English summaries 10/2002
A meeting of the worlds
By Ritva Kupari
Africa’s many problems, such as poverty, aids, the lack of education and women’s opportunities to influence affairs, were highlighted in the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg at the end of August and beginning of September. Environmental protection was overshadowed by development issues, but ill health in mankind and nature
and the solutions to this in many respects are correlated with each other.
The official Summit produced a political proclamation signed by heads of state regarding our common responsibility and fellowship, partnership agreements and projects in varying degrees, together with a Plan of Implementation aimed at eliminating poverty. However, contrary to expectations, the Plan of Implementation neither crystallised nor redeemed the promises made at Rio a decade ago.
Key commitments made in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation were to:
-Halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than $1 a day.
-By 2020, achieve a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
-Halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation.
-Reduce, by 2015, mortality rates for infants and children under 5 by two thirds of the prevailing rate in 2000.
-Ensure that, by 2015, every boy and girl will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
-Achieve by 2010 a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity.
-Drastically reduce, by 2020, chemicals hazardous to health and the environment.
-Bring a halt to the depletion of fish stocks by 2015.
Questions of funding to a large extent remained open at Johannesburg. A new form of funding animatedly discussed was that of the partnership agreement, in which enterprises, organisations, municipalities, scientific bodies and states plan and finance development targets together. NGOs criticised this, fearing that such partnerships would transfer power away from political decision-makers to enterprises.
Finland’s and the EU’s main objectives were to secure a ten-year programme for an action plan for bringing about a change in non-sustainable production and consumption habits. This matter was incorporated only loosely in the resolution programme as a decision to promote and encourage the drafting of a framework programme. The EU was also disappointed in regard to its energy objective.
In the opinion of the Finnish e-NGOs present at the Summit, the results of the meeting indicated that, in the short term, national economic interests will be put before global environmental issues. Official documents constitute just one level of the results of the meeting. Aside from e-NGOs, many other groups, including indigenous peoples and religious denominations, assembled at hundreds of other events.
A fine set of antlers
By Kari Kemppainen
Antlers on male deer such as reindeer are used for sexual selection purposes. Like the domestic reindeer and the European elk (North American moose), the wild forest reindeer grows a new set every year, casting these off once when they have served their function. New antlers are fully formed after four months. As early as in April the foreheads of some male reindeer are already showing small protuberances covered with hair. Since growing new antlers calls for an abundance of minerals, especially phosphorus and calcium, the animals need to eat plenty of food. This can be in the form of lichen, bogbean, grasses, mushrooms, willowherb, or the leaves of many broadleaf trees.
During the winter, the animal’s bleached coat is also renewed. As the summer progress, antler growth accelerates and these embellishments may then increase in length at the rate of a centimetre a day. Freshly formed antlers are covered with skin well supplied with blood vessels (this skin is known in English as ‘velvet’). The animal has to avoid damaging this thin cover if at all possible. By the end of July the number of ‘points’ on the animal’s antlers will be complete, although they continue to increase in length and rigidify. In August a male wild forest reindeer concentrates on eating and resting. Before it is ready to do battle, its antlers have to lose their covering of velvet, which the animal assists by rubbing them against young trees.
From the end of September to the beginning of November one may observe furious battles taking place between male deer, as they compete for supremacy. Once the autumn rut is over, carrying a large set of antlers becomes an embarrassment, however, so the animal casts them off. Aside from people, foxes, hares, voles and squirrels also make use of these fallen antlers, gnawing away at them for their mineral content until there is nothing left.
A house in the country
By Alice Karlsson
A novel way of preventing the countryside from becoming depopulated has been invented at Kiihtelysvaara. Twelve years ago environmental manager Aaro Piipponen set up an agency for houses and farms which he called ‘Aaro’s exchange’. Resulting from a newspaper article about how difficult it was for people to find houses in the countryside, the agency is now on the internet. It has resulted in many empty houses being reoccupied and the municipality has welcomed a hundred new permanent inhabitants, as well as an equivalent number of summer residents. The lovely north Karelian cultural landscapes have survived unchanged at Kiihtelysvaara and it is these that have attracted appreciative new immigrants into the area. Housing prices are attractive, too, with only € 10,000 - 30,000 being asked for a farm with a few hectares of land and the usual outbuildings. Piipponen says that settling down in the countryside calls for stamina. Maintaining buildings is a big job.
Fed up with town life, Kristiina Isaksson and Jarno Peltonen moved to Keskijärvi five years ago. They have never regretted their decision, especially since both have found work. Paula Ojala rented an empty house last July, carrying out telecommuting work as a research assistant and visiting Helsinki once a month. Paula is a keen angler and also likes picking berries and mushrooms in the forest. She, too, is highly satisfied with her circumstances - the house is better than she had anticipated and friendly neighbours have been a great help.
The day the sky fell in
By Jouko Kuosmanen
There are at least nine craters in Finland testifying to the impact of ancient meteorites. One of the lakes resulting from a meteoritic collision is the one commonly known as Paasivesi, which is the Paasselkä part of Iso-Saimaa. This regularly round-edged lake is 60-75 metres deep, in other words one of Iso-Saimaa’s deepest areas.
About ten times every million years a large heavenly body has an argument with our planet. The meteorite responsible for producing Paasivesi was half a kilometre in diameter and originated in the asteroid zone between Mars and Jupiter. The shores of Paasivesi acquired their current form during the latest Ice Age. Paasivesi became ice free some 9000 years ago.
When a meteorite enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it sets up a terrific roaring noise. The ball of fire produced by the friction has a ‘tail’ formed from molten material at the meteorite’s surface. As the speeding mass strikes the Earth’s bedrock, the meteorite’s kinetic energy creates a shock wave as a consequence of which the rock is gasified, melts and shatters. Detached soil is flung out of the crater which a few moments later rains down on to the earth. A crater with a diameter of up to half a kilometre is left after the tremendous impact.
A man of silhouettes
By Kari Hongisto
Born in 1879, artist Emil Cedercreutz was a great nature-lover and a world renowned producer of silhouettes. His models were frequently horses, as well as other domestic animals, foxes and birds. Cedercreutz was also one of the first experimenters with animal sculptures.
Cedercreutz’s love of animals went back to childhood days, when his nanny would take him to see domestic animals. The young Emir felt an overwhelming need to protect the work horses whose lot it was to perform hard work on the farm. In 1901 he was a founder member of the Finnish Society for the Protection of Animals.
Cedercreutz published four silhouette works, in addition to which his silhouettes have been used to illustrate over 20 books. His horse sculptures include the Äestäjä (The Harrower) statue in Pori, Maamiehen kunnia (The Landman’s honour) in Harjavalta and Äidinrakkaus (Mother love) in Helsinki. Cedercreutz died in 1949.
Birch wins perfume contest
By Juha Kauppinen
In its summer competition, Suomen Luonto magazine asked readers to say what they thought was the finest natural scent in Finland. Almost 500 people replied. Birch came out best, gaining 65 votes. This included both the living tree and the bunches of leafy birch twigs, or vihta, used in the sauna. Second ranked lily-of-the-valley, with 45 votes. Finland’s national tree and national flower thus appear to have been wisely chosen! Herbaceous plants also came third (twin flower, with 28 fans), and fourth (lesser butterfly orchid). Many nature-lovers also felt that rain was important. Despite rain itself not receiving any votes at all, it is felt to accelerate and reinforce other scents. Some of the best natural perfumes were suggested as being the smell of the forest after a shower, the scent of birch after rain, and the perfume from lily-of-the-valley, twin flower and nature in general immediately after rain has fallen.
Teksti: Leigh Plester