to take the train from Helsinki to London again. Scroll down for pictures!

I spent some time in Malmö, a full day in Berlin and a day and a night at my friends place in Amsterdam! Everything went so smooth, the changeover from ferry to train in Stockholm was easy taking less than an hour. My afternoon in Malmö was great and I visited some beautiful gardens. I enjoyed the night train between Malmö and Berlin, sharing my cabin with some really nice people. Seeing a bit more of Berlin was great since I have been there only briefly once before. And seeing my friend in Amsterdam was obviously awesome!

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Pros of taking the train versus flying

  • I got to see awesome cities on the way
  • I had the chance to visit my friend in Amsterdam for a day
  • It is more of an adventure, you meet more new people
  • My carbon footprint from travelling was between 30-60 % lower according to my calculations (one estimate is by this calculator).
Cons of train vs flying
  • Hard to fit in time if you are not on holiday
  • Booking via multiple websites instead of just one
  • Can be more expensive, depending on route

 

 

 

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We need to make some plastic illegal, for real

I want to start a European citizens initiative to forbid some types of plastic. Specifically single use, disposable plastic. Plastic bags for example, they should just be forbidden by law. I just arrived in Amsterdam and I wanted to buy snack at the airport. I am shocked that everything in the small store here was packed in plastic. Just look at this, this is insane! It’s the height of being spoiled when you can’t even chew your own apple, but you need it readily chopped in plastic. Luckily I found an apple and a banana that I could eat zero waste. Yes I can eat normal apples that are protected by peel, because I’m not an old person without teeth.

Last year in September I was out sailing with my mum and my brother. That’s when I decided that this few people being “zero waste heroes” isn’t going to be enough, we need to forbid plastic. My mum had made some sandwiches for lunch for us to take with us. I arrived at her house before we went down to the harbour, and she asked me to pack the sandwiches. I usually do not use plastic bags at all, living zero waste on most days. Not all days but always when I have the energy to go the extra mile to avoid plastic. This time I was stupid, I just took the first thing I found in mum’s kitchen and I packed the sandwiches in a little plastic bag.

Out on the sea, I had just finished my sandwich when the wind started blowing more. Before I could even blink the plastic bag was in the sea. “Noo! Liam, can you turn around the boat?” I asked my brother who was handling the sails. “It’s too windy to be able to precisely aim at that plastic bag…”. For a few seconds I think about jumping into the water but it’s September. The water in the Baltic sea was really cold. So I let the plastic bag go.

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Anyone who knows me can be sure that I would do anything to not litter in the sea. But despite this, I ended up throwing a plastic bag in the sea! I’m not generally very dumb or stupid, but I’m not wise enough to be able to handle the responsibility of plastic. Very few people are. Plastic is dangerous, to animal and human health. Plastic is made from fossil fuels but it’s not really a climate issue, it’s a litter issue. A issue of the health of ecosystems and our own healths. There are laws that try to make sure we don’t drive too fast and that we can’t buy drugs. Why are we allowed to pollute with plastic liter without any limit?

I can’t be given responsibility of handling such a material because I cannot guarantee I won’t do harm with it, no matter how much I try. What about people who do not even try? They surely litter even more. The only real solution to this earths plastic pollution problem is to forbid single use plastics, the kind of plastics that end up in nature. Plastic is durable, so we could still use plastic to make things that are meant to last. Just an example, I think pipes and toilet seats from plastic are fine, I’m hardly going to drop my toilet seat in the ocean. But all that packaging waste. All plastic bottles. Plastic straws. You find them at any beach. We need to stop it, make sure we don’t find that litter on the beach in the future. We need to make sure that the plastic most likely to end up in nature is forbidden by law.

It might take some time before we are politically at a place where it can happen, but the sooner we start working towards it the better. We have alternatives to plastic already. There is constantly news about engineers coming up with new sustainable materials, and once we forbid plastic these materials will be so demanded that they can be produced cheaply at scale.

I love the zero waste ideology and I try to follow it myself. What I don’t like is that the view is too individualistic. People are cheered for figuring out how to avoid plastic. The harder challenges you overcome, the more you are cheered. But why is it meant to be difficult to avoid plastic? We need everyone to become more zero waste. Instead of a few determined persons going to specialty stores to buy food because the normal supermarkets are just too full of plastic, we should change the supermarkets. Change all of society, not just ourself. Changing yourself is a great place to start. The best place to start, but we can take it further. You shouldn’t have to struggle and be a hero to avoid plastic, you should be able to live a normal easy life where you don’t need to constantly panic over where to get food that isn’t insanely wrapped in plastic.

