Pentti Linkola

Scots pine snag, Skatanniemi, Helsinki, July 2019. Photograph by Timo Rissanen

Pentti Linkola is something of a conscience for Finland and for humanity. His ideas are radical, often shocking and sometimes dangerous. Yet I’ve shared some of his thoughts in moments, as a visceral reaction to the persistent destruction of the biosphere that I have witnessed, and contributed to, throughout my life. While a lot of his thinking resonates and inspires, I do not share his nationalistic thoughts. In the face of a planetary emergency we ought to question the ongoing usefulness of a nation state. This is a time for all humanity, for one humanity. When we accept the emergency, the viability of national borders begins to crumble. Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about becoming indigenous to place, a more productive way for us to simultaneously consider our individual and collective place in the world, though this must be a robustly decolonised practice. The way Linkola voices the losses of these times and is able to see connections most of us look away from, either from ignorance or discomfort, is familiar to me. The forests and lakes he writes and speaks of, that he lives among, are familiar to me: Finnish forest is where I experience something I might begin to describe as indigeneity. Though Finland hasn’t been home for 24 years, drop me in a Finnish forest and I can tell you the month of the year by observing the presences and absences, and the movements and the sounds around me.

Otto von Busch shared the following clip of Linkola’s account of a profound loss. I identify with it because many of the woods of my childhood no longer exist. The forest next to my school, where friends and I discovered a pig skeleton in second grade, has been replaced by a kindergarten and houses with perfectly manicured yards. I wonder if the spring we also discovered, magically bubbling with clean, cool water out of the earth, is still there? Through the satellite view on Google Maps I can see that the ditch where frogs spawned each spring is covered by a parking lot. Where do they spawn now?

At our summer house, most of the spruce woods, dark and heavy trees that had grown since at least the 19th century, have been clear-cut during my lifetime. There was one particularly gloomy spot of dense moss understory cradled by massive spruce that I keep forgetting hasn’t existed for 25 years. Each summer when we get to that spot I find myself momentarily surprised after the bend in the road, that instead of being dwarfed by majestic elders, their branches making a tunnel out of the narrow road, we come to a spot of ten-metre high regrowth, half my age. The memory of what once was is stubbornly vivid. Some years ago I had a dream that I was there, chatting with my late mum among the giant spruce. Waking up was a harsh reminder that both the trees and she were long gone. Along with others. I cannot recall how long it has been since I saw a Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. (I much prefer the Finnish name, pohjantikka.) Maybe they are still there, clinging on to a memory, scattered across the few remaining patches of old-growth forest. Or maybe they went north where I pretend the forests are less intensively managed. During each visit I hope to see or hear one.

It would be intellectually lazy to outright dismiss a radical thinker like Linkola. Criticality is necessary and we ought to ditch whatever ideas we find destructive. As Linkola’s account above shows, our elders hold memories we cannot have, because of what we have destroyed in the name of progress and development. While we cannot have Linkola’s memories we can learn from them, to ensure that at least some of our memories continue to manifest in reality, in thriving, balanced ecosystems that also include us.

Patch of forest in Lauttasaari, Helsinki, July 2019. Photograph by Timo Rissanen

 

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