English summaries 1/2000
Environment Committee 2000 - will the dream of the century be realised?
by Olli Paasivirta
In 1968, a group of people who were concerned about the future of the environment and mankind began to get together. They called themselves the "Environment Committee 2000". The group kept no membership list, but eventually there were almost one thousand students participating in the project.
The Environment Committee 2000 was not a political organisation, its participants confining their interest to environmental protection and nature conservation. In current terms, the executives consisted of the Centre party, the Greens, the Left-wing Alliance, the Social Democrats, and politically unaligned people. The committee was prominently pacifist and condemned the ideology of economic growth.
The Environment Committee 2000 seemed at one time to be to a large extent in the hands of students. Its active members went on to become influential people in Finnish society. For instance, Committee executives have gone on to become university professors, officials in the upper echelons of the administration, researchers and journalists. In Finland, progress was made in the new field of environmental protection during the 1970s, continuing into the 1980s. By contrast, the 1990s proved to be an era of extreme losses and decline. Economic growth is the goal in all aspects of life and it has become the yardstick in regard to values in our human society. As members of the Environment Committee 2000 will shortly be retiring from working life, there is an urgent need for an Environment Committee 2050.
Landscape painting makes dramatic shifts of emphasis
by Hannu Niklander
During the 18th century, an era we associate with water mills, iron works, bridges and public buildings, views of these became very popular with painters. The artists were meticulous in regard to the detail they recorded. The later national awakening associated with the mid 19th century even affected Art; paintings were used to draw attention to the excellence of the Finns and Finland. In the 1870s and 1880s, the so-called outdoor artists were very influential in this respect, and the 1880s was a period of painters, belonging to what is now referred to as the Karelian school, who enthusiastically painted the untouched nature and people of remote locations in Karelia. Most famous among these masters is Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Simultaneously, these artists' Finnish Swedish brethren (the Swedish speaking minority of Finland) were fervently painting the desolate landscapes of the Åland islands (Ahvenanmaa).
After the civil war, Finnish artists 'discovered' Finland's rural landscape, starting off by painting pictures of the rolling arable land, fields and pastures of Häme. Eero Nelimarkka found, and on canvas captured for posterity, the flat lands of Ostrobothnia. He is noted for his views of sprawling fields and meadows dotted with hay barns, the forests and the open drainage ditches separating fields, and the typically Ostrobothnian country houses.
A new subject gaining popularity among painters during the immediate post-war period was the romance of Lapland and its northern landscapes. Now bogs and mires have become a source of inspiration.
by Jorma Luhta
Wildlife photographer Jorma Luhta has taken to photographing wild places on winter nights in the north. The moon, stars and aurora borealis (northern lights) provide so much illumination on winter nights that it is possible to photograph them on modern film, using a sturdy tripod. However, photography of this kind is impossible close to human habitation. Mobile phone relay station masts and buildings give off so much light that they ruin any attempt at night photography. So Luhta returned to Litokaira, in southern Lapland, where he had fed and photographed golden eagles twenty years or so ago. One evening last January he skied off into the wilderness around Syötetunturi. The temperature was so low that the air was almost too cold to breathe and, despite his excellent clothing, the intrepid photographer began to freeze. After the first picture, the camera tripod refused to open! The night, however, was magnificent. Next day, Luhta learned that the temperature in northern Finland (Lapland) had fallen to an all-time low of below -50 degrees Celsius.
At first appearing shrouded in darkness, the nocturnal wilderness is clearly visible once our eyes have adjusted to the low level of illumination. It is easy to choose scenes and to use the camera without any artificial light. Besides, the lighting differs each night, the phases of the moon and the aurora borealis having the most marked effect.
Vuotos - fateful days for a bird paradise
by Mikko Niskasaari
The peatlands of the Vuotos area of southern Lapland constitute a paradise for birds, not only by Finnish standards but by European ones, too. A reservoir planned for this unique area would inundate the bogs and mires inhabited by the birds. Controversy has raged for years over the Vuotos reservoir. Now the power company, Kemijoki Oy, has applied for a work permit from the water court to enable it to make a start on the construction, despite the lack, possibly on a permanent basis, of a building permit. The work permit ploy is an old one enabling the constructor to ride roughshod over the environment in cases where controversy exists, virtually forcing the highest legal authorities to take a stand on the issue.
A large number of birds classed by the EU as endangered, vulnerable, or rare nest on the mires of Vuotos. A total of 52 species, or 5 % of all the EU's smews, four pairs of peregrines, 70 pairs of cranes, 20 pairs of short-eared owls, 27 pairs of hen harriers, and several pairs of broad-billed sandpipers breed there. The University of Helsinki, the University of Oulu, the Finnish Environment Agency, and BirdLife consider Vuotos the most important breeding area for rare birds mentioned in the EU's Bird Directive. According to Kemijoki Oy, the area has no significance to bird life!
Mammoths push the continental ice sheet out of place
by Antti Halkka
Mammoth remains have been discovered at nine different places in Finland. Palaeontologist Pirkko Ukkonen determined the age of them all using radiocarbon (14C) dating. The oldest fossil is apparently over 43 000 years, and the youngest 22 450 years, old. These determinations indicate that mammoths lived in Finland at a time when the land was supposed to be covered by ice. As mammoths did not live on the ice sheet, this simply cannot be true.
Using OSL ((Optically Stimulated Luminescence), Juha Pekka Lunkka from the Geological Survey of Finland has determined the age of ancient sand deposits. Such deposits, too, indicate that ice did not cover Finland until after the period when mammoths are known to have inhabited the planet. Thus, the theory that a thick layer of glacial ice continuously covered Finland has been shown to be incorrect. It is possible that the country was ice covered for only about 15 000 years.