|This is a statement by Olli Tammileh to in a session of the OECD environmental performance review mission on September 13th, 1996 in Helsinki. Publishing the text is desirable. However, first you should consult the author.|
Environmental performance of
the Finnish state
The environmental performance of the Finnish state has been very poor. There is an outstanding contradiction between stated objectives and actual deeds. Representatives of the government have said once and again during the last decade that one of their aims is a sustainable development or an environmentally friendly information society. In this they have had a strong support of the Finnish public. Obviously this aim means a qualitative change in the working of the society. However, no such change has taken place. Not even the beginnings of a new sustainable society have been laid down.
How can we argue so? Isn't it obvious that a lot of beneficial environmental
reforms have been accomplished? Nevertheless healing a disease by causing
another disease is not regarded as a good medical practice. Similarly for
a reform to mean a progress towards a sustainable society it must fulfil
many criteria, e.g.:
- The reform must not mean transfer of the problem to another geographical location.
- There must bee an accumulation of positive changes so that there aren't some negative environmental modifications which even out the reform.
- The reform should not make it more difficult to accomplish further changes, for example by creating an illusion that all necessary reforms are technical in nature.
In the Finnish environmental policy these criteria are not met.
During last decades the manufacturing of a striking number of products has ended in Finland. However, we have not stopped to use these products and they are imported from various countries where production costs are lower. One of the reasons for differences in costs is that Finland has a stricter environmental legislation than many exporting countries. Thus environmental reforms in workplaces have transferred problem on shoulders of foreign workers and people living around dirty factories.
In Finland all new technologies that the world can offer are put into use in an exceedingly rapid pace. Most often their environmental impacts are not known and there is not even research to find out their effects on the environment. However, impacts of new technologies are usually rather complicated and tricky and it takes a lot of time to find them out, think only the history of the CFC-compounds. Already on this ground the idea of an overall improvement of the environment is wishful thinking.
Many environmental problems are caused by some deficiencies or impurities in the employed technologies, e.g. the discharge of SO2. On the other hand some others are caused by the technology itself in all its shapes, e.g. CO2. In Finland the success in solving problems of the first type has made it more difficult to solve problems of the second type. The creation of the official environmental administration to carry out technical reforms has created an environmental discourse where all problems are technical in nature. Thus seeing the necessity of structural changes has become more difficult than it was earlier. That's why for example the Finnish CO2 policy is so strikingly reactionary compared to the overall image of Finland.
A small step to articulate anew the necessity of structural changes is the concept of "environmental space" developed by the Friends of the Earth in Europe. Environmental space is that amount of natural resources that every person on the earth can use without endangering the possibility of the future generations to use an equal amount. Friends of the Earth Finland has just published a book based on this concept. Its title is "Sustainable Finland, Towards an equitable environmental space".
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