As of today, 7 Dec 2015, notable Finnish fisherman, deep ecologist and dissident Pentti Linkola turns 83. To honour the occasion, we now digitise a lengthy Linkola interview first published in the final issue of the Finnish magazine Quadrivium in December 2014.
The forty-page article relies on Linkola’s oeuvre, which spans six decades, and discussions of several hours recorded at Linkola’s cabin in the village of Ritvala in Sääksmäki, Finland, April 2011. No interview as extensive of the founder of the Nature Heritage Foundation has been released in English before.
Speaking strongly for the highest biodiversity of nature and as fiercely against human overpopulation, the interview depicts a difficult and consuming way of life which not only demands a lot from its followers but also goes to show how essential it is at times to voice observations with a clarity that ventures beyond populist politics of the day and the slow-grinding bureaucracy of climate change conferences.
Out of respect for the privacy of certain relatives and other individuals not central to the article, the interview online is a slightly abridged version of the article in print.
Best of health to you, Pentti.
(Illustration: Kalastajat/Fishers by Veera Pitkänen)
The Fisher King
Thanks to an unfathomable suggestion presented in the dead of night by a smashing person I barely knew twelve months prior, I had the absolutely bewildering opportunity to spend a weekend at the estates of Pentti Linkola in the spring of two thousand and eleven. Now, you might ask yourself why this name means so little to you. Let me try to explain. Born in nineteen thirty-two, Linkola is a radical Finnish fisher, ornithologist and writer responsible for numerous confrontational literary works on nature. To some he is an eco-traditionalist; those who consider his work more fearful or dubious call him eco-fascist. Ever since the nineteen fifties, he has spoken for a number of themes that would conserve life on this planet if people weren’t deaf to them.
Linkola’s main qualification to many has been laid out by the fact that he lives very close to how he would like us all to live: in a cabin near the lake Vanajavesi, in what you might call a Haven of Don’ts, with very little high technology to ease his life. He does not have a car, a cell phone, computer or many of the other devices that are so central to modern leisure life. Wikipedia seems to know he lives a «simple and austere» life. Linkola’s poetic bitterness is beautifully unrivalled since it is poetic only in its eloquence—the issues he speaks of are gravely real. Not realistic, not understandable, not «basically agreeable», but real. Linkola has boasted that his observational method is always empirical: what there is no evidence for does not exist. He has never been interested in lucks and likelihoods; he is not a gambler. This rationality gives off his modernity, his cultural background.
Being able to explain something that already feels like one of the most unique events of this mortal crawl requires getting there in the first place. We were told that to reach our destination, we needed to pay attention to a dust bin that was in the colour of the terrain. Well, what we find is a bin that is full black. Filling in on the function of a gate next to the bin is an old broken chair holding up a few tall straight branches. We leave our car outside the gate, a car that for those interested is not our own but the trusted Volkswagen Golf 1.4 of my ex-girlfriend’s parents, and continue downhill by foot. For those interested, the «we» constitutes myself, Timo Lampila and a German friend explicating the nuances of a certain Italian philosopher elsewhere in the magazine. We’re here in the village of Ritvala, in the rural municipality of Sääksmäki—in the Southern Finland province of Tavastia—on one of the first very warm days of spring. The first hepatica are starting to accommodate both sides of the hillside path leading to the cabin. The terrain is slightly moist but most of the snow is gone. The courtyard smells of life, all of its aromas uncontrollable and in unison. The temperature is close to fifteen degrees Celsius. After a short walk of a couple of hundred metres, we see a courtyard hosting a woodshed, a guesthouse, an outhouse, a small patch of field for potatoes and vegetables, a clearing for cutting wood, a well, the cabin where Pentti Linkola lives, and next to the cabin, a fallen birch that small birds are running on. This is the famous tree Linkola never wanted to fell even if it started to look possible it could fall on the roof of the cabin. It didn’t.
Then comes the usual clatter and clamor of any first encounter; hands met in firm shakes, names and occupations inquired, presents handed over, presents that in our case include a stack of reindeer meat, butter and chocolate chosen by Lampila based on the knowledge of Linkola’s diabetes, famous dislike of margarine and traditional love of game.
After the initial clash, some time is released for simple ogling. The first impression of our host culminates in his eyes, which are small yet sharp, joyful yet of that distinct hue of pale grayish blue that has fooled many to think is the very definition of distance, rounded by some contemplative furrows on the forehead, not to mention crow’s feet so sympathetically non-aligned that you would never think glee getting washed out by pessimism within their reach. However, it is particularly the brave vertical lines growing upwards from the bridge of the nose that form the expressiveness of his face, to which the small scar under the nose is a dash of forester chic. Whenever you catch a shy grin from what is under that scar, you will see a set of teeth in a remarkably good shape for a man nearing on his eightieth birthday—and that is in spite of the prosthetic teeth implanted after a bicycle accident sixty years prior. In his speech, the slight impediment is let out in the slight soft fuzz of the letter r, not always the type of coarse fricative Finns are used to hearing.
The cabin is about forty square metres in size and has three rooms: a small vestibule, a kitchen-slash-dining-slash-living room and a bedroom. Most of our time in the cabin is spent at the kitchen table next to a small bed, a shelf built upon tiles of brick, a gas stove and a stone oven with an old «Fishermen have bigger rods» sign attached to it. The walls of the room are covered with pictures of birds, fishes, abstract landscape sceneries and then a concession to twentieth-century technology, a wireless telephone. The kitchen cabinets have an enjoyable hue of nature green to them. One of the cabinet doors has a newspaper clipping with the headline, «Siisti koti on ankea asua» («A clean home is a dreary place to live in»). On the chair Linkola writes on there is a sheep hide and a small pillow. Other singular items include a radio on the window sill, a typewriter sitting next to the table and a considerable amount of books, magazines and newspapers scattered on the table. The bedroom provides three large shelves stacked with more books. And a record player, but we’ll get to that later.
The slight stubble on Linkola’s cheeks and the witches’ broom of his hair tell how the requirements of time and space on the country are less harsh than in urban centres. He will say that three months is a sufficient interval for a thorough wash. Having a sauna is a reckless waste of energy, too, so we can start dipping our expectations of having a good session of heat and pressure. Linkola’s hands, probably the most crucial physical feature of his body given his work and philosophy, are fairly but not amazingly big, hardened and thrust on a constant move—here is someone taught to draw on his hands with no sense of expiration. He’s wearing a checkered flannel shirt and a pair of brown cargos with a knife hanging from the waist, which, he warns, he will not hesitate to put to use if one of us should be thoughtless enough to denounce his exquisite delicacy, the roe of a pike-perch.
In person, Linkola is highly unlike the bitterness and sorrow radiating from his literary persona. As he has confessed in writing, he is very cowardly about insulting the convictions and persuasions of another person in conversation that happens on an eye-to-eye basis. The typewriter is his therapist. And indeed, throughout our stay, he seems very light-hearted, considerate, attentive and amiable, humorous almost to the point of juvenile, flashing his sardonic edge only if his fellow conversationalist has traversed well beyond fact and common sense. He is very curious and perceptive for his age. When you meet him, the notion he has made in one of his books, of observing people from centre, sideways and above all at once, does not seem so much like a self-congratulatory remark. He might be subdued and defensive at times but never attacks or pulls unneeded punches beyond the magnitude of a dry bottle of «Well…»s.
Linkola prides himself in the uncompromising nature of his logic. The essay «Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun» is a long attempt to outline a new world order for the fin de siècle. At the outset of this essay, he claims nine out of ten people never think. Thinking is repulsive. Even if you do think, there is the near-certainty that you’re not doing it the right way. Ninety-nine out of one hundred thinkers, Linkola says, think in contradictory, flawed terms. And even if you pass this criteria, there is still the chance that there is no ambition to your thinking, or at least no such ambition that would get recognised by Linkola. According to him—you can already guess what his favourite ratios are—ninety-nine out of one hundred consistent thinkers never have the nerve to push their ideas as far as they should go. Most give up. Those who do not will have to continually and relentlessly take cue of the perils of philosophical sophistry and needless pedantry. In Linkola’s case, philosophy is always chained to pragmatism. He considers himself an absolute materialist in the sense that all the beliefs, knowledge, awareness and attitudes we have are only applicable when they transform into actions and thusly have an impact on reality. His set of values, as presented in «Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun», is a clear one. It consists of two clauses: A) truth and intellectual honesty to the end and B) the continuity of life in the planet’s biosphere. Those are the only two guiding stars we should have; everything else is deducible to them. The values of western culture to our hermit fisherman form the most destructive system of values in the history of the world. What to him are the values of life would exist even if there were no humans to value them. And contrastingly, whether it is a Muslim, a Jew, a Lutheran or a Jehova’s witness cutting down a tree matters least. Humans to Linkola are interesting primarily with regard to the effects they have on nature.
His critics say that what may seem like an iron-clad logic is in fact not building on facts but personal preference. It is a lack of consistency that comes across as a form of sentimentality masquerading as radicalism where ecology and nature act as mere dei ex machinis for the justification of his personal preferences in the fields of politics, sociology, philosophy, ethics, technology and so forth. His views on agriculture and anti-democratic states, for example, are aesthetic and idealised, not grounded on empirical study or observation. In Linkola’s opinion agriculture—including gardening, cultivation, gathering, fishing and hunting—is a mainstay in the core of any «viable and enduring» society. Agriculture is the prerequisite for secondary crafts and is therefore always most crucial. Yet, critics say the agricultural society he longs for may have never existed, or if it did, it persisted only for a few decades in twentieth-century Finland—between the national awakening of the early twentieth century and the great urbanisation that began in the nineteen sixties. The wish not to entangle in the minutiae of conceptual and epistemological conundrums will make him seem exceedingly naïve in more scholarly estimations. He will resign from theory and science precisely when it starts to obscure his own vision, as philosopher Tuomas Nevanlinna has—rather perceptively—noted. Other points of criticism—like those stating Linkola’s absolute faith and devotion in the meaninglessness of the future is in fact an evidence of his nihilism—feel more foreign. Linkola has explicitly stated on many occasions that nihilism is not an answer to him: the only one that can credibly refer to and use nihilism as his fuel is the one just about to blow his brains out. We will always care about our private conditions at the very least, as well as those close to us, and these are always at stake when considering the values of life. Life on the planet is a much larger concept, however; it forms a continuity that started almost four billion years ago from the appearance of the first bacteria, stromatolites, and will go on as long as the star at the centre of our solar system does not turn into a red giant that will pull Earth into it, an absorption that might happen in about seven and half billion years. Generally speaking, the attacks solely concentrating on the inconsistent features of Linkola’s thinking seem often more like tiring exercises in first-year university debate or abstract footnotes of conceptual definition than meaningful discussion of tangible ecological problems in the existing world. When zoomed in on, after all, most of us are wildly contradictory in our thoughts and actions.
A more fitting brand of criticism concerns the areas Linkola’s formulations share with capitalism and liberalism. Linkola is very judgemental, there can be no doubt about that. In his writings, he has a hard time tolerating any other views of the world besides his own, which can be exhilarating for fanatics but limiting to those that have a more full-fledged view of the multifarious causal chains of society. Linkola’s yearn for extreme authority and control is something capitalist ideologues could also apply for their uses. He favours hard physical labour, which can easily be turned into a capitalist catchphrase by just slicing the «physical» part of the toil. The same goes for his disapproval of the weak—he doesn’t quite know what to do with them except decreasing the likelihood of physical and mental weakness in people as much as possible. Seems dubious already? Not going into anti-eugenics paranoia, there is a certain functional cruelty and hierarchical toughness to the old naturalist’s thinking, a form of competitive «win it or lose it», which paradigm is already causing much distress and anxiety in contemporary society. Explicitly, Linkola is against competition. In the nineteen ninety-six essay «On the Reversal of Finnish Society» he even declares that «competition, which is nothing but the immoral subduing of others, must be disposed of in all areas of life» and that the word «kilpailu» («competition») must even be eliminated from the Finnish language. «Society must always be structured—to meet the needs of its weakest citizens,» he writes. Though he is against the superiority of economics, Linkola can be ruthlessly economic in his own taxonomies—all our actions are not measured by the pleasure they might bring to us but the effect they have on the economy. Oh, I mean nature. But you get the point.
A certain amount of criticism has also been directed at Linkola’s luddite-like opposition to technology. What his opinion is based on is the reasonable observation that technology makes life too easy and easy life in turn causes frustration, rootlessness and meaninglessness. His refusals of even technology that would help the using of renewable forms of energy and introduce long-term catalysts for pollution are almost romantic in fashion. He always insists, as is quite true, that the key of conservation and environmentalism lies in abstinence and denial. We must radically decrease our consumption of material resources instead of using them to device new forms of commercial technology. Keeping in mind the IEA estimation that the use of energy in the world will increase by fifty percent in the next twenty years, the notion has a solid foothold. But should the rejection be as total, if, say, even in the south of Finland solar power panels could be built to cover for the energy needs of an entire house in a sustainable manner? Or if the award-winning row houses designed in Lindås, Sweden by Hans Eek—having no heating systems but thanks to their supreme isolation able to collect all the energy needed from sunlight and the waste heat produced by people and electronic appliances even during the grimmest Scandinavian mid-winters—would be a common model of construction for the future? One may extend the reasonable criticism of Linkola to his dislike of urban centres, which seems not to count for the areas of lands saved from roads, parking lots and estates when the living happens in a more condense sprawl space. Which does not even factor in the gains in public and private motoring.
Another relevant and characteristic point of disenchantment concerns Linkola’s domesticity. He sees that conservation work is always connected to states and their borders; international co-operation in environmental issues never produces results as strong as national campaigns and regulations. Concerning the environmental state of Finland may be wise in the sense that it is here that he has made most of his empirical observations and it is the Finnish socio-political life he has gathered most secondary data on. But seeing as Finland is only a small country and national borders can push back only a few of the dozens of environmental dangers, one might expect Linkola to pay more attention to global issues such as the shortage of fertile land in Africa, the impact of the freeing of methane clathrates in the melting of permafrost in Siberia and Alaska, the Alps losing half of its glaciers since eighteen fifty, the destruction of phytoplankton by the warming of the top layers of the seas and oceans, the ramifications of major natural disasters over the world and, finally, the contents of environmental treaties like Rio and Kioto. But perhaps this is too much to ask from an old fisher who likes to write one or two yearly articles on subjects that are close to his heart.