If you are a European citizen interested in joining the committee organising a citizens initiative to forbid single use plastics, please comment on the blog and I’ll be in touch! The more the better 🙂

 

Våga se det fula!

Vi härdar våra känslor och undviker att möta blicken från tiggaren på gatan. När djurrättsaktivister tvingar oss se bilder på lidande djur tänker vi ett snabbt usch så hemskt men tränger undan bilden från våra tankar bara några sekunder senare. Det samma gäller bilder på svältande människor från Afrikas horn. Regnskogar som brinner, klädfabriker som kollapsar så att över 1000 människor dör.

USCH SLUTA tänker du kanske nu som läsare, sluta rada upp alla de här obehagliga sakerna. De får mig att må dåligt. Jag tror att det mesta i vårt samhälle som är fel beror på att vi inte vågar se det fula. Vi måste våga se det fula, utan att låta det kasta en skugga över allt det vackra.

En kompis sade en gång att jag inte borde jobba med miljöfrågor eftersom det skulle göra mig deprimerad och orolig. Jag håller inte med henne. Jag är starkare än så. Nyckeln till att våga se det fula, är att inte sluta se det vackra. Att inte låta det fula äta upp dig. Det är så man orkar. Ibland har äter det lite upp mig, men det är bara på dåliga dagar. Oftast är jag starkare än så. Jag tränar mig mentalt och blir starkare hela tiden.

När jag ser havet ser jag gnistrande blått och svallande sjögräs. Fast jag vet att havet smutsas ner av plast, så är havet glädje för mig. Så länge glädjen över havet är större än oron över plastskräpet, så orkar jag se alla fula plastpåsar på stranden där jag går och plocka upp dem. När jag är orolig över att populationen växer okontrollerat så kommer jag också ihåg att barn är en otrolig glädje, att få barn är guldkanten i mångas liv.

Jag VILL våga se det fula. Jag vill orka fortsätta försöka göra världen till en bättre plats. Om vi inte vågar se det fula, så kan vi inte ändra på det. Våga se hela spektrumet! Det finns krig, svält, miljöförstöring och övergivna barn men sist och slutligen, mitt liv är ändå ganska underbart. Jag har otroligt fina vänner, en trygg familj, fysisk och ekonomisk trygghet och en framtid fylld av möjligheter och äventyr. Jag har det så himla bra, så om jag ens använder 10 % av min tid och energi till att försöka göra det som är fult lite finare, så klarar jag nog av att hantera de ledsamma känslor som kommer ibland. En människa klarar inte av vad som helst, men de flesta av oss klarar av lite mera fulhet än vi tror.

Jag har på mig en röd topp från Zara. Människan på bilden under dog i en klädfabrik som kollapsade. Inditex, som äger Zara tillverkade kläder där. Billiga kläder blev billiga byggnader och död.På den nedersta bilden är jag glad i den topp som kanske orsakade någons död. Jag älskar min röda Zara topp och jag skäms inte över att jag är glad på bilden.

Det låter mycket märkligt, när jag skriver så här. För vi är inte vana att se det vackra och det fula samtidigt. Men sanningen är att de hänger ihop. Och sanningen är också den att om alla Zaras kunder skulle bry sig om andra människors död, så skulle vi kunna få både vackra kläder och trygga arbetsförhållanden åt textilarbetare. Det är bara ett exempel, men det är så tydligt hur vi oftast blundar för det fula här.

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Vi kan inte ändra på orättvisor om vi bara blundar för dem. Våga se det fula, men kom ihåg att se det fina också.

Do you understand climate change? Most people don’t

“What would you care about, in case it was proven that climate change isn’t an issue anymore?”, someone asked me yesterday. I do think climate change is an important issue, but I would hardly lose focus in life if climate change was solved. I’d only be very happy! The thing is, this scenario, where climate change is solved is not some kind of utopia. In fact, we have all the tools we need to solve ut! So, why haven’t we?

Click here to read this text in Swedish.

Climate

Climate change is a problem on a too large scale. You don’t see it, you can’t feel it. You don’t even know how much your personal lifestyle contributes to climate change! The way humans try to comprehend climate change is interesting from a psychological point of view. How can we relate and fully understand it?

