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Wisdom from Nordic nature

The sailing trip to Almedalen made us reflect on the kind of environment we are leaving to future generations.



In July, with the temperature closer to ten than twenty degrees, global warming feels like a very distant prospect. But “climate change” would fit the bill.

I’m writing this in our island cottage in the municipality of Rymättylä. When I came to the island for the first time 25 years ago, the landscape was bare and the vegetation sparse. A clear change has occurred in the environment over the last few years. Cherry and lilac plants that had remained a few dozen centimetres high for decades are now a metre tall and deciduous trees are crowding out the twisted pines. This is quite a change in one generation.

I wonder how our cottage island will look in two or three generations? Will there be lemon trees and grapes or no vegetation at all? Will it be possible to swim in the sea or eat fish caught there?

In their book 2071: The World We’ll Leave Our Grandchildren, Chris Rapley and Duncan Macmillan also reflect on the kind of environment we are leaving to future generations. The book reminds us that our global ecosystem is a complex equation with multiple variables, in which tiny changes can have huge effects on our living environment. The flapping of a butterfly’s wings can truly cause a tornado somewhere else.

I read the book during my carbon-free return trip from the Nordic cities’ climate forum in Almedalen, Visby. The Albanus sailed from Visby to Finland, bearing a cargo of Finnish city leaders and carbon experts from Sitra. Inspired by the questions presented by Rapley and Macmillan in their book, discussions at the meeting – “Cities and Mayors Leading the New Climate Economy – The Nordic Road to Paris and Beyond” flowed while we bobbed up and down on the Baltic Sea: how has the climate changed and why? How is it changing at the moment? How do we recognise such change? And what kind of future do we want to create? Of course, the key question concerns how we can contribute to realising the future we want.

Nordea’s economist at the Almedalen climate forum had a clear message for those of us representing Nordic cities: stop the gestural tinkering with climate issues within your own cities and join forces to promote the climate action essential, on a global scale, in rapidly developing economies.

Our climate forum on the Albanus concluded that action is required on a human scale in our home towns and villages, alongside the global solutions essential to meeting the world’s climate challenges. The latter requires joint public and private sector investment in research, product development and the systematic scaling of innovations – even and particularly during economically difficult times. This is the only possible way of combining economic growth with sustainability.

On the radio, they played a song by Finnish pop star Sanni, I’ll be writing songs about you even in the 2080s. Besides our loved ones, I hope that our songs describe a natural environment alongside which people in our time learned to live on a wiser basis.

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