It is not easy to say what made Pentti Linkola, a man who most likes his days spent in nature, a writer. What we do know is that he comes from a family background rich with academics. Kaarlo Linkola, Pentti’s father who died from a blood-clot related complication after undergoing prostate surgery when his son was nine years of age, was the rector of Helsinki University almost up to his death. He left behind a large life insurance, which, according to his son, was devoured by wartime inflation. Pentti Linkola’s grandfather from mother’s side, Hugo Suolahti, was the first chancellor of the University of Helsinki, a professor of Germanic philology who also ran as the National Coalition Party’s candidate for President in nineteen twenty-five. Linkola says he has never been a rich man, and certainly could not have aspired a career as a writer for any financial reasons. His salary, compiling the fishing, the books, the lecturing rewards and everything else, at least until the end of the nineteen seventies, was in the lowest ten to twenty percent in the country. As a young man, Linkola studied zoology and botany but never finished his studies. He became interested in ornithology and naturalism instead of professional biology. And writing: birds were the topic of his first unpublished essays. In nineteen fifty-five, his first literary efforts came to be published in the form of Suuri lintukirja («The Great Bird Book»). It was a co-authorship between Linkola and Olavi Hulden and obviously didn’t leave much room for the voicing of personal opinion. Linkola’s début pamphlet, Isänmaan ja ihmisen puolesta («For the Fatherland and Human», nineteen sixty), and his first collection of essays, Unelmat paremmasta maailmasta («Dreams of a Better World», nineteen seventy-one), were compilations of kind and romantic and cautious statements for nature, man and harmony.
Toisinajattelijan päiväkirjasta («From the Journal of a Dissent», published in nineteen seventy-nine) is where the tone faces a prominent change to the «doomsday-prophet» direction. The weak idealism of his youth starts to disappear, as does the need to suck up to his readers and listeners. He becomes obsessed with the voicing of truths, declaring bad news as they are. There is, as he describes it, an embittered authoritarianism in him upon facing total ignorance and foolishness. He calls the President of this «empire of death», Urho Kekkonen, an «architect of catastrophe» missing all wisdom and understanding for the panoramic picture of reality, the biological comprehension of man—everything. Linkola starts to get increasingly frustrated about the insufficient reactions to his writings, which leads to him entertaining the idea of violence as an extension of the environmental truth. Individual themes he is concerned with in this very private and turgid collection include the amount of «sheet metal tigers» as he calls cars, the spreading of recreational fishing, the spreading of motor water sports and feverish summer cottage building, the pollution and damage caused to surface waters and the shorelines, the sulphuric acid and the insecticidal DDT in the stratosphere and rain water. The great migration from the countryside to towns and cities is a constant source of irritation for Linkola because it separates people further from the sources of their raw materials and commodities, which also means an enormous burden in the form of new roads being built, roads capable of enduring extremely heavy transportation for semi-trailers—sometimes as heavy as sixty thousand kilos—and the filling of building grounds. Some of the notable suggestions for improvements and solutions for environmental degeneration Linkola offers in the seventies are as follows: Workforce should always be cheap, whereas capital and the materials should be expensive. Development aid—the term to Linkola already a sign of western arrogance—should be strongly tied to birth regulation programs. The right to abortion should be omnipresent. In criminal law, the sentences for homicides should be lowered, and crimes involving the wasting of materials heightened. The twentieth-century stress should be replaced by the steady old-fashioned ailments: illnesses and hunger. Species solidarity should only extend to one’s circle of family and neighboring tribe. The divorce from his wife and family was a huge blow of depression for Linkola, one that is very much visible in the tone of his writing. Aside «Kalasääski», «Älä luota enemmistöön», «Luonnonsuojelun linja», one of the main articles of the collection is the devastating «Häviäjät ja voittajat» where Linkola comes to the conclusion he is a one-hundred-percent failure as a friend of nature, as an opinion molder in society, as a writer, as a lecturer, as a dreamer. He figured that in his professional and private life he was living a period of transition that led to hell.
But did this make him give up? Of course not. Ten years later, another collection of essays appeared. In the preface to Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun («Introduction to the Thinking of the Nineteen Nineties»), Linkola says his social criticism used to come in the form of writing about singular faults, «dissembling the wall of madness brick by brick», but in some ways the opposite happened: in this collection he is becoming more particular than before. It has perhaps been society and its demands of techno-rationality that require a writer of the late nineteen eighties to be more precise in his demarcation and more specific in his discussion of individual harms to nature, not clinging to style and atmosphere but iteration of fact and cold-hearted interpretation. His old texts come across as elegiac waves that flood in with long-winded lists of topics that nature lovers should feel tearful about. The change that has happened adds to the feeling that discussing themes individually may be more daunting and redundant to the writer who is certain that a vast ecocatastrophe is on its way. The author’s preface ends with one of the most famous Linkola quotes: «When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides of the boat.» The book is very much cornered by the idea that all the talk about the «green wave», the softening of attitudes and the rise of awareness towards nature all come across as just words with no counterpoint in reality and seem frankly ridiculous from the perspective of the countryside. The program for unbridled growth is already blaringly apparent as a constituent in the destruction of the human species. The products produced by factories have become dispensable; the factory is only needed by the factory itself, constructors, architects, agents in transportation, trade, state and municipality offices. The use of energy is the key issue, not whether it is energy produced by nuclear power, oil, coal, water, fusion or fission. Man himself simply cannot resist the help of busy machines that produce, hew, extract, cut, wrap and tap the stimulants for his laziness although for man it would bring much more long-term happiness to use both his flesh and soul for his daily efforts. When hope has hit the road, Linkola fills the space left uninhabited with a rising anger and bitterness. «I hate, I hate and I hate, as recklessly as a man can ever hate anything or anybody,» he grumbles to the builders of the Sääksmäki bridge with no need for relativism, calling them «rapists, murderers and destroyers of all». The final text of the book, the seventy-page title essay, is an introduction to Linkola’s philosophy and values that does not offer that much in the way of pragmatic applications of his ideas. What it does offer, however, is eighteen conclusions that should follow from a genuine respect for life on the planet. Most of them begin with «We have to…» He pleads to us to forget about humanism, social issues, our own freedoms and rights. «We have to remember that in accidents and catastrophes, material damage is bad and human damage is beneficial», and so on. What is essential in this time and age is that the defining relation of our time is not so much between people as it is between man and nature. We have to love animals and plants like we love our fellow humans.
The first and so far only one of Linkola’s books translated into English is Can Life Prevail?, a compilation of the articles originally published in Finnish under the title Voisiko elämä voittaa. It is quite likely the weightiest experience I have had reading a book. The English translation has been cut to about half of the original’s four-hundred-page size. Omissions include texts on a wide array of topics. Some have been deleted, presumably, because of their small interest to international readership. In the Finnish version there is a heartfelt piece on the Russian Carelian villages and forests, there are letters and opinions to do with domestic forest politics and its figureheads, there are personal observations about the climate and birds of Southern Finland, there are nature book reviews and a strangely exhilarating yet dubious essay about Väinö Linna, the civil war of nineteen eighteen and the old intelligentsia of Finland («Mietteitä ja muistoja vanhasta sivistyneistöstä»). Other exclusions are likely to have happened due to topics of a more incendiary nature, such as Linkola’s accounts on the Kosovo and Iraqi wars, an essay called «Maailmansodat» that builds an analogy between the ecological and economic disasters of the nineteen nineties with the various stages of the Third Reich in the nineteen forties, and a scathing look at the United States as an enemy of world peace that compares the deeds of George Bush to those of Hitler. Then there are the occasional belletristic pieces, like that brilliant pastiche in reverse of a small car crash report written from the POV of the dead moose, that should have been translated just to show Linkola’s superlative nose for literary register and narrative. The realities of translation show in a more bleak fashion, too: although Eetu Rautio’s work is fluent and solid, it has little chance of conveying the true intricacies of Linkola’s voice, whirling, wave-like and full of peculiar, half-arcane and half-humorous vocabulary as it generally is, often making it seem Linkola is throwing out dumb hillbilly truisms in a bluntly deadpan monochromatic voice that has little singularity, kind of like a viler localised version of Wikipedia’s Ecology Portal.
This is not to jump over the ideological shift that has produced an ever more lenient Linkola in the book. He now wearily acknowledges some «glimmers of hope» as he calls them, the appearance of which cynics and critics no doubt observe as a touch of demagogy. He at least poses a happiness towards «a small improvement in a natural area, some successful attempt at preservation, a moderate decrease in emissions, a legislative step towards conservation, a new area being protected, some conference at Rio». Furthermore, the old conservative is opening up to concepts such as clearing a certain share of forests to uphold the diversity of meadows, dry meadows and the plants and birds that enjoy them. He now sees this as one of the few ways in which the work of man, agriculture and turning forests into fields, has helped to enrich nature. Intensive farming has made this idyllic view a warped rarity by destroying the ecosystems of the meadows and locking the pasturing animals indoors year round. Another interesting alleviation is shown in Linkola’s attitudes towards disabled people: he now hovers towards an acceptance and even says disablement offers something like a «diverse view into humanity». Though restricted to a book review of his old pal, the handicapped Green League participant and politician Kalle Könkkölä, the statement adds an odd passage of slimy politically correct monologue to Linkola’s world-weary tirades. He also speaks about psychiatric care from a social point of view, poking at the cuts in social welfare during the nineteen nineties’ economic depression, noting that mental problems are the product of the cruelty and toughness of the predominant values of contemporary society. He admonishes the tendency of submitting an increasing number of patients to non-institutional care, saying that no severe depression can ever be cured at home; that it can tremendously alleviate the pain to be able to feel the luxury of being the object of intensive care and attention in a qualified institution with no individual responsibilities. Interestingly, in the piece about the Kosovo war, he likens pacifists to protectors of the biosphere, both of whom he considers forever losers in the face of the secretive joy masqueraded as horror in this war-obsessed culture.
The book ends with «Can We Survive? A Model for a Controlled Future», a seventeen-page instructional essay from nineteen ninety-nine that will probably stand as the final attempt Linkola ever makes to sketch something of a systematic presentation on the improvements that might hinder the climate change and make our environment a feasible place for man to prosper in. The aim of the «less ambitious programme»—his words—is at the preservation of mankind and its few companion species. So far, most of these regulations seem merely fantastic. The excess of fat would be decreased by restricting and normalising the nutrition, vitamin and hormonal levels of adults. A drop of twenty centimetres and twenty kilograms in the height and weight of adults «could realistically be achieved», Linkola estimates. A third or half of the nutritional content of grain and other plant-food would be replaced by «first-class animal protein»—he considers the fish catch could be made a whopping hundred times more plentiful. The use of fossil fuels would be instantly terminated and the distribution of electricity significantly limited. Electricity would still be used to illuminate rooms and make certain traditional media operations possible, but e.g. all kinds of external street lighting would be cut. Firewood would be used for heating and its use would be likewise strongly regulated. The firewood would be collected from «fast-growing deciduous trees in small, carefully outlined areas». The mean volume of wood in the forests would be increased to approximately four hundred cubes. The necessary electricity would be created by wind power, not water plants or solar power.
Agricultural countryside would be the ideal societal state for the new infrastructure. The populations would need to move closer to fishing, farming, gathering and the raw materials and sources of sustenance since traffic and transportation would be strongly regulated and forest lorry roads and highways would be destroyed and reforested. Mass travel would cease, as would all air traffic. Hiking in one’s region of living would serve for the needs of journeying and exploration. People would have their own plots of vegetables and gardens with fruits and berries. International trade would be given up with the exception of a selection of metals and salt that cannot be produced domestically. Monetary transaction not directed at immediate material acquirements would not be allowed, and investments and stock markets would likewise be prohibited. The construction of new buildings would, of course, end as well. It is curious that Linkola suggests most unneeded forms of technology and industry such as ships, icebreakers and coastal harbours would be demolished, while it would be much more profitable for the country to reuse, trade or even sell the materials in them.
In the rather anti-material society of the model, the school system would constitute the most important element. The greatest emphasis at schools would be placed on a form of «all-round education»—including natural sciences, history and Finnish—,sports, arts and, as the most significant subject of all, civil skills comprising of social skills, responsibility towards your neighbours, nature and mankind, behavioural education and practical abilities, which would include mending, patching, handling the most common tools, building axe shafts, filing saws, gutting fish, skinning animals and handling food in general. Rooting out aspects of competitiveness would be a crucial goal of education. Drugs and tobacco would be banned in Linkola’s society and the consumption of alcohol would be reserved for special occasions by tough pricing. Having outlined these and suggesting many other rudimentary alternatives, Linkola closes in an attempt to underscore the final gravity of his words: «All other actions are nothing but a way of playing with fire, waiting to get burned.»
After we have gone through the mire that exchanging greetings on first encounter always is for creatures not that sharing on the spot, we are invited by Linkola to sit down and ingest some mashed berries with whole milk. While handing us three plastic plates he makes the point of telling us that a plate is the only thing plastic is good for. He has been eating from the same plastic plate for thirty years and considers it important that we be eating from similar plates. And not just this meal but all meals: Linkola says he washes up his own plate once a fortnight or whenever there is reason for a clean-up, suggesting reasons for clean-up are ranked lower than they probably are for you and I.
One of the prerequisites for our interview was that we would help the seventy-eight-year-old with some household and courtyard work he hadn’t been able to perform due to his injured back. These chores include carrying firewood to the cabin, clearing out some of the layers of leaves and twigs from the roof of the guest house and woodshed, carrying water from the well and collecting sticks, tools and fishing net wood from the lake. It’s not much but it’s something, and we are pleased to help. When we’ve got the first of these deeds done, meaning the hauling of some wood in baskets from the shed to the cabin, casual conversation on the yard ensues. Topics cascade on how to distinguish a tree from a sapling, on the reasons concerning the disbanding of Finnish White Guards that initiated the Winter War, on highly favourable appraisals of the infrastructure of National Socialism, on telling how the draught of nineteen eighty-seven destroyed the crop of his field and allowed harvest as late as October, on how he’s sorry difficulties in mobility no longer let him keep a dog. He then goes to add his fish selling trips have brought him many dog friends to pet so long one forgets the presence of the master, and so on.