Even if most of us really don’t, it is still us who amplify it. It is you and me. We are the ones that buy products made by the industry that pollutes, we are the ones who fly for leisure. For about 150 years, we have been heating up the planet. I have studied how humans and the rest of nature affect each other both at university and in my spare time. I have learnt how little I know, how little I really understand. And I have learned how terribly little most people know and understand. There are so many opinions and perceptions about climate change, and what we need to do to solve it, that are not correct. One of them is the idea that we need to “go back to the stone age” in order to fix the issue, or that “climate change is too complicated, so we can’t do anything about it”.

Is it already a problem?

Climate change is in many ways different to many other problems. It can be discussed whether it even is a problem yet, although it is up to all of us to define what we even think is problematic, do decide what we like and what we don’t like. The earth is now on average about 1 degree warmer, since coal started being burned. In Helsinki, there is rarely much snow in the winters anymore, some animal species have moved away and there is a lot of smelly blue-green algae in the Baltic sea every summer. I am bothered by these things, but maybe most people are not? Maybe it’s not a problem yet, to most people.

Climate change is probably the most complex phenomenon in nature that humans have ever caused and been the subject to. The temperature of the earth is affected by probably a million different factors. Carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases is just a small part of it. Sea currents, solar winds and but also human construction! Locally, things such as large areas of black bitumen absorbs heat and warms up the air, the effect of large black areas could be bigger than local. The circulation of water has an effect too, that is known for sure, but it is very hard to predict exactly where it will rain more or less. All in all, it is very difficult to understand exactly what it would mean if the mean temperature of our earth was 3 C degrees warmer. It’s challenging to scientists, it’s very difficult to normal people. I’m writing my bachelor’s thesis on how media has reported on climate change. They have not done a very good job in the past, is my conclusion.

What’s up with the two degree goal?

You probably know that there is a global agreement that heating should be limited to two degrees. Why two? Last week I visited the national museum in Helsinki, and saw an exhibition about Finland during pre-historical times. About 6000 years ago, Finland was actually two degrees warmer than it has been during the 20th century. When the temperature dropped by 2 degrees, the Finnish human population declined about 80 %. The change in nature was too fast to adapt, and many died. Two degrees colder was a catastrophe, but a sudden two degrees warmer has a negative impact too. We will all survive at two degrees warmer, we have modern technology and science. Two degrees is what the temperature is historically known to have been changing. If we let earth heat up by two degrees, there will be effects but we will be okay. The problem is: with the current pace of emissions, we are heading towards 4 or 5 degrees warmer!! No one knows exactly what happens then, but there are many qualified guesses. In the history of modern mammals, no such rapid temperature changes have ever been recorded. Even when the last ice age in Europe ended, 10000 years ago: the mean temperature on earth changed less than this.

There are some sure things about what will happen. The sea levels will rise. This is a problem especially for poor countries. The Netherlands can probably afford to build a massive wall to keep the sea out. We here in the west, know and care too little about poor island-states. Honestly, most of us here don’t really care that much if some village drowns. We probably have a bad attitude towards these villages, an attitude that they will probably have some disaster anyways and will be poor and miserable with or without climate change. If they are going to be miserable anyways, why bother stopping climate change for their sake? This is not a conscious thought for most people, but probably an unconscious one.

Climate change is a different problem because the changes take place over a long time, they are slow but full of risks. There are signs that are not sure, like is the civil war in Syria now partly a result of drought caused by climate change? The climate of the earth is too complicated to say that because you drove your car to work everyday in the past 10 years, you have caused a civil war in Syria. In theory, it might be, that you and a billion other people with their cars, indirectly caused the suffering of Syrians today. We can’t know for sure about this specific thing, but we know for sure there are effects on people as a result of global warming.

Why are some people engaged in solving climate change, when others are not?

People who think climate problem is an issue, often have a few common ways of thinking.

  1. A fear of risk. A feeling that we do not know what we are doing, and that there might be far-reaching domino effects of changes in our atmosphere. That the effect will be so large both socially and environmentally, that civilisation will end up collapsing. We just don’t want to take the risk. Things might end up much worse than a drowned island in the Philippines and rainy winters in Finland.  Global famines when agriculture collapses if temperatures and rain-patterns end up being totally unpredictable. Global flows of migrants, fighting over the only places that are good to live in anymore. Is the fear exaggerated? I don’t know, I don’t think so. We can prevent this from happening, why take the risk?
  2. Solidarity between rich and poor countries. We should not change the planet in a way that means humans need expensive technology to survive and thrive. It should be possible to live a good life on earth in totally natural conditions. So these natural conditions can’t mean people have to afford huge walls to keep the sea out of their homes!
  3. We think there is a value of its own, in nature. We think it’s wrong to change the climate faster than animals and plants can adapt. Even if everyone would be vegan, humans would kill millions of animals by destroying their homes, if we let the climate climate change too much, too fast.

