I`ve been on the road for about two months now. On the first monthiversary of the Us European trip, I chose to write about regional and international conflicts and how each country seems to have its own problem between different layers of the population, whether the reason be in language, religion, ideology, history, nationality or something else. These conflicts seem to have a significant influence on the way people organise their lives. During my stay in Estonia and Finland, I came across another element that seems to be decisive in the mentality of people wherever they live: nature.
Of the countries I visited so far, Finland has been the most impressive when it comes to living with nature and respecting it. The climate is probably the roughest in comparison with Ireland and the Baltic States (which I visited before Finland), imposing quite strict limitations on what people can and cannot do. Nevertheless, the Finns in general do not see that as a problem. Whenever necessary, they find their way around it in the same way a judoka uses the strength of his competitor to his own benefit. The Finns, most of them at least, see beauty in each season: summer for having pleasure outside, autumn for the beautiful colours, winter and spring for skiing and spending time indoors. In all of Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, the Mid Summer Celebration is a major event that can easily compete with Christmas in terms of how important it is to people.
..thinking about the environment
Circle of life
In both Estonia and Finland, I have had the pleasure to walk around in national parks. To feel like you exceeded the reach of civilisation and surrendered yourself to the unimaginable forces of nature. To see that each tree that dies serves the forest to almost the same extent as a living tree does. To experience the different stages of growth and decay and to experience a variety in plants and animals that have all been assembled in a way that everything works together and makes sense. This said, I was quite happy not to meet any bears or vipers on the way.
The visual part is not all of it. The fresh air of the forest, or mountains in case of the countries yet to come, makes you feel better and sleep better. The lack of noise makes you realise that perceived silence in a city is not even close to silence. It is just a result of senses made numb by the constant inflow of sound. Leaving the inhabited world for a while helps you resharpen your senses and reorganise your thoughts.
Weather conditions can change at any time and it has no mercy for those who arrive to the stage unprepared. It requires people to be humble. Which is the opposite of the arrogant thought that people are meant to fly or spend their days in the safe vicinity of their car`s steering wheel. Airplanes, cars and houses may make us think that we master nature, but the reality is and remains opposite to that. The best we can do is try and understand it, and act upon that understanding. Which in my view includes understanding that we are too numerous on this planet, and accepting that natural disasters and diseases are only a natural response to the obvious overconsumption of natural resources.
Western European countries have had sufficient welfare to abundantly fill up supermarkt shelves ever since World War Two. However, the increased `production` of food rather makes people unaware of the amount of natural effort it takes to generate one unit of food. Products are deliberately `manufactured away` from their natural variants, wiping out any relation between for example a pack of milk and a cow or a field, a hamburger and whatever animal was used to produce it. In spite of accurate labelling, the relevant origin of the food goes lost in the process. Let alone the use of additives like pigments, taste boosters, sugar replacements and others. Food is no longer about combinations of natural ingredients and their respective behaviour, but about adding water to bring them back to life.
Source water does not originally come from plastic bottles, apples are not designed in a computer program in quantities specified by the consumer. If you want to refresh your memory, come to Finland: drink water from a natural well, eat mushrooms and berries that you pick in the forest, cook stuff on a fire instead of using a microwave and see what eating is supposed to be like.
Well-functioning garbage collection in Western Europe certainly has its advantages. But surprisingly, there is hardly any incentive for people to simply produce less waste. The Finnish national park of Luosto is a good example of how clean clean can be. Signs at the entrances of the park tell you that whatever you take into the park, you must also take out. A nice lesson in `How much garbage do I actually produce and how do I organise it`. That thought seems to come natural to Finnish people, but they seem to be quite lonely in adopting this piece of reflection as a standard state of consciousness. All it takes is a little mentality, afterwards it just runs by itself. It reduces the work of having to use complicated purification methods and saves the limited resources we have access to.
Relating this back to my previous `Personal reflections` article, I would even go as far as saying that people will keep fighting over religion and languages. They have started fighting over natural resources like oil and gas in the past few decades. Future wars will be about basic natural resources needed to feed the people - in a constant struggle of overpopulation against nature.
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