After a while, a drizzle appears and gets more intense as the evening’s damp gloom hunches over us, which makes us move back in. Lampila teaches Linkola to read the SMS messages arriving to his wireless phone. Linkola shows no interest for the technique of receiving and inspecting messages but listens to attentively when Lampila starts reading the greetings of the last month. Once this instructive-slash-informative lesson is over, the first session of the interview begins. Linkola sits to his fishing nets and starts to untangle them. His reason for doing this is that apparently his thinking always gets clearer when he’s simultaneously doing physical work, a phenomenon some of us might recognise from more mundane processes like taking a shower or washing the dishes. The soundscape of the room is mainly composed of tranquil verbal contributions, the shuffling of the nets, and an irregular noise made by chairs creaking against the wooden floor. A few times the net wired to a spike is about to collapse as Linkola lifts it to a wooden clothes hook. When this eventually happens for real, there is the rare occurrence of a swear word exploding from his mouth. Otherwise, he employs a soft-spoken, polite parlance that is both assertive and extremely soulful. A lot of meandering paths and byways make their way into his replies, and sometimes his thoughts disperse altogether, leaving behind a ponderous silence. While the discussion of natural topics seems to get a rather reserved and laconic response from Linkola, he is alert and delightfully verbose on questions promising more anthropological tangents. His gaze often sweeps the floors but can be very quick to seek connection with those on the other side of the table. If you care about your correspondent’s mental position in the interview, imagine that respect could actually be a thing, and that that thing would be a giant waterfall, of the type that would produce numerous rainbowish arches on a beautiful summer day, and imagine that that waterfall would now be frozen and you would be standing just under, and see the many huge icicles and perhaps touch them enough to get a refreshing clamminess on your palm, but never even then forget the waterfall is frozen and extremely beautiful and composed of anti-Heraclitean waters and most importantly: that it is way bigger than you. That’s why opening the file for «Tape 1, Saturday afternoon, 16 April 2011» was very hard for a long time. Another reason was that while Lampila’s recording equipment failed, we had to record the discussion on my very secondary and recording-wise very lousy Matsui MP3 player, which has supplied me with very painful transcribing sessions before. There were also some other reasons I won’t detail here.
It would seem that the unconditional views Linkola—originally a Helsinki citizen who then moved to Kuhmoinen and later Sääksmäki, to the region of his childhood’s summer house to be able to maintain his profession as a fisher—has had on nature, environment and human population have slightly softened in recent decades. It is no longer of greatest importance to save the biocoenosis but to postpone the destruction, to provide nature a certain extension, an overtime. It might already be too late to do anything else.
«Yes... One should of course quit all thinking» is what he decides to begin the interview with. «I might have always felt like I was devising some wholly new perspective, one that got me mildly excited. Where did this or that pop up from? You cannot help it if you’re born or have progressed into a reformer of this kind. It is difficult to stay completely silent.»
Most people, even those who take pride in being aware and conscientious media sharp-shooters, form their opinion of Linkola based on articles and interviews made on him, not the impressive body of essays, lectures, statements and books he has written over the years. This is particularly unfortunate if you consider his opinion that ultimately, it is not possible to speak aloud about the most miserable issues; one can only write about them. The obvious and potent danger here is that the wide audience, those who come to him via newspapers, magazines and television talk shows, will miss out on his most fundamental communication. Environmentalist talk isn’t very honest in general; it has a complex relationship with the needs of demagogy. In the nineteen seventy-two essay «Luonnonsuojelun linja», Linkola considered ninety percent of the discussion of nature conservation to be misguided and false. In the nineteen eighty-three piece «Itke rakastettu maa», he made the more devastating remark that every text and interview he had ever put out had brought him difficulties in his personal life, both when misunderstood and fully understood. No wonder then that in Can Life Prevail?, in the article «Sales Season», those sentiments have crystallised into a brilliant characterisation of journalists as an «unbelievably irresponsible, vile, and harmful category of men», «monkeys running after the latest trends, emulating each other like sheep».
«Journalists like to think that their interviews have many times the size of the audience the books have.» This is the Linkola speaking on the tape one again. «Televised interviews happen on terms laid out by the interviewer. Of course, I’ve had to get used to truth having little meaning in there… Earlier, this wasn’t the least bit dispiriting but all these darn years have taken their toll. Some fatigue has appeared. I haven’t taken up on official writing assignments. There have been no columns in many times. Very few letters to the editor, too. Interviews are a different kind, such as this one here. It is so much easier to answer questions put forth by the interviewer than to mold an article on some particular issue. There probably won’t be another book. There are so extraordinarily few important issues that there is no sense to keep on harping about them. Earlier, I wrote and got enthused about less important matters. Everything that I have written has been measured and deliberate, but some of the topics that have caught me haven’t been the most essential ones. In that most recent collection, details such as vegetarianism and psychiatric care were discussed. They have been near to me only to a certain extent. I’ve written about them since I’ve had to write about something else beyond the ecological catastrophe.»
This interview will make numerous references to a seminar called Kehitysutopian umpikuja ja länsimaiden kriisi (The Dead End of the Utopia of Development and the Crisis of the Western World) arranged by the deep-ecologist union Vihreän Elämänsuojelun Liitto I witnessed at the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas in Tampere in the fall of two thousand and eleven. In the seminar, Linkola spent an hour talking to the interviewee Kirsi Haapamatti on the «themes of the day», whatever that was supposed to mean. I will refer to the materials provided in this conversation as «the Werstas interview» from now on. So, in the Werstas interview, when he was asked about his attitude towards the way he is depicted in the media, his public position as it were, Linkola refrained from answering the question and rather diverted his attention to the strange horrified manner in which mass communication handles natural catastrophes. He did tell that he is in the middle of writing his memories, which were very much unfinished because, upon checking details from his old texts, he had noticed how much of a better writer he was in the past. He doesn’t consider his text very good anymore, and his faith in making an impact through his writing has disappeared. He compared the situation to the occasional exhaustion of Mika Waltari’s creative work as portrayed in a Parnasso magazine article by Martti Anhava. These days, the fisherman concentrates on transcribing his bird observation journals, over fifty one-hundred-page volumes of which have added up in the last fifty years and over.
The big fat T-bone of each Linkola interview can be reduced to one word: overpopulation. This is the main problem nature, his true mistress and saviour, has to deal with—the immeasurable havoc units of the homo sapiens. Nothing strains the planet as severely as the amount of human flesh and the level of production, manufacture and consumption dictated by this flesh, which is mirrored in the huge environmental disruptions of erosion, deforestation, emissions, ozone depletion, water, earth and air pollution and garbage disposal we face today. And strained the planet is: a Living Planet Index of the WWF indicates that the ecosystem of the planet became thirty-seven percent poorer between the years nineteen seventy and two thousand. Linkola has endlessly ridiculed and admonished each and every individual from president to the common man who has not been able to grasp that economic growth, overpopulation and nature conservation cannot be supported in tandem, and how no salvation can come in the form of technology, no matter how innovative and intricate.
In Linkola’s works, we’ve been given the opportunity to glance into the smaller components that form the threat of overpopulation: phenomena such as concentration of populace, consumption, pollution, manufacturing of goods and the distance between the production and consumption of said goods. There is also the more speculative psychological consequences of the constant exposure to urban traffic, the unavailability of free space and the continuous competition of professional life leading into each man considering his fellow human beings as enemies. These were effects suggested by some of Linkola’s writings in the nineteen seventies. Yet simultaneously the solidarity and sociability of the species, the «ant men» as Linkola once called us, only spurs the mental and economic endorsement sent to development aid and immigration. A large share of development aid is spent on organisational functions. Internationally, about half a million people are monitoring the use of this aid in time so that more money gathering can be organised. The aid given often leads to population and consumption growth. This is how environmental refugees have the capability of affecting their proximity with the logic of erosion, advancing from one area where natural resources have been vanquished to another which already has an excess of population to make do with its own resources. In the seventies, when Linkola made the notion that an Asian or African brought into connection with the western living standards would make their consumption ten or one hundred times what it was originally, immigration as we know it didn’t even really exist in Finland. The message took twenty-five or more years to really—and now you will have to excuse me for using a very worn-out idiom that is convenient for the theme—«hit home». The same obviously goes for native citizens. In a country like Finland, the subarctic bio-resources cannot solidly provide for five million natives; the subsistence is consistently dependent on foreign imports.
«All attempts to salvage anything are suffocated by the avalanche of population,» the Linkola on tape one notes. «There are two factors denominating the impact; the amount of humans and the stress produced per person. It is an impossible idea that billions of people would fit into the planet with reason. Other species, the so called world of creation, will automatically be trodden down in the process. Absolutely, definitely. If only people even accepted the fact that they are one in seven billion, but they have no understanding of such mathematics. A figure of that magnitude slips beyond their comprehension. It’s so enormous. Continuously, daily you hear that Finland is a small country since we only have five million three hundred thousand inhabitants. It’s a bunch of people that extends all limits of reason, and people call that a small country!»
Timo Lampila, who will remain the Panza to Linkola’s Quixote throughout the interview, interjects: «I’ve come across a study that claims Finland could provide a self-sufficient living for about two million citizens.»
«Yes, and on what standards?» asks Linkola. «Food, clothing, heat, services… That’s what we genuinely need. And the poverty line today is what, one thousand euros per month...»
Lampila: «My limit for spending per month is two hundred euros, and I have a shortage of NOTHING.»
Linkola: «It’s all to do with where you live. You’re poor by definition.»
Lampila: «Multiply poor.»
Linkola: «You cannot call it scientific research, but for all of my life I have observed and investigated the stocks of birds. I have focused on birds specifically, but also surveyed the wood materials of forests. For all of my life I’ve been accustomed to bird populations being marked in thousands. With some awfully rare exceptions, the population has grown into hundreds of thousands, or even millions. But they’re small pawns. So far, I’ve written only about a million metres of observations on the sizes, variations and stocks of the birds in this country. One part of the material is in the shelf; there is more under the blanket. Compared to these figures, the amount of people is stupefying. I’ve often said that it doesn’t make the standard of culture any better. The best records of humanity are, after all, in the field of culture. If we didn’t have the likes of Äänekoski, Pori and Ylivieska with the same kind of choirs and theatres—they have the male choir, the church choir and the mixed choir—they have a certain amount of artists and some gallery, somebody has made a hobby out of genealogy in the best of cases, somebody specialises in something else. Most people have no spirited or culture-related interests even as customers, spectators or listeners. Even if you consider all the activities in these towns, they add nothing to the whole. If we didn’t have that Äänekoski or Kokkola, the Finnish cultural life would be exactly the same. Plenty enough. If you take this reduction far enough, there will be no choir, art exhibition or music to cut away. Even if you take away these thousands and millions of aspects, you’re left with the role of man in the world, in the animal kingdom, in life. It’s the same; it’s enough. The only thing gained with these great volumes is the crushing of everything else.»
Asceticism is a factor that has notably defined Linkola’s life. True conservation of nature and deep ecology denotes a string of endless denial, sacrifice and saving up. Everything needs to be regulated, abstained, reduced, abandoned, dismantled. A famous characterisation of his says that conservation is sitting with your hands crossed, observing from the margins, doing nothing. In the foreword to Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun, Linkola prays to be forever protected from the deadly sin of tolerance. Each torn sock and trouser knee should be repaired, each envelop turned around for reuse; that is pure nature conservation according to him. Depravity and hard work make life meaningful; abundance and material wealth always lead to despair. The butter should come from your home country, as should the potato. In Toisinajattelijan päiväkirjasta, the old-fashioned friend of culture even said he was pestered by the fact that there were more classical compositions and world literature classics he could ever have the time to familiarise himself with. Then there is the far more important issue of the amount of buildings in Finland, which is five times higher than truly needed. Consequently, twenty-two percent of the energy used in Finland is reserved for the needs of heating buildings. If you add the electricity used, they comprise approximately a third of all energy used in Finland. The heating of unneeded buildings and the unused properties in public buildings arouses anger in Linkola—congresses are held on boats even though there would be plenty of vacant estates for them on land. Many as we are, we cannot all be fishers living in the skirts of nature, however. There are lessons of abstention waiting to be given to those of us struggling in more urban environments.
«The thought often seems to be that if you don’t commit suicide, you’re not logical,» Linkola says. «But what I’ve at times written about is that if the aware ones commit suicide, we’re left with the ones that do not even recognise these things. In that respect, the idea of suicide does not hold. Of course, the more you can lessen the burden the better. You can leave out technical equipment that use up energy and materials.»
Although having posed the brilliant question of «How on earth can anybody fall sick between the ages of twenty and sixty?» in one of his essays, as a child, Linkola was frequently falling prey to demanding illnesses. He has openly acknowledged, for instance in the brilliant nineteen seventy-two lecture «Älä usko enemmistöön», that it would’ve probably been better if he hadn’t had doctors and medicine to save his life. Among engineering science, the evolution of medical science is one of the sorriest aspects of the handiness of homo sapiens to him in that it has significantly prolonged human life. Instead of homo sapiens, the wise primate, Linkola reckons man should have named himself homo insipiens, the insane primate. Man is a piece of driftwood in the river of progress, an involuntary victim of evolution.
«It is a more glorious principle than suicide to try and live as people lived a couple of hundred years ago. If they had to travel somewhere, they used the stagecoach and horses that would consume only as much fodder as they ate. Those do not exist anymore. A little later, there were six buses going daily to and fro on the state road a few kilometres up from here. I was already a full-time resident here when the last mail bus shift was terminated. The same living conditions have not existed during earlier decades and more difficult eras. People have had to make do with an awful lot less than one hundred years ago when the whole infrastructure in society was very different. These days, you need to buy your groceries from a store whereas earlier you exchanged goods. A fisher traded his fish to flour and potatoes in the village. He paid with fish to the tailor who made him the clothing he needed. Farmers paid with milk, meat and grains. None of this exists anymore. It has been so horribly ruined. We have not understood that we have a very difficult future ahead of us. Nobody really succeeds anymore. There will be more loss. In the past, you couldn’t even imagine that there would be no workhorses in Finland. I was already an old man when there were four hundred thousand workhorses here in the sixties. Then they started to get fewer but I always assumed there would be enough for those who truly needed them. In the last two or three years we’ve gotten into a situation where even if I won the lottery and promised one million euros for a workhorse, I wouldn’t be able to get one because none exist. This is what we’re left with. When I was a small boy, we always had a phone and it worked. Even if you had to order long distance calls from «sentraali-Santra», they always worked. Now the phone no longer works, like I just described the one I have: it cuts off calls and there are all sorts of noises coming in. It’s the same with matchboxes. Every third match is thin as a needle and it breaks into two the moment you take it from the box. You have to strike a match ten times to make it flame, after which the striking surface of the box is lost and no longer produces fire. Earlier, you could’ve never imagined something like this happening! A match was a match, something you made fire with. That is no longer the case. All of this makes it very difficult to say what you can and cannot abandon. Requirements are made empty. There is of course a way of life where you do not need matches, wood heat or the workhorse.» He says this with a considerable ruffling of the fish nets. «It is hard to say what would be the ideal way of living with regard to ecobalance. It most definitely is not what it was many years earlier.»