Most people are not engaged in solving the too fast climate change, that is caused by people. One might feel one’s own impact is too small, you can’t see the effect of your efforts and you don’t get any visible benefits from making an effort. Instead, you prioritise solving concrete problems, that are easily visible to you and affect yourself directly.

Solving problems here or now, or solving hypothetical future problems?

Most human problems are here and now. Such as poverty, both relative and absolute. If you can’t afford something you think is necessary for a decent life, it’s a huge problem right now. We don’t talk about the risk of possibly becoming poor in 20 years. Human trafficking and other human rights violations. We talk about those that happen right now. We help victims who have already been trafficked, by providing them with support, education and integration into mainstream society. Famine. We help people who starve right now. Domestic violence, we talk about it because it happens, not because it might be happening in the future. Mental health problems are also not fixed until they are definitely there, we don’t treat depression proactively.

People who are against strict climate policies say we should not focus on problems that do not fully exist yet. That we should not speculate and treat problems just in case. I think that we should treat climate change just in case, because it probably isn’t just in case, it probably will be just in time. I also think we should treat a whole lot of other problems just in case. Society should support people at risk of becoming depressed and at risk of becoming poor. We should educate girls before they are trafficked as sex-slaves. The reason for not doing this is often stated as money, but preventive measures are usually much cheaper. The same applies for climate change, it makes financially sense to fix it now, not later.

There is already a solution

Renewable energy and vegetarian food. By changing our diets and agriculture, as well as our energy production system: we can already decreased greenhouse gas emissions by about 45 %. On a personal level this means to eat less meat and call your energy provider to ask if you can buy wind or solar power from them. Climate change is an extremely complex problem, but there are a few very easy solutions to fix the largest part of it. The rest of the problem will be fixed when science advances and population growth slows down. So, we already have the solutions, we are just too stupid to use them!

We have the needed technology, we just need to be willing to pay that little extra for it. Both as individuals and businesses. If you and every other private consumer spends 100 euro more per month on supporting renewable energy, and 100 euro less on travelling by fossil fuels, we have already solved a large part of the problem. If you cycle to work, instead of taking your car, we have taken another step. If you own a business, you can transition to renewable energy too, it’s constantly getting cheaper. There are positive possibilities for changes on a state level too. The most obvious example is countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE who really can afford to switch to renewables, and their state economy would benefit from stopping to subsidise oil. In many countries, we can have our public transport run on electricity and biogas. We have the technology, we just need to make the investment. Humanity is now richer than ever, so it’s completely realistic to make these investments.

We do not need to go back to the stone age. I’m always a little bit confused when I talk about slowing down climate change and someone starts talking about the stone age. What do modern photovoltanic solar cells have to do with the stone age? We can fix climate change and still take warm showers, use electricity, enough food and an endless supply of Netflix series! Swap your pulled pork for pulled oats, you won’t even miss pork after a while. Your life won’t look that different after we fix climate change. The difference will be that travelling will be more expensive, when we use less fuels for aviation. Clothes and consumer goods manufactured overseas might get more expensive, when energy and shipping gets more expensive. But when a normal, middle-class Finnish person can afford to fly on vacation to Thailand only every five years, instead of every two years, or one can only buy one new pair of shoes every year instead of five, we can’t really compare it to the stone age, that’s ridiculous.

You’ll still be able to afford lots of shoes, but bought secondhand. You can still take the more energy-efficient train to Thailand every year (current route is by the Trans Siberian to Beijing, and via Hong Kong and Vietnam down to Thailand). On top of this, you’ll be able to travel anywhere by virtual reality! The point of stopping climate change isn’t to stop human development. The point is to stop shooting yourself in the foot. Why make climate change worse when we have the means to fix the issue?

The change we should make in our daily lives is so minor,  and still it could do a great deal to solve a difficult issue with huge risks. Why take the risk if we don’t have to?

Climate change can be solved. And don’t worry about me, I’ll have stuff to do after that’s solved. I think I’ll start with problems such as the out of control population growth, littering of the oceans, helping poor people both near and far, supporting development to end hunger crises, support gender equality to have an impact on domestic violence and sex-trafficking, and of course: support my loved ones around me to feel mentally well. And myself, make myself happy too. So lets fix climate change so I can get more time to deal with these other problems too!