Sustainability is the word I have been thinking about during my first days in Finland.
The Finns are firmly connected with the nature of their country and appreciate that the world is responsible for giving them the resources we all need to live our daily lives. Finnish forests are an intrinsic part of their folklore, the native people of Finland having a strong connection with the world around them. In ancient history, when the Finns had to look for safety they would escape to the forest, not run away from it as you might expect.
Seeing the forest as protection means they practice sustainable forestry. You’d expect for a country covered in woods, 60% of the land area to be exact, that the temptation to use all the trees available for commercial use would be too great, but not for the Finns and their connection with nature. Logging is tightly regulated and must be sustainable for the landowners.
This results in that there are stunning national parks. Helsinki is the only capital city which is surrounded by three national parks, meaning the importance of them cannot be overstated for the residents.
Finland has the freest media in the world, with the second lowest perception of government corruption. It makes sense, therefore, that the journalists working here are held in higher regard than for example in the UK or France. Erwan from France says that the French journalists are held in lower regard than politicians.
The media has seen big changes because of the rise of internet video and on-demand streaming. MTV3 and other commercial broadcasters, which rely on viewing figures to raise advertising revenue, appear to be concerned as much as other commercial media companies about how they can survive in a Netflix world. Recently in the UK, Ofcom, the communications regulator, issued a warning to the three main public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV and Channel 4), that they must start appealing to younger, mobile and online viewers, or they will simply lose that audience permanently.
Finland has seen a big shift in its position within the European Union in the past few years. Once a big supporter of the European project, Finland is now moving to a more skeptical position under the direction of Timo Soini. His electoral success in Finland came as a surprise to much of the Finnish media and it shows how it is not just the UK where people are unhappy with aspects of the European Union. In the UK we are undergoing a fragile time in terms of international politics as our referendum on EU membership is coming in 2017 ̵ if not sooner. We don’t really hear about other countries that are getting less supportive of the European Union, we just discuss and debate our own membership. Mr. Soini’s view on the situation is: “I shall not say what the UK should vote for, it is a matter for them.”
So far, it has been by far the best introduction to Finland. I just know that the next three weeks will be over far too quickly.
Photos: Bruna Passos Amaral, Esha Chhabra, Mohammed Alfraj, Sabina Serikova