The capitalism motored by the greed of contemporary man is one of the greatest reasons for even making something as small as a match a useless piece at birth. It is worthy to note that Linkola very rarely speaks of capitalism; he prefers the term market economy, possibly not to entangle himself with the old saw of the capitalist-socialist dichotomy of the cold war. This is not to diminish the evil in the system’s deeds. «Never before has the kind of vile, hellish gambling connected to stocks, exchange rates, basic interests, prime rates, investment funds, options, derivatives, trading incomes, annual profits and other similar variables spread from a limited band of crooks to the very core of society,» Linkola sums up the economy in the nineteen ninety-eight article «Human Nature and History».
«More wood is required by matchmaking because of that, of course. If the boxes were proper, they would be made out of proper wood. The movements and activities one can join to resist this… One is abandonment, naturally. There is the movement of—what’s it in English—degrowth. Which makes for a perfect conflict if those active in the movement think that we need more immigrants in the country…» He falls silent for a while; there seems to be something unpleasant going on in his feet. «Blimey, now I have the wrong shoes, these stick to the net… I have to be on my socks.»
Quite fittingly, his own profession of fishing is one of the few aspects in which Linkola notes his own gaping mouth of greed in the mirror. It is here that he too shouts for more customers, more consumption and a better price for his fish.
«Prejudice is a fine word,» the shoeless Linkola says. «It has a negative connotation even though that shouldn’t be the case. You can have a positive preconceived notion about something, too. Strange. Suspicion is another thing.»
Societies and associations that have to do with nature, animals and environment often turn into impotent bureaucratic organisations as they grow in size, concentrating on managing their increasingly complex structures and policies instead of working for their original causes. This complicates the issue of financial donation; money does not necessarily flow for the good of nature when helping bloated organisations. Linkola isn’t particularly interested in partial cosmetic actions like changing one combination of harmful chemicals for a less harmful combination, or building intricate filters to prevent pollution, or to juggle between oil, coal and nuclear power as the dominant sources of energy. Nor are the improvements in environmentalist technology very relevant to him; mainly, they add to the burdens of construction and the consumption of natural resources. Even if you managed to make the means of manufacture in some field easier for nature, decreasing pollution, the amount of industrial waste or the use of energy, no company will ever leave that capacity unused but rather exploit some other, new avenue of conceivable profit. There are simpler and more effective methods of nature conservation.
«I pay twenty euros per month each to The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature. I do think they’re all doing some good work. Greenpeace is the best one. They have the militant wing that has blocked even larger ships. A number of people put their own safety at risk. Then there are these animal activists that do not understand that when they’re setting minks free, it is a terrible situation for the nature to have a foreign beast to be running free. Whereas when they ruin their furs by painting them red, that is what should be done. Compared to Vihreä Risti and Animalia, these old animal rights associations, they all have a similar point of reference: they do what they can. With foxes and minks, they have achieved nothing. What the young female animal rights activists achieved was that some mink farmers quit their business. The associations haven’t achieved even that. It was just in the paper that there has been a tremendous increase in the price of mink furs and at the fur farming fair they’re selling more furs than ever. That’s where their action has gone all to waste. This is more positive than negative, but just adjusting the opinions of yourself and others leads to no tangible efforts. If you cannot link it with real action, it is worthless. Few things cause as much rage in me as the praise I get for «arousing so much debate». It hasn’t been my intention to provoke discussion but to make wrongs right. It is specifically orders that I write. In my elderly dates, I’ve looked up to a list of fine concepts that reads order, discipline, prohibition, enforcement and oppression. Those are the five meaningful, holy things. Of course, changes in legislation can be made by force. Just as people don’t cross the streets when the lights are red and don’t surpass speed limits, they should be made unable to violate the environment. If you try to suggest that, people will tell you it is violating our individual freedom. It’s senseless. Individual freedom is violated by crime laws all the time. There are restrictions that are wholly useless, and yet we’re missing some essential ones. In China, the one child policy is successful in general terms, yet there’s no way of applying the policy in European countries. There cannot be any significant side effects with smaller populations. That is the point. I have spoken about demography a lot. There has been a certain amount of birth control and rationing as long as there have been humans. The capacity of a homo sapiens female is fifteen to twenty offspring. The only communities to have achieved that number are conservative Laestadians in Finland and perhaps some other countries. Like the parliament representative Karjula, whose Mrs gave birth to eighteen children. The real child count is much closer to one than it is to fifteen. In that respect, rationing shouldn’t be considered unconscionable. When the rationing has already proceeded to two to four children, it shouldn’t be impossible or immoderate to add to it slightly, yet it is. That includes the idea that population should be growing smaller even in a single municipality, where it is the duty of the commissioner or manager of said municipality to attract young couples and companies into the municipality in order to make the population of it grow. The same is happening in every country. Since we’re only five million and three hundred thousand here, which is an upsettingly low number, we have to get more people living in Finland.»
«When the Muslim population is mixed with white Finns, in a few decades we will see the demographic fact of one overriding the other,» Lampila believes. «As far as I know, a traditional Muslim household gives birth to seven to ten children, while a European one produces one point eight or one point nine.»
«They’re not breeding as fast as that,» Linkola argues. «The fastest growing population on earth at the moment is in Kenya, and that growth is about four percent per year. And they are not Muslims at all. Generally speaking, there are more births in the Muslim countries. The birth regulation would of course have to be worldwide; a task for UN if only they didn’t have projects going in a completely opposite direction, with organisations like Unicef only aiming at financially aiding these countries of frequent births. Birth regulation should be the number one mission of the UN, and not only that, it should be the primary mission in each government and country individually. The means of fighting climate change are incredibly inept, and there isn’t even any acknowledgement for the fact that we have to get people out of here for the climate to settle down. The amount of drinking water is decreasing globally—many populations will be deprived of water—and the reason for this is said to be the misuse of water; that there’s always some kind of exploitation behind it instead of saying that there are too many people on the planet for the amount of water we have. Leaders and the upper class have always exploited the people in all matters. They say the fish stocks in oceans are coming to an end thanks to overfishing. It is no overfishing if they fish for life, trying all they can to fill up those huge trawlers with fish, seals and porpoises while destroying the corals just to get people something to eat! Fish for the billions. That’s what it’s about, nothing else; it’s not about excessive fishing but fishing a satisfying amount of nutrition for the population. It’s always too much, too much, too much! Billions too many of this species. Once I told Yrjö Haila how I’m terrified by seeing a shack on each hillside when I travel by train or other means of transportation in Finland. He said he’s never even thought of it like that; of course there should be people in every corner of the country. That is the world view of the majority.»
Being Finnish and having Finland as a fatherland—it is debatable whether there is much left of it after the corruption of untouched nature and the destructive westernisation of the culture. At his darkest hour, Linkola has stated there is nothing worth of conserving in the western culture as such. Instead, it should be abandoned as a whole. The nineteen seventy-seven article «Epätoivon isänmaa» is recommended reading for every Finlander who likes to nest the thought that everything is swell and fine in the country—it still holds accurate in many respects. Elsewhere, Linkola has stated his love for Finland extends from the first two decades of his life to the national post-war reconstruction period of the nineteen fifties, which is slightly odd, considering the peak it meant for industrialisation and economic expansion. Not quite as dread times as the future decades which brought the chaining to imported energy, international trade pacts and global credit ratings. Nonetheless, to Linkola, the freedom of the individual is a thousand times more important quality than the independence of a country. Rather provocatively, he has acknowledged that living in a Soviet Finland or under the control of any other conqueror would have made the country a more beautiful, conserved and easier place to live. Yet, in a later piece entitled «A Logging Story» he writes more affectionately, perhaps out of desperation, that «This is my motherland, and every motherland deserves love. So I love all this. I assure myself over and over again that I love it: what else could I love if not this? Alas, it must be loved.»
«Culture has to be diverse just as nature has to in all senses,» the tape one Linkola states. «In nature, you talk about different species, but you also talk about numerous smaller units. Having the ecobalance in mind, there should be a few thousand hunters and fishers and nothing else. The life of a Finn is so outrageously expensive compared to the lives of some other Nordic populations, which are smaller in any case. The growing of forests happens slowly and building roads is five times as expensive as in Central Europe. Logistics is a problem. Building is extremely expensive because all buildings demand proper thermal insulation. As far as the ecobalance is concerned, we shouldn’t have any permanent settlement. The Union of Finnish Writers should have a hundred members, not six or seven hundred. There is the idea of diversity, but exclude the fact that upholding human life here is more expensive than anywhere else in the world. It makes immigration even more senseless. This standard of living upheld by force is transferred to people moving in from poor countries. It’s terrible and meaningless. Nothing of the sort is needed. We don’t need anybody here to work, study or do anything else. We don’t need them here to live, exist, consume and take away the chance of getting a natural park in Teisko since the wood needs to be cut down for the support of the population and the standard of living both natives and immigrants here have grown accustomed to. It’s all about securing a certain standard of living and economic growth to as many citizens as possible.»
As we are about to enter the first thematic entity of the interview, entitled by me as clearly and lamely as «Forest», Timo offers Linkola some of Oululainen’s jälkiuunileipä, a traditional bread made from sourdough and baked at a low heat. The bread, which Lampila calls «the best bread you can find in a store», is endorsed by cheese, ham, cucumber and tomatoes. Showering the air with several thank yous, Linkola is dubious whether his teeth can break through the notoriously firm dark bread. «As a consequence of a bicycle accident in October nineteen fifty-one, a part of my upper jaw is prosthetic,» he says, gesturing his mouth. «First I lost the front fork of my bike, then two teeth followed. For some decades I had pivot crowns inserted there, then there was a bridge there until it was ruined as well. Two years ago they planted a prosthesis there. My occlusion has been weaker ever since but let’s see. Thanks for the good intentions, anyway.»
The most important singular issue concerning the conservation of nature in the mind of Pentti Linkola is the future of the forest. The pieces he has written about the forests of Russian Carelia, Kessi and Sääksmäki are nothing but wonderful. Already in Toisinajattelijan päiväkirjasta, Linkola opined that ninety percent of the human energy at the use of conservationism should be directed at the protection of forests against vile phenomena like the destruction of deciduous trees and the building of the broad net of forest lorry roads mutilating the country’s forest fur into small slices. To Linkola, «all actions that encourage, increase, ease or speed up traffic» are to be considered criminal activities and everyone responsible for them should be sent to the Court of Impeachment. Though its share of all Finnish export has diminished to under thirty percent, the lumber industry to him is the heaviest and most ravaging form of industry in the world, and the effects it has on nature are the most significant.
The diversity of the flora and fauna in the forests is a crucial measure. In the Werstas interview, Linkola rated the devastation of forests as the greatest individual sorrow that has faced the planet and him. Emphasising the devastation are the clearcutting methods developed in the last fifty years, bringing down the old forest law that prohibited clearcutting as a waste of forest. Clearcutting is a complete havoc which even ants and other micro-organisms cannot escape. When massive timber harvesters and multitasking machines were introduced in the nineteen eighties, not only did they make most lumberjacks lose their jobs, they also made laying waste on the forests even more rabid. The «booming and crashing, screeching, crunching, squeaking, howling and clanking of steel shovels» truly made the countryside alive again, Linkola has sardonically noted. The problem does not lie so much in the decreasing acreage of the forests but the quality of the forest growing on the areas. A wooden field is no different than a field of grain. «The bulk of the so-called forests in Finland consist of either new, bare clearings that in winter cannot be told apart from a field, or in nurseries consisting of trees as thick as a wrist at most,» is a categorisation he gives in a two thousand article called «Is the WWF Favouring Crime?». From the climate’s point of view it would be far superior to let forests grow into maturity, thus allowing them to collect as much carbon dioxide as possible from the earth and pump it into the soil.
«There are many kinds of ideal forests. There are groves and coniferous forests, temperate broadleaf forests and mixed forests. What is most significant about the forest is that man hasn’t fiddled about with it. On some small islets there are primeval forests the size of an acre. There might be a two-hundred-year-old pine tree there that even fishers haven’t cut up for firewood. In actual forests patches that have been left untouched for eighty to one hundred years are surprises. The overstory has to be one hundred and fifty to three hundred years old. A quarter of the forest has to be rotten standing trees, a quarter of alive wood, then a quarter of stumps and fallen trees resting on other trees, and finally a quarter of brushwood, which at its decomposing state, when it’s turning into peat, is the largest storage for carbon dioxide. That is what an ideal forest is like.»
Indeed, forests and seas are the primary two carbon dioxide eaters of the world, with seas taking up about two thirds of the share. The more we burn fossil fuels, the lesser the capacity of forests and seas to consume any more since the more carbon dioxide makes it into the air, the more it is shagged off from air to water. Then there is also the issue of the drying up of the Amazon rainforests caused by global warming, which would release so much carbon dioxide into the environment that it could not be covered up by all of the other forests in the world combined. And though the existing forests are growing faster than ever thanks to the climate change, the amount of deforestation going on at the moment is staggering: about fifty football fields per minute, thirteen million hectares per year. An even more serious environmental threat is caused by the release of carbon dioxide from the wetlands and swamps of the world as global warming increases. Estimates say the effect would be twice as hard as the destruction of the entire Amazon rainforests.
Climate change as such has never been at the top of Linkola’s interests, possibly for the same reason as geology hasn’t: it does not concern animals and plants directly enough for him to feel passionate about it. However, he has noted the many effects global warming brings with itself: the underwater submerging of fertile coastal plains, the changing of course that streams like the Gulf Stream may encounter, the desertion of large cultivated areas due to drought and the tremendous increase in rainfall that will prevent harvest in many areas.
In the Werstas interview, Linkola made a looser separation of the ingredients of the ideal forest, stating that one third has to be old living wood, one third rotten standing wood and deadwood, and one third brushwood. With its peat storages, a forest of this kind is also helpful for the climate, which, however, only has an indirect significance to Linkola.
Then there is the famous Linkola measurement for a «real tree», which he also illustrates to us in the vicinity of his cabin. According to Linkola, the trunk of the tree has to match the arms of an adult male stretched around it. Any trees smaller than that are seedlings to him. Similarly, a forest isn’t simply whatever is green on the topographic maps. His yearn for the protection of virgin forests has evolved, at its loftiest, to a fantasy about wildernesses staying completely free of the footprints of hunters, berry pickers, fishermen and hikers. On the map, the areas of these spots of wilderness would comprise of nothing else than white blankness. Nobody would know the details of the lakes, hills, swamps and so forth in the area. Quite an imaginative or, dare I say, mystical thought for a rationalist like Linkola.
There are not many instances or organisations promoting and securing the causes of untouched forests in Finland. Founded in nineteen ninety-five by Linkola and some of his acquaintances, Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation makes the most vigorous attempt at connecting old-growth forests with uses that do not threaten their natural state. Their sole reason to exist is to buy Finnish forest land and prevent it from being utilised by others for other than conservationist uses. To date, they have been able to conserve more than four hundred hectares of forest.
«The Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation is the only one, absolutely. It has no other cause to exist than to conserve old-growth forests. According to the budgets they have, the state also tries to procure areas in Southern Finland. The issue is on the agenda of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation as well. The WWF is an international organisation with an awful lot of themes to look after. Luonto-Liitto also have their forest group but they are focusing on investments even though they should be negotiating about further forest protection. They say they don’t know how to talk to forest owners. Many of them would be happy to invite them over for a cup of coffee where they could present their agenda, but it doesn’t work out.»
Suppose they are only verifying Linkola’s written observation of conservationists as «great worriers, bad logicians and poor men of action». In Toisinajattelijan päiväkirjasta, he devised a short mental will of the veteran conservationist, which was: A) Never trust the majority, the people, the common folks, they are never right. B) Always make it clear to yourself that the conservationist belongs to a tiny minority. C) And, most famously, «whenever you hear words such as democracy, solidarity, society, release the safety of your pistol»—a reference to the old Hanns Johst statement about culture.
Neither is the old naturalist impressed by the recent instructions of Tapio, an organisation providing consulting services in sustainable forestry, concerning the natural planting of seedlings and the reduction of clearcutting. He would be up to destroying all state and private forest institutions upkeeping secondary human needs, distorting their slogan «Ihminen elää metsästä» («Man lives off the woods») into meanings incomprehensible. Likewise, arguments such as «The forests are just rotting there», «The forests are turning into inaccessible thickets» and «The axe is the best remedy for the forest» do nothing for Linkola. In the nineteen seventy-four article «Metsäpolitiikka—Suomen luonnonsuojelun ydin» he already pointed out that the forest industry was the most fuel-consuming branch of industry in the country, and also the one with the worst operating efficiency when it comes to the amount of energy used for a finished product. The Finnish Forest Research Institute Linkola considers nothing but an organ of the forest industry, compiling statistics that suggest an increase in timber reserves and conservation. He deems the production of advantageous forest statistics is «the most profitable of businesses» well worth investing great sums of money in, carefully prepared and cleverly disguising as they are. All the jobs in forestry are directly created by logging companies or in connection to them, Linkola opines.
Forest planning in Finland in the last couple of decades has meant that all privately owned forests have had to go through a hectare by hectare logging plan that indicates the volume and value of wood in the forest. Not surprisingly, the meaning of the survey has been to make private owners see the lucrativity of their forests and sell them to the big forest corporations. The volumes mentioned in these logging plans have often been too high, meaning one-third of the forest could well be missing when surveyed in the terrain. Linkola mentions talking to a representative of a provincial environmental office who had informed him they were told to deduct ten to twenty percent from the tree estimates provided by the forest economy plans—a clear manipulation. The current volume of wood in an average Finnish forest is announced at ninety-four solid cubic metres of timber per hectare. According to Linkola, the volume should be risen to about three or four hundred cubes per hectare; a goal that would demand nearly a century of determined forest work to achieve.
In Voisiko elämä voittaa, more specifically the articles «Panssaroitu tolvana» and «Suomi on yhtä kuin metsä», Linkola tries, rather interestingly, to explore things from the perspective of forest management. He evaluates the efficiency and advantages of the forest industry but, as you would expect, meets a lot of shortcomings. Young forests are harvested very early so as to make the remaining trees grow faster, yet this only produces wood that is unfirm and fluffy: when you step on it, your boot will leave a footprint on the wood. Favouring the method of clear-cutting, the industry is not capable of conceiving that woods growing in the shade of larger woods are of equal quality. Ravaged by pesticides and botrytis cinerea, the pine saplings growing in monocultural nurseries are either dead or bendy and crooked, not strong at all. The nurseries themselves are hopelessly young. It seems to be forgotten by the industry professionals, argues Linkola, that density, diversity and shelter are some of the key factors of a prosperous, real forest. A real forest will have almost a dozen of different tree types and all age groups from saplings to four-hundred-year-old pines. The advantages of such forests lie not only in their ability to store carbon dioxide, they are also integral in producing oxygen and arranging the appearance of winds, rain and temperature changes. As an exemplary model, Linkola mentions the forests pertaining to the Honkola mansion in Urjala, Finland. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that when a forest area bought by the Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation was renamed after Linkola in two thousand and thirteen, it came to be the forest of Metsänpeitto in Urjala that received the honour.
In Linkola’s thinking, there is a clear distinction between environmentalism and conservationism. This distinction has been prevalent and relentlessly rigid in his works ever since the nineteen sixties. Environmentalism concerns the conserving of habitat for the aesthetic and experiential benefit of man and is infinitely less substantial than the conserving of plants, flowers, animals, mushrooms and so on for their intrinsic value, unrelated to the existence of mankind. For an environmentalist, a wooden field might pass for a forest. Needless to say, our conservationist par excellence has neither time nor energy for the urban naysayers and rebel wisecrackers for whom a cockroach in a land of sand constitutes «nature».
In the early seventies Linkola was dumbfounded by the new turn of «social conservationism» stressing that conservation happened «for man», that is, in order to make mankind survive the pollution, the contamination and the exhaustion of natural resources. In the lecture «Älä luota enemmistöön», he made the famous point that nature conservation that isn’t contradicting some aspect of criminal law is not really conservation. An ecological revolution could only be a total revolution of all social institutions, and no such revolution can be a bloodless one. Having sympathetic attitudes towards nature is not something he considered conservationism at all. Conservation has no need for humanist «paper members». The only viable way was to reduce consumption and manufacture and to secure new untouched habitats and undistracted environments for the species in nature.
«Environmentalism considers nature as an environment for people, whereas conservationism sees nature as a thing in and for itself,» he now says. «Nature exists for nature. A large amount of people dislike seeing patches of clearcutting but they are not the majority.»
When Linkola was talking in Werstas, he explicitly stressed he is not interested in paleology or geology because they have no moral dimension. Rocks do not pique his mind because, unlike lichen or bryophyte, there is no life in them. And among those living… If he had to make a choice between killing a pine tree of three hundred years or a random human being, it is the human being that would have to go. Linkola has sharply observed the distorted views on the importance of homo sapiens caused by the ideological standings of humanism. The Christian-Humanist love of man, according to any deep ecologist, is a form of «inbreeding, egotism and masturbation». The ideal of humanism is to make humans master everything including nature, and this is where technology as its blood brother has increased the crime disastrously. In nineteen seventy-two, Linkola was sketching a new world view that would «abandon the principle of solidarity between humans, the medical ethic and humanism, and crush the international uniform culture and high technology». Nature tried to fight back with microbes and deadly diseases for some thousands of years but had to admit its loss to medical science and processing technology in the twentieth century: it would take the microbes thousands of years to consume the twenty-six million square kilometres of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—if it could ever even do it.
On the other hand, Linkola has admitted to suffering from some form of superficial philanthropy himself. In a nineteen eighty response to doctor and author Irma Kerppola, he says he is more of an anthropologist and a humanist than a zoologist. Man is, after all, the species Linkola knows by far the best. The observation should be familiar to the extreme majority of us. With this familiarity comes solidarity. Our love for the race seems to be too deeply grounded in our biology for us to make decisions strong enough—such as those presented in Linkolas’s model for a controlled future—to ensure a sustainable future for mankind.
«Our love for the race does not always work. War is natural for man just like solidarity is, though they are two contrary things. Wars and being able to kill invigorate man a great deal. When young men leave to the front, women most definitely wave their scarves behind and sew them snowsuits. The stream of parcels from loving women to the front has been incredible. Commanded by old experienced men, a young man might execute the model for the future, which has always been the case. There has been one good ruler, Marcus Aurelius in Rome. They know no other, I suppose. Times are different in different eras. Oftentimes you cannot say that man is like this or that. Man is entirely different in different cultures in the most essential things. When you read literature magazines, as I do a lot, they always state that some poet «hasn’t been able to renew». The poet may have written terribly good collections of poetry but when he or she has done just that, he or she hasn’t renewed themselves. We know from the business world that not being able to grow or innovate equals destruction. Mindless lips chant a mantra of renewal, renewal, renewal, renewal, renewal. The level of technological progress being what it is, renewal is always a negative thing, and it’s getting crazier all the time. I find the adjective «new» absolutely despicable and horrible. Most of the times, our intention has been to find the perfect way of living, the perfect culture, literature and music. And we know what renewal has led to in music and painting. All the time for the worse and more wicked. Everything has to be new! It’s desperate.»
OK, enough about man, I suppose.
According to Pasi Toiviainen’s well-researched book on climate change, Ilmastonmuutos. Nyt, the species of animals under threat of extinction on the planet include more than a tenth of all birds, a quarter of all mammals, two fifths of all frogs, half of the fish and two thirds of reptiles. An organisation like the WWF is an agent of demagogy in that they refuse to spread information on the most serious environmental threats in order not to cause panic and hopelessness. Remember Gandhi and «The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated»? Well, to avoid humiliation and other types of unease, perhaps you shouldn’t. That is the important bit in shorthand; what you will find below is the meandering afterthought.
There has been an increasing amount of discussion over the issues of animal welfare and animal rights in Finland during the last twenty years. Pentti Linkola has always positioned himself more amongst animal welfare than advocating full animal rights to all species. That animals are sentient beings extracting dopamine and serotonin and using their memory, creativity, emotion and adaptability is no longer under dispute, but the importance of their sentience is. An animal has the right to a good life, says Linkola, yet an animal’s abolition is not out of the question. To Linkola, the domestication of animals such as the horse, the cow and the dog has been «the only positive invention of mankind»—it is a process that enriched nature and greatly helped man in his efforts to gather proper sustenance. This does not include the cat. When Linkola was talking in Werstas, the main conversation he had with Lampila and the bizarre contemporary cow-loving artist Miina Äkkijyrkkä concerned the best ways of killing a cat. He has a rather clear rank for animals.
«An animal cannot threaten wild animals or wildlife in general. Cats form a threat of that kind and should be eradicated, absolutely. It is the worst foreign beast we have living here. Animal welfare organisations are poor in the sense that if somebody brings a species like the salamander or the crocodile into Finland, the organisations are passionate about protecting these species. They do not have the understanding I have; that you have to protect the local ecosystem and the animals, plants and mushrooms natural to it. Foreign species have been planted if they are not harmful to the original species or cause very little harm like the white-tailed deer, the muskrat or the Canada goose. They can stay even though they are never comparable to the original species should a controversy or an either-or situation emerge. Foreign species that are not beasts or dangerous competitors to the original fauna or flora can remain.»
One of Linkola’s main ideas is that animal populations need to be regulated for the greatest possible diversity of nature to come into effect, which to him is the «highest goal of environmental protection». By protecting the stocks and lives of all animals—including the raccoon dog, the mink, the fox, the hooded crow and the magpie—we are eventually against the prosperity of some species and stocks. He cannot understand the «sanctimonious nature-worshipper who thinks that everything in nature is fabulous and indisputable». Export predators such as raccoons, cats and minks he cannot tolerate at all. The predators are a worse threat on coastal and water avifauna than hunters, dense settlements and other attacks on the environment. Evolution is never infallible and needs to be tempered with to an extent. Sometimes the meddling is misdirected, as in the winter feeding and building of nests for predators. If predators get too plentiful and are excessively harmful for bird stocks, they should be regulated.
«They are trying to do regulation with the game law and quotas imposed on hunters. The stock of moose is kept low due to the pressure of the automobile associations and forest owners’ organisations. Not at a minimum, though, since there are quite a lot of moose in Finland. The situation amongst waterfowls is much worse. There is a heap of new species in the category of endangered species and species that are to be looked for. The tufted duck, the common pochard, the northern shoveler and so on. There has been a demand to end the hunting of these birds. They are precisely the birds I’ve collected my quantitative materials of the last sixty years on. For the common pochard and the tufted duck, things have only gone worse during this millennium. The stocks have collapsed badly. For a large part it is presumably due to hunting. The waters have changed less than the lands have, ecologically speaking. Yet also grouses have gone on a swift downhill. Forestry and the trenching of swamps have probably had more of an effect on this than hunting. Trenching is very unfortunate for not only the willow grouse but also the wood grouse since the broods cannot obtain food on moors. They try to find their way near the edge of the swamp, and might even have their nests there. Brushes and the edges of swamps are the only places where the small birds can survive. The increase in the moose stocks is also thanks to forestry. A moose cannot survive much in the type of old-growth forest I described unless there are some dells with willows and deciduous trees there. In the old-growth parts of Finland, moose only occur in coastal forests and river deltas. Clearcut areas and the seedlings planted there are the best things a moose could find. The moose and raspberry—those are the good imports we’ve got. Particularly the raspberry has been very welcome.»
It is essential for the diversity of the biosphere that the spectre of species remains broad and that the stock of each species is strong but not too strong. But there are other emphases between the species. For Linkola, the most important species are those among warm-blooded vertebrates. He is sorry for not learning more about invertebrates in his life, indicators of many types of environmental damage as they are. In the essay «An Animal History of the New Age», he openly admits his layman position in placing preference on warm-blooded animals. One might still ask why birds hunted by cats—whose role he wildly overplays by saying «a cat may kill as many birds in Finland as all the hunters of the country put together»—and other small beasts are «objectively» more important than the species of animals and insects hunted by the birds. One explanation he gives in the essay «The Suppressed Nightmare of Conservation» is that birds are an «extremely limited progeny» and have a «correspondingly long lifespan» meaning that any devastation will leave behind a long trail of mistake. All contribute to the upholding of natural diversity, yet the more developed species are also the more important ones.
«One could say evolution has invested more in the more developed species. They are closer to the end product and therefore more valuable. Man is that too, of course. It’s just that we have developed these destructive qualities. That is where creation has failed.»
The theory of evolution may have introduced facts in favour of man being «just another animal», but it was the practice of that evolution that allowed a creature like modern man to develop in the first place. It is impossible to make sure that a species as greedy, technically handy and willing to breed is not evolving again.
«Yes, that would be an interesting experiment. We should be able to try that with legislation, discipline, prohibition, necessity and repression,» Linkola ponders while munching his soup loudly.
As sociologist, author and animal-rights activist Salla Tuomivaara has noticed, Linkola writes against a rigid interpretation of Darwinian biology—life for animals is not all functional; there is play and idleness involved that surpasses the basic intentions of survival, nutrition and breeding, perhaps most famously in Linkola’s example of the early-spring blackbird’s solitary singing that is pure atmospherics, meditation, dreaming and pleasure.
Birds are the group of beings that one could say are the main love of Linkola’s life in the animal kingdom. He has been observing the nesting of birds consistently since nineteen forty-eight, taking inventories on the stocks, fledglings, broods, eggs and nesting couples, ringing birds and managing nests. Ever since nineteen fifty he has reserved the months from May to July almost solely for observing nesting birds. Research work on a singular lake requires three separate calculations in May to June: one immediately after the ice has disappeared, another one two or three weeks later and then a third one corresponding with the nest calculation. His observations have covered almost two hundred and fifty counties in Finland and almost yearly trips of three to five weeks to altogether eleven other European countries by foot, bicycle and boat. That means over fifty thousand hours of cogent observation, half of them in the main area of ten rural counties in central Tavastia. His personal walking record is for thirty-six hours of consecutive walking in the wilderness—even if that was for trying to find a friend that got lost without a compass. The most thorough material Linkola has gathered is centred on waterfowls, coastal birds, predatory birds and cavity-nesting birds.
Yet, as Linkola revealed in the particularly bleak nineteen eighty-three essay «Itke rakastettu maa», the research and study of birds for him has always been a secondary appetite. Making notations and ringing birds is a pretext for wondering and living in nature, admiring its glory. He is not so much interested in as terrified by the disappearance of bird species. Registering the regional distribution and dying of Winchats is not something he wants to participate in. He settles on stating that the most remarkable change he has witnessed in animal populations recently is their instability and unpredictability. He could have never foreseen the sort of renaissance that has happened in Finland concerning large mammals such as bears, lynxes, moose and avifauna such as cranes and whooper swans.
Linkola is among the absolute opposers of fur farming, a branch of industry that steadily increases its exporting of products internationally and exaggerates its impact of employment within the country. The life of a fox or mink caged from birth to slaughter is «chillingly dreadful» to Linkola; their suffering isn’t suffering per se but rather turns to apathy and numbness. It is exactly respect for the life of an animal we should show by not submitting to these deeds. Linkola makes the point of clearly juxtaposing the «subtle and altogether limited violence of animal rights activists» and the «massive violence openly practiced by fur farmers» and then seasons it with the «vast, hidden violence perpetrated by economic growth». He says animal protection «earns the warm support of every friend of nature when it fights against the fur trade or intensive cattle farming» and that «the oppression of animals at the hands of humans is by far a more ruthless phenomenon than the racist oppression practised among people». The cruelty in the treatment of animals raised for slaughter, fur-farming and farmed fish has reached an all-time high, he says—and this is not even in consideration of acts such as the accelerated growth of cattle with hormones and the artificial light used to swell the livers of geese, which are too «repulsive» and «over the top» for him to even write about. Furthermore, he pays attention to how society supports «unscrupulous research and activities» that sustain the agribusiness and fur-farming on an academic level. All of these are some chillingly strong sentiments. Means of preventing the business of fur farming from growing include sabotage and secret filming of the farms, yet ultimately the only way to end this entirely useless vocation is via legislation.
The fact that Linkola is a long-time supporter of hunting should not go amiss, however. Hunting only has an impact in the termination of an animal that has lived a «full life according to their own needs». The death that meets them can be painful or painless, but its significance against that long trail of life, sometimes more than a decade in length, is meagre. A hunter to Linkola is simply a predator that outwits its prey, not a technological mass-killer. Nature, the seasoned naturalist considers, is blind to temporary suffering. «Animal protectors pay too much attention to the slaughter of animals, and whether their death is painful or painless,» he writes in the seminal essay «Joyful Chickens and Sad». When animal rights organisations focus on preserving the animals a good life instead of a good death, their cause to Linkola is «a thousand times more important», already «among the most important matters in the world». The battle for animal rights to him is a «magnificent chain of progress» and the «sole positive ripple» in a crushingly negative tide of brutal market economy. His only wish is that the movement would extend its focus from domestic and farmed animals to all animals. Caged animals, on the other hand, cannot enjoy a normal life at any point but face unnatural anguish, «not like animals but like objects», as Linkola notes. «The caging of animals should never have been allowed in the first place,» he says, and goes to end the powerful last chapter of «Joyful Chickens and Sad» with the firm belief that «No legislation is as urgent as this one.»
«Employment must never be the reason or argument for anything,» the Linkola on tape one says. «Sabotage is supportable but the most important thing is to realise the redundancy of fur animals. Furs may be useful up in the north, such as in Finland, but you get that fur by hunting animals in nature. Those animals have lived a normal life for one, five or ten years before they’re caught by a beast, in this case man. They have not had to live their entire lives in cages of some square inches. That is not something to advocate, unlike hunting sables, which is a question of reaping the interests, which is what all hunting should be about. Moot points like the size of the cages are focused on just to achieve something in the right direction which is alleviating physical suffering. There is a great difference between fur animals and nutrition animals like chickens that lay eggs and provide flesh to be eaten. With a population of humans this big, those are indispensable nutrition while fur animals are of no use in that sense. I do follow the boycotting in that I do not order the meat of broilers anywhere, practically.»
That may well be a wise decision, should we take for granted the list Jonathan Safran Foer produced in the popular book Eating Animals of the longstanding problems chicken encounter on factory farms: filthy rooms, drugs, deformities, eye damage, blindness, bacterial infections of bones, slipped vertebrae, paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, slipped tendons, twisted lower legs and necks, respiratory diseases and weakened immune-systems. Furthermore, a considerable ethical problem lies in the early separation of layers: half of the chicken, meaning the young cocks, are destroyed as they are unneeded in the process of laying eggs. Forty billion chickens are eaten in the world annually; for Finland, the count is down by a few decimals and currently rests at about fifty-five million, as we learn from the Tieto-Finlandia-awarded research Syötäväksi kasvatetut by Elina Lappalainen. The growth rate of a broiler—remember, the broilers are for the flesh and the layers are for the eggs—has increased by four hundred percent in the time that man has tempered its breeding, and is a considerable reason for their heart problems—about a third of the broilers experience arrhythmias. A layer in Finland generally lays about twenty-two kilos of eggs per year whereas its annual laying in nature would be about a nestful, meaning ten to fifteen eggs. Another significant problem is the life expectancy of the chicken: they could live up to seven years of age but are destroyed relatively early when their productivity shows signs of decreasing. You might want to dig up that comparison Jacques Derrida made between abattoirs and extermination camps.
For pigs, the situation isn’t drastically different. Research done by the European Comission’s Scientific Veterinary Committee has shown pigs in crates suffering from e.g. weakened bones, higher risks of leg injuries, cardiovascular problems, urinary infections and a loss of muscle mass that affects their ability to lie down. Then there is the dubious issue of artificial insemination and, variably, starting the birthing process with chemicals. Fourteen percent of pigs die before they are alienated from the sows. Diarrhea is a common danger, as is being crushed under the sow. Cages often limit the motion of the sows and lying on the hard concrete floors often causes bedsores and increases the possibility of leg injuries. The castration of hogs, done in order to eliminate the smell of androsterone and scatoli in the meat, is a constant issue of controversy. Pain medication is not used as often as it should be. The teeth of the pigs are ground so that they would not hurt the teat of the sows. Another contentious question is electric stunning before the butchering. Outer stimulation is lost in the feeding process, preventing pigs from digging for their food. This loss together with the inability to move as freely as they should inflicts stress upon them and makes them to play with the tails of each other, biting them and causing injuries that bring infection problems thanks to the bad hygiene. On the other hand, the biting of the tails is a valuable meter of well-being: if the biting does not occur much, the animals would seem to be living in relative contentment.
Cows experience many similar problems. Every seventh calf dies before it reaches the age of one. Male calves often suffer from coughing, fever, snot, bleeding eyes and rattling breath. For the calves of dairy farms, the most common cause of death is diarrhea. Sixty percent of the cows in Finland still reside the entire winter chained to their stalls where their ability to move is significantly decreased. Cows are sociable animals that also like to take care of their own bodies as well as those of other cows by licking and rubbing themselves to each other, which is prevented in the sheds with stalls. The new generation of sheds called «pihatot» in Finnish allow the cows to move freely since the buildings are considerably larger. Most of the cows in these sheds are, however, denied the chance of getting outside to pasture in the summer since the farms have grown too large to be accosted by large enough fields for pasturing. The immobility together with bad hygiene brings forth breast infections and skin infections on the hoofs. Every third cow in Finland experiences breast infection every year. To be able to produce milk, the cows have to give birth once a year, which puts them practically under constant pregnancy. They give birth chained to their stalls on standing feet. The calves are separated from their mothers shortly after birth, which causes anxiety to both the mothers and the calves. One important issue is the burning of the horn roots of the cows so as to prevent them from growing. This dehorning causes significant pain and third-degree burns in the animals. Once again, medication is a problem: about half of the calves with horns burned in Finland receive no anaesthesia since only a veterinary is allowed to give anaesthesia and farmers refuse the extra expenses this would cause. Altogether, factory farming has made the life expectancy of the cows shorter, decreased their fertility, increased the occurrence of leg problems and doubled their milk production in the last twenty years. The concept of «free-range» milk and beef is still to be introduced, and the amount of organic farms has remained at some hundreds handling some thousands of animals in Finland.
A regular Finn eats approximately seventy-eight kilograms of meat per year. Of this meat, thirty-six kilos is pig, nineteen kilos is cow and eighteen kilos is chicken and broiler. The amount of meat we consume has tripled in the last sixty years, meaning that in Linkola’s pre-war golden-day utopia we ate a whole lot less of it. During this young millennium, our consumption of meat has increased by a staggering ten percent. Add to this that we drink one hundred and twenty-nine litres of milk and fifty kilos of yoghurt, cheese, butter and other fats and you can see that we do love our animals. When we stop eating meat, the most important reason for it, according to a two thousand and ten survey done by Finnish researchers, is to do with weight control and health instead of concerns for the animals or the climate. Thirty-nine percent of those contemplating changing their dietary habits were thinking of going from red meat to chicken, which only means you should read that Safran Foer list again.
One of the reasons why we do eat meat is that it’s cheap. Though he does reminisce bitterly the non-alcoholic wine he ordered in Denmark in nineteen sixty-two as «the most expensive food item» he ever purchased, Linkola is all for the increasing of the prize of food articles in stores. The needs of proper animal protection are only met if the production prices will be made at least thrice as high as they are currently. When it comes to stock raising, he is again somewhere between the extremes—on the one hand against factory farming and the «walking environmental catastrophes» of the agribusiness, on the other against the end of all cattle-farming. He does recognise the problems concerning the release of methane produced by stock raising, but tends to connect it solely with the depletion of the ozone layer. His image of stock raising is rather innocuous: «the cow is allowed to graze in the pastures for half the year somewhat according to its nature, at the small price of being milked», «I have personally witnessed the happy chewing and mooing of cows in a warm winter shed», etc. Linkola says outdoor grazing of three to five months per year should be made compulsory when farming bovines and pigs, and that battery henhouses and excessively large poultry farms should be prohibited altogether. The problem is that despite the hype that organic farming has received in the media in recent years, factory farming covers the vast majority of all animal agriculture—from the ninety-nine percent of chicken to the seventy-eight percent of cattle in the U.S. It is not always easy to see what the reasons are for supporting a form of agriculture that consumes massive amounts of grain and land and produces notable nutrient leaching and global warming. There are two issues there. First, there are estimations that by two thousand and fifty, the world’s livestock will consume an amount of food that would be enough to feed approximately four billion people. Secondly, according to a two thousand and eight report by the United Nations’ agriculture organisation FAO, eighteen percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production of livestock. Animal agriculture is the biggest individual cause of climate change. Anthropogenic methane—twenty-three times as powerful a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide—as produced by the cattle’s digestion, and anthropogenic nitrous oxide—two hundred and ninety-six times as bad as carbon dioxide—as produced by the manure and the fertilisers, are the main reasons for this. Excluding fish, over four hundred and fifty billion animals are factory-farmed on the planet every year.
In a nineteen eighty-three essay called «Hiljainen kevät», Linkola chronicled the bird losses that amounted to the first Rachel Carson inspired «silent spring» of nineteen seventy-nine, noting the dramatic injuries subsurface drainage systems, mowers and fodders were inflicting on field birds. In the same article, he pointed that among the animal kingdom, birds have for a long time been known to be the quickest and surest indicators of environmental change.
«There has been an enormous wave of extinctions in the animal kingdom and vegetation due to the loss of cattle. A few dozen bird species from starlings to swallows have almost disappeared as they do not have the cattle maintaining their living conditions. Even though I do not particularly enjoy the taste of beef, I have tried to buy it whenever I buy food to support the cattle. The large stocks living in cowsheds the year round I have tried to avoid. The smaller farms with five to fifteen grazing cows are veritable paradises for birds and flowers. These paradises were born only when cattle was introduced to these latitudes. They arrived in very small numbers to river deltas and to meadows next to rivers, forming an extraordinary ecosystem, and they were so small that eighty to ninety percent of the forests and their flora and fauna survived. That was an era of man enriching nature.»
Then we have the problems of milking. The suffering of the cows, the calving by force, approximately sixty percent of the cows kept attached to their stalls, the indoor immobility happening round the year, calves being separated from their mothers in a matter of days, the lives of the cows ending at about a quarter of their normal duration and so forth.
«Cows were kept in stalls before too, but they were let out in the spring. The cowhouse was a source of safety for them, they wouldn’t have survived the winter otherwise. What these modern cowhouses are good for is that in them cows may have the possibility to move freely. It’s alright for the cows to be impregnated once a year, they’re not capable of more than that. Then there’s the issue of accepting milk and butter and cheese but not the beef. Half of all cows are bulls. By definition they should then be dug into the ground if you can’t eat them. There’s not the slightest bit of sense in that. It would be an outrageous form of spending and squandering.»
Though praising the vegan ideology for the intrinsic value it grants animals, Linkola argues for man’s omnivorous nature on the basis of our teeth, build and bowel. He pays little attention to research that has established that even hard labour can be tackled with a vegetarian diet based on grains, plants, fruit and fabaceae, supplemented by the vitamin B12. That he calls vegetarian diets «grass and salad» is a genuine sign of disregard. The veteran fisherman does admit a diet of light vegetables and fish might fit the modern professionals of office work, but he has little thought for vegetarianism decreasing the occurrence of cholesterol, diabetes and overweight, or that vegetarian diets include more vitamins C and E and dietary fiber and less saturated fat, or that they have health advantages such as lower risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. As he confesses, he has the tendency to dismiss nutritional controversies with the simple statement of «if you don’t eat, you die, and if you eat, you survive». Iron nails and glass fragments should be avoided, though, as he usefully informs in the essay «Humbug». Linkola’s juices and jams often get covered in mould due to his humid cellar, but this is no problem to the Ritvala dweller—he just mixes the mould into the jam and is thankful for the extra nutritional value it offers.
There is the odd moment when the old rodman will lament about fishes being the poorest losers and victims of the animal kingdom, hunted by all those who do not dare to kill a warm-blooded animal, as happens in the essay «Kessin erämaa ja ihminen». In the essay «Aspects of Animal Protection», he admits that «the languishing of fish in the nets and their slow death are certainly more painful than the swift slaughter of the fox and mink». Perhaps this is one reason why, according to one calculation, over thirty percent of the twenty-five thousand species of fish in the world are endangered, while «only» twelve percent of the birds face the same threat. Considering Linkola’s vocation, it is not exactly strange he hasn’t much extended his wondering as to why birds are revered in Finland and fish are not. What is agreeable is that he does not take part in the actual industry of fish-farming for which it is not unheard of that ninety-eight percent of the animals captured in the trawling as bycatch are thrown back into the water dead.
«It depends on which fabaceae you feed on,» Linkola says, returning to the dietary question. «If they are rare and not very productive, they demand a lot of space to grow. That makes it a feeble business. If it’s potatoes and rutabagas, which don’t demand that much to grow, it is a worthy cause. Then there is the question of where one lives. If you live in Finland, grain does not grow to the north of Jyväskylä. Or if it does, the crops are small. If you live in Lapland, the only options are fish and meat. If you ask a cow whether it wants to exist or die away, it will for sure say it wants to stay alive. At best, their lives are better in cowhouses than they would be in nature, especially in the north, where they would need a shelter for winter. Their lives are similar to their times on pasture even if they are milked a few times a day. It is of course wrong if eighty percent of cows are chained to their stalls through the day. With chicken, it’s all hopeless living in battery cages. They live for a year or two, as long as it takes for their production of eggs to diminish a notch.»
The equation that Pentti Linkola never gets tired of repeating is that human rights equal death sentence for all Creation. Man is «the cancer of the Earth», a dreadful cock-up of evolution. To Linkola, the value of existing individuals on the planet is constantly decreasing with the net increase of new humans. And when it comes to real death sentences, he wonders why they are so abhorred now and were embraced at a time when the amount of humans on the planet was far smaller. «The worst enemy of life is too much life,» he sums it up in the essay «A Refresher Course in the State of the World».
But since we are here and most likely don’t have the nerve to terminate our Dasein out of free will, what exactly should we do here? There is a growing amount of youth unemployment and inability to work in Finland. To Linkola, this has little meaning. Not only has he called alcoholics, bums and druggies the real life conservationists, he has stated in the article «Vuotos ja Suomen Kuvalehti» that «It is always better to be unemployed than to work for something destructive». As one reader of Linkola, Arto Tukiainen, nicely pointed out, a hell for him would be a sweltering throng of people sweating at their jobs.
Linkola has a long history in questioning the significance of employment. The nineteen sixty article «Runo-Suomi vai hyvinvointivaltio» has him saying that a «mass psychosis» is being developed, making every one who is not employed for each day of the year, everyone who is not participating to the «fiery bustle» as he wonderfully calls it, to tearfully whine about their destiny. In the same article, he boasts he has never had a regular job for more than four months per year. To him it’s only expected that some fields of profession do not offer enough work year-round. A regular all-year job with the pitiful holidays it bargains is a terrible disaster.
Work is important for the mentality of man, yet it’s not always easy to say what types of work are destructive and avoidable. Working for something that has positive meanings to oneself is very difficult if not impossible to many. These days, some of the most productive elements of mostly non-physical, technological, office or service work are visible on the torsos of the workers, ravaged by corpulence and overweight as they are. In nineteen seventy-four Linkola estimated the average weight of the farmers in Tavastia had shot up approximately twenty-five kilos in the last twenty-five years. According to his data, «fragmentary and inaccurate» as it might be, people living in the city and town centres walk more than those who live on the countryside.
«I calculate work for its ecobalance. It’s awfully difficult to speculate on it sometimes. The ideal solution might reside in some entirely different society than the one we have here this very decade and this very year. Jobs are invented all the time to make man’s life easier. That is the leading thought of technology—to make the lives of people easier. Physically, life has never been overly demanding. Life should be demanding. That is why we have bodies full of muscles and sinews. Man is meant to do physical labour and live a fairly difficult life.»
That gets us to «Tape 2, Saturday evening, 16 April 2011». On this tape, the conversation continues on a looser mode just as in the outside world the spring evening turns dim in Ritvala. From a discussion of Eero Paloheimo, another prominent figure of the green movement in Finland, an author, a Doctor of Technology and a grave media figure who produces the most unnerving commentary on the Finnish version of Zeitgeist, we somehow transport ourselves to oblique political innuendos.
«…They were wondering how a MP of the Green League could have a passion for immigrants. Not only from poor countries but all countries. They were asking if the ideal is that all Belgians move to France or Holland, or that all Dutchmen move to Germany or Belgium. Nobody lives in the country they were born in. Is that the principal thought of the Green League? That is a question that should still be posed. What is the terrible glory of living somewhere you were not born or raised? Why would you necessarily need to move to another country? It does make life easier in the country you’re leaving since you’re leaving some space behind you, but that space is filled up with the births of the next month. Paloheimo pays attention to the educated immigrants. He stresses that those who leave their country of origin are the most educated and active ones. In other words, they are what the whole of the American population are made of, which certainly shows in them and will always show. There is no country as crooked as the United States. A nation born of fortune hunters,» Linkola declares while a loud noise of two sticks hitting each other the source of which I cannot quite recall appears and almost makes me deaf with my transcribing headphones on.
Perhaps this is an appropriate place to remember the small article «Bull’s Eye» in which Linkola expressed how captivated he was by the symbolic values of the September eleven attacks in New York and Washington. The passengers in the planes represented the «wealthy, busy, environmentally damaging and world-devouring portion of mankind» to him while those put down in the Twin Towers were the «priests and priestesses of the supreme God of this age: the Dollar». The Towers were the best target anyone could have picked out of amongst all the buildings of the world. «It was a magnificent, splendid choice,» Linkola marvelled two weeks after the attacks. The surveillance and police control and decrease in foreign trade and air traffic caused by the attacks were all welcome effects to him. The U.S. to the long-standing Teutophile is a «corrupted, swollen, paralysing and suffocating political entity» financing and arming all sorts of harmful governments and guerilla troops all over the world.
Lampila sees that one scale is holding pro-immigration views that have a dogmatic faith in the value of a human being and economic growth while the other holds economic, social and ecological catastrophe. Even smart people who should know better do not ask why the setting is like that, he argues.
«The question is always missing,» Linkola complains. «Nobody ever asks, Why? And if somebody dares to pose the question, the answer is, «Because this is what we do». What an exhaustive answer! The general rule is that if you’re debating someone from the position of reason, you’ve already lost the debate from the get-go.»
Then there is some dialogue on young people working important governmental jobs who make four thousand euros a month and feel that they have no need for salaries as high since they don’t much enjoy their work. This strikes a note with Linkola, who has always been concerned with the mental problems caused on young people by pressure at work or studies. As he once memorably stated, young people should be idling on the meadows, rowing on a lake picking water lilies, glancing at a flock of cranes with a bunch of lingonberries in their mouth in the autumn, hiking, singing, fucking and loving in nature instead of being crammed into schools, courses, universities and summer universities learning things that they should never need to learn. Teachers can only teach the youth on what the Gestalt of the time dictates them to teach.
According to an old article on the illusion of «progress»— ««Edistyksen» harhakuva», nineteen seventy-one—Linkola seems to think that after a person has turned twenty-five, he can only fill in on the worldview, profession and values he has amassed thus far. Youth is an incredibly important and sensitive time for each individual. Education, on the other hand, is the fastest and most disastrous investment in economic growth one can make. The more a person knows, the broader his hunger for consumption and, to a certain extent, the more likely it is he earns enough to appease these appetites. Paradoxically though, to Linkola an old man with the information and experience stored in him is more valuable than the blank slate of a young child or adult.
«In this world, it is tremendously difficult for a young adult or an older one to find their place. In my circle of acquaintances, girls find theirs but boys cannot hold on to anything and tend to kill themselves at the age of thirty to thirty-five. There are so many instances of this. They don’t make it to schools, they do not want to study, they feel that it is useless, all directions come across as miserable, then they hang in for a while, and then… Some just make ends meet, driving cabs or working as storemen for part of the year to get some income. People from academic families working temporary jobs.
«One strange phenomenon of the age is that people don’t know how to be together. There have been eras that were different. When my father died, my mother had to re-enter working life. She had never been a housewife but had studied before. She joined the laboratory of the Nobel-awarded A. I. Virtanen as a laborant. She had heard that people could have arguments but had never experienced it herself. She said that in her home or between family, people never argued in any way. She said my father had never said an ill word to anyone. It was an altogether new thing to her that people could quarrel. It was rare back then but still much more common than it is today. The norms of the old intelligentsia were harsh. It was not appropriate to argue, which was of course a much more pleasant experience. We had arguments with my wife, but they weren’t that common. I was of a lousier new generation. We were together for fourteen years. You can still see examples of love being successful. In each issue of Helsingin Sanomat you see three or four couples celebrating their golden wedding with a picture from their youth tagged along. Sofia and Kalle Nieminen, pictures of them at a young age, and a notice of their platinum wedding. It calls for high age, but these things happen. The phenomenon is societal. The changes are vast. Nature works the same way. The reactions and thoughts of people are slow. You need a long generation for a bit of understanding. It comprises of the same renewal and nervousness that penetrates the whole society in the western world and particularly Finland, which always holds the top seating in everything negative. That is what these divorces and separations are due to. The reasons may show great diversity in closer scrutiny but the main explanation is the same. Everybody is so nervous. Man cannot cope with the change. More or less, usually more of course, these separations bring enormous grief to those involved. Sometimes only one of the parties, sometimes both of them. It is a negative phenomenon even if women’s magazines scream about all the new loves found and old obstacles conquered. This true love turns into a new true love, come a few years. But when does one recuperate? It gets more difficult every time, you project new fears and expectations unto the new one. Then there are people who do not believe things will work out again and want to cover themselves from new disappointments. The really negative consequence of divorces is that it adds to the population. If the old marriage had lasted, it wouldn’t have produced more children. But you have to make at least one child to strengthen the new marriage, which is a devilish thing.»
In a nineteen eighty-three article, Linkola said that to him the amount of divorces is a greater indicator of the well-being of a society than the amount of antidepressants eaten or the suicides committed. Man to him is a species searching for a lifelong, enduring relationship, a biological fact explained by the long growing-phase of our offspring. In the nineteen ninety-six article «On the Reversal of Finnish Society», Linkola delivers the following strict categories to indicate the happiness and future faith people experience in societies:
—the number of suicides
—the need for psychiatric service and medicine
—the need for drugs and alcohol
—the endurance of relationships or the number of divorces
—the degree of firmness and warmth in gender relations
—the degree of harmony and respect between citizens
—the equality of the environment
Our German friend goes on to relate a story in Finnish about his mother’s best friend’s child, a man who had killed himself to no clear reason. «He was thirty and he killed himself last weekend. He had an eight-year-old girl and nobody knows why he did it. It was really tragic. Unbelievable. My mother told me yesterday. Nobody knows why.»
«About ten people around me have committed suicide, and they have all been male,» Linkola ascertains. «According to statistics, about a quarter of suiciders are females. Men always make the majority, but in this sample, all are young males.»
A good literary representation of this is given in Veikko Huovinen’s Pojan kuolema, a bitter narrative about the slow decline of the author’s son to idleness, alcoholism, seclusion and, finally, suicide.
«It is not a reason but a consequence that when everything fails, you start drinking, thinking it might offer some help,» Linkola notes. «You have to pay attentive wonder to why some people do NOT commit suicide. It is even more extraordinary.»
«It is very difficult to get depressed about these sceneries of doom in your personal life,» Lampila adds. «To know that this peaceful cultural way of living will at some point end, you can’t get depressed about it because the end isn’t happening yet. You can see the clouds in the distance but they’re not over you just yet.»
«Often it’s precisely like that when the end or the collapse isn’t at hand just yet,» Linkola continues. «Elderly people kill themselves too, but that is less frequent. It requires something to happen. The drunkards and drug addicts living under the bridges don’t kill themselves much. They die from alcohol or drugs but they don’t commit suicide. It requires a decision and posture of some kind to be able to do it. It’s easier to try and do it by drinking.»
Linkola goes on to talk about his mother’s father, a professor of Germanic philology who was the first chancellor of the University of Helsinki with a tenure of eighteen years. He was even a candidate for President at one point as a member of the National Coalition Party. His brother Eino Suolahti was also a notable social figure, a doctor, a professor, the chairman of the Duodecim society and the Finnish Medical Association, the chief executive officer of Instrumentarium and other more dubious things. He was one of the founders of IKL, the Patriotic People’s Movement and a supporter of the Lapua movement. A defiant right-wing politician, he also hosted the exhausted Heinrich Himmler in the summer of nineteen forty-two in Finland. Seems like leadership runs in the family.
«I think I will have that third beer,» Lampila informs.
«As long as you don’t force it upon me!» Linkola quips, eyeing Lampila’s bottle. «That’s an ecological drink, domestic barley. Or which brand is it? Karjala. It’s a Finnish beer to me. I don’t remember where I read it, and don’t care either, but I’ve read somewhere that a certain share of the breads and buns of large national bakeries like Oululainen is always made of the manitoba wheat imported from Canada since its baking qualities are better. It’s a bunch of nonsense, you could get buns just as tasty from Finnish wheat. It is a total invention to consider it better with the Canadian wheat in there.»
We somehow manage to get to National Socialism again. This is when Linkola suddenly reverts his attention to the mp3 player recording the conversation. He marvels at the battery and recording capacity of the black Matsui piece of shit. «They used to go out so quickly. Every now and then the interviewer would say he was running out of batteries again. That still happened a few years ago. It’s the same as with LED lighting.»
Lampila goes on to talk about his work for the environmental certificate of the church. It is his job to examine the garbage disposal of the real estates, the use of Fair Trade products, the amount of environmental education used in the sermons and confirmation camps, and so on, all of which aspects need to fit a certain criteria. «There needs to be a monitoring for energy expenditure, the use of water and electricity…»
«…and sacramental wine!» Linkola cuts in. «Do they add up the amounts for that?»
«No, they don’t count other groceries besides Fair Trade coffee and tea,» Lampila responds. «It’s as ridiculous as anything can be, the greenwashing. This is all recorded, but it needs to be said my boss doesn’t believe in it either. On the other hand, there is a section about forest management there. It is required that forests owned by the parishes follow the articles set for forestry. So it’s nice to get away from the computer and visit the summer camps to count the amount of birdhouses and deadwood for the report. That’s the only sensible thing to do. Other than that, it is all about adding up how much biodegradable waste, cardboard and regular waste there is, comparing the amounts to those of previous years and noting down whatever has changed. If the amount of waste in two thousand and ten has reduced by some tonnes compared to two thousand and nine, you immediately write that down for possible extra points concerning the certificate.»
«Where does the parish use these Fair Trade products?» Linkola enquires.
«Nearly everywhere. At summer camps, kitchens, eateries located next to churches and community centres. Senior citizens have weekend events and others where they use it. In the certificate it is considered a massive environmental deed to have Fair Trade products in the roster. Relatively speaking, you get more points for that than you get for forest conservation.»
«I bought a Fair Trade banana last year,» Linkola tells, «and the taste was so insignificant I decided I would never buy another one. It’s the worst thing that could happen to food, to have it not taste like anything. As I said before, you have to have so much salt that at least the salt tastes in the food. Except for berry pudding, you don’t need any salt in that.»
Opposing the Spengler mantra of «Optimism is false», Lampila says he tries to find something positive in his personal life; something empowering that can happen on the grounds of physical development of the self through weight-lifting, jogging or other forms of sport—or, culture, if one so wishes. One is taken back to one of Linkola’s less important statements from the nineteen seventy-two essay «Luonnonsuojelun linja»: since we have already trampled down an enormous amount of other species, it would be absolutely devastating if we were not able to enjoy life at all, depressing and sombre as it often is. It is a sort of morbid debt for us to pay to nature to deduce something worthwhile out of life through exercise, social relations, cultural interests and hobbies that are not particularly exhaustive to the planet. Where pessimism can help, however, is that it can make personal family planning devoid of meaning to young adults that spend too much time with their Schopenhauers, Linkolas and Ciorans. In this respect, the ideas of the old fisher king have not gone to waste even if they have not inspired much direct action in other fields of nature conservation.
«Are you going to bed already?» Linkola asks, showing as much impatience as he ever could. «I guess it’s not dangerous to go to bed hungry if you don’t have diabetes. It’s the most devilish thing to have the shock attack at night when you haven’t eaten properly. At sleep, you don’t know where to get something to eat.»
The second session has been so elongated the seventy-eight-year-old starts to think of dinner at a time, half past ten to be precise, when he’d normally be tucking himself to bed. He quickly boils a few potatoes, smacks some pike-perch roe on the plate and fetches from a bucket filled with vinegar pickles that are already starting to lose form thanks to their age.
«They never go bad in vinegar. These must be at least five years old. They do get disintegrated, lose their peel and get mushy on the inside. But they still have the same taste of vinegar. The currant leaves you have to get out, though. You do remember which of the plates is yours? There are potatoes in the pot. You’ll have to peel them first. The siikli potato has a thick skin. Nicola is a potato with almost no skin at all... There’s been a lot of pikes on that pan, thousands of pikes. The food’s nothing fancy, just regular every-day food. If you’re content with that you must really be hungry. I’ve never left a bit of uneaten dish on my plate. Even if somebody has stacked a huge pile of food in front of me, I know that I can push it down—the stomach is a flexible organ.»
We finally get to bed a few minutes to midnight. Linkola assures he will sleep fairly late, until nine or ten, so we should not need to worry about getting up early. We take our sleeping bags and pads to the guesthouse. Since our host has heated the sauna the day before to dry out some fishing nets, it’s not cold at all. Books lie around in the sauna. The one that I pay attention to is Eero Paloheimo’s Megaevoluutio from two thousand and two, a book that deals with the evolution and history of the world from a materialist perspective, also providing an outlook on mankind’s future. Getting to sleep after such a magnanimous day proves difficult. We are all impressed by what we have experienced. Lampila complains about his elbow, which received a blow on the way of driving to Linkola’s cabin. He constantly hears mice running here and there. Lampila and our German friend share a sleeping pill and fall asleep before me. Perhaps I didn’t get it there and then that it would be such a life-defining weekend, but I could feel it in the gut that something was happening.
Sunday starts with Linkola waking us up at precisely nine hundred hours. He knocks at the door, then steps in and ethereally asks, «Has the reaper been harvesting any crops around here?» We assume that he hopes exactly that to have happened. What is remarkable is that each one of us, even those lulled into deep slumber by the sleeping pill, wakes up as though knocked by lightning, with no extra rattling or poking required. It is in the morning that I notice the sauna also has a compilation of aphoristic retorts. One of these states, «There is nothing wrong with death as such, but to delight so many neighbours is unpleasant.»
Since I need to take a dump, what I register next is how the excellent dark sense of humour of the fisherman is further accentuated by a cartoon in the outhouse. In the cartoon, situated in a midsummer lake scenery, a man is about to take his boat out. In the punch line, his wife, an old crone, asks him whether he has remembered to zip himself while going to the lake. Starting to catch the ur-Finnish mentality yet? All in all, it’s an honour to sit on the same throne that Linkola has shat on for so many years, reading the same texts he has read and produced no doubt a very different kind of shit from the one affected by my flaccid dietary habits and digestion. I’m certain many of the most ingenious formulations in his books have also been brought to life here. It feels like a holy closet the way a catholic confessional probably wouldn’t.
What the fisherman offers us for breakfast is the standard nutritional weaponry of porridge. He teaches us a precise and unique technique with which to prepare for the breakfast. This protocol instructs you to place the plate on your stronger hand, then stick the palm of your weaker hand into the bag of oatmeal in the lowest cabinet. From the bag you take as many fistfuls as you deem necessary for sufficient nutrition. Then you move on to the table where you pour blueberries, sugar and milk amongst the oatmeal and mix the whole lot. No boiling required, no energy or time wasted.
While we’re eating, Linkola produces a folder with the account information of the Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation. The donations made to the foundation are mainly small ones, twenty and fifty euros in size. There have been a few more significant donations, however. A boat builder from Kuru, Finland who worked seven days per week donated the foundation three hundred thousand euros. Forests were the love of his life and since he had no one else to leave his heritage to, he left it all to the fund. Another significant pair of donators were a stakeholder of a company that recycled the steel from wrecked cars to the uses of industry and the doctor husband of the stakeholder who made several donations of one hundred thousand euros. Linkola then gives us post cards that call for small donations for the benefit of the foundation and old-growth forests. The card includes a short yet touching text by author and actor Reidar Palmgren on the significance of forests to his family.
After the breakfast we head out to the lake Vanajavesi. On the way there, Linkola points out an old mossed rowing boat that used to take him to many lakes in nineteen seventy-five. Due to its seven-meter length, it is too long and wind-receptive for Vanajavesi. Once we have advanced the muddy edge of the field for a few hundred metres, we arrive at the lake. Despite it being mid-spring, we continue on the ice of the lake to the nearby peninsula to observe Vanajanselkä in all of its glory. It is only when spots of water start to appear on the ice that we decide to continue on land. When we reach the end of the cape, Linkola stresses to us that the lake is still full of fish: according to one calculation, the water level of the lake would decrease by four metres if all the fish would somehow be lifted from the water. He also tells us of a white-tailed eagle that has appeared in the area to nest, locating its nest ingeniously in the precise interface of the two bodies of water before continuing to Vanajavesi. All of this is documented by Lampila on the video option of his digital camera, as the gist of the time goes.
On the way back we marvel at a senior pine of approximately one hundred and fifty to two hundred years in age. Needless to say, none of us can make their hands extend round the tree. Next we come to a gravelly land that exhibits a second sauna and an extra well pipe made out of concrete by Linkola’s neighbour. Linkola starts honing on his theses concerning the strains of unnecessary construction. Finland is an exemplary country in this respect. Almost all of us have cottages and villas on the countryside, and there are more individual buildings in terms of population here than anywhere else in Europe. Finns sure love to bathe and have a sauna. Even though there has been an element of empowerment to saunas in that they have provided arenas for birth and death, Linkola is very much against saunas.
Then he proceeds to praising the environmental politics of Germany. He claims Germans are always willing to help and guide travellers. He touts the big adverts of birds next to German highways, not uttering a word about the estimations of Germans logging trees from an area of approximately two hundred meters round the highways to increase visibility for drivers. Frenchmen Linkola deems rather neutral: they mostly discuss endlessly with each other, meaning they do not stress the environment with construction, but neither are they very interested in nature. Linkola tells us that when he was travelling in France, he came to a highway stop that had a tree fallen on the grass. Next to the tree, there was piles of human shit in neat rows—the Frenchmen had not had the nerve to go to the forest for a dump, he marvels.
When we get back to the coastline at Linkola’s site, we carry some wood and tools from the shore. Once that is done, it’s time to carry water to the cabin. When we get back inside, Linkola once again asks us if we want to eat something. Instead of opting for extra cals, we approach for some food for thought and start the third and final session—the file «Tape 3, Sunday noon, 17 April 2011»—of the interview, which shows an increasingly relaxed Linkola in his answers. At first there is some gibberish ranting about remote controllers, computers that break down all the time, digitelevisions that don’t allow you to tape shows and all the unneeded gadgets advertised in Helsingin Sanomat, but we’ll just wipe that out and move onto something more holistic.
Named after chlorophyll, the Green League is a green liberal party whose rise Pentti Linkola saw from a near distance in the mid nineteen eighties. He was present in many early founding assemblies and even wrote a political platform, the so-called «Linkolan ohjelma» or «Vihreä tavoiteohjelma» for the party, printed in its entirety in nineteen eighty-six’s Kirjeitä Linkolan ohjelmasta, a book of correspondence between Linkola and Osmo Soininvaara, one of the prominent figures of the Green League. It was a text for whom the only explicit value in existence was a certain reverence for life. Inspired by the ecological writings and views of Carson, Ehrlich, Schumacher, Lorenz, Taylor, Bahro, Rinne, Paloheimo, Valtiala, Nuorteva, Linkola, Seiskari, Järvinen and Pulliainen, it was a stern survival manifesto of twenty steps whose uncompromising—to Linkola «objective» and set from the outside of society—nature intimidated even the more ecological operators within the party. Linkola’s critics have always thought his models and programs have been too crude and direct; these commentators are much more comfortable devising theories that are endlessly cautious and respectful to minorities and subservient to current socio-economic ideologies, irresponsibility to which will make any proposition seem «unrealistic» in their eyes.
Thirty years on, the Green League is no longer an alternative of any kind for the views of any majority. Linkola himself was taken aback by the laziness of the youth in the initial meetings. These were adults in their most vigorous prime who didn’t even have the stamina to sit straight but rather lounged on the floors. Always stressing that the opinion of the minority was not of crucial importance, Linkola was dismayed to see participants fighting over details and moot points. Meditation, transcendentalism and anthroposophy were the more glaring examples of the hokum but feminism, vegetarianism, solidarity and development aid were included in pointless trajectories, too. According to the Tavastian ecologist, people who advocated for development aid should have been swept aside from the party like Jesus cast the merchants from the temple. The word «soft», Linkola stressed in one of his texts from the time, should be erased from the vocabulary of the party. The world of survival wasn’t soft even with regard to its values or ambitions. Power and force were the only things mankind adhered. Of course, the ultimate goal of any green organisation is not world domination itself but to change the conditions of the planet and the habits of humankind enough to make itself useless.
In Linkola’s mind, the Green League was to be an extremely solid and disciplined organisation with a clear and binding program and, as he would have preferred, a set of consistent signs, banners and symbols. The platform was to cover a number of issues: a centralised organisation, severe birth control, unconditional protectionism, cutting off all international trade pacts, prohibiting all importing and exporting, preserving most forest areas from cutting, tying all production of goods to means tests, ending all new construction, reversing the trend of migrating from countryside to cities by law, decentralising economic life and dismantling all large corporations, rigid rationing of energy, replacing private motoring with public transportation, banning unnecessary transportation, clearing roads, asphalted fields and unneeded building sites for agriculture and forests, introducing a law of maximum wage, executing a steep increase in the fields of education and cultural institutes, replacing artificial fertilisers, herbicides and heavy machinery with a tenfold human workforce and biological methods of cultivation in agriculture, etc. The amount of time wasted on conversation and debate was to be minimised, of course.
Members of the party were to be in good physical condition, sober and exemplary in their lifestyle altogether. In Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun, Linkola sketched favourable opinions of many of the early leading figures of the party. Eero Paloheimo was not only the author of some pioneering books on environmentalism, but someone whose guts, perseverance and the great ambition of understanding the main laws of the planet and mankind he admired. Yet, betrayed and left behind by many, Paloheimo was too weak to be a rebellious leader, and too wise to be a good politician. Kalle Könkkölä, one of the first Green MPs, though sitting in a wheelchair, was sturdier than all his walking allies. Osmo Soininvaara received kudos for having the ability to talk the language of politicians, overcoming them with his brilliant logic. Professor Erkki Pulliainen Linkola admired not only for his work with the protection of wild beasts in northern Finland but also for standing up for his conservationist students when they were convicted for their unlawful acts in Alta, Norway. Ville Komsi, a young pullover-wearing activist who was key for the attempts to prevent the drying of the bird lake Koijärvi in the late seventies, was someone who put much too much faith into endearing speeches and big eyes—as if enhanced by the orchestra on Titanic who were willing to play their instruments all the way to the very moment of total devastation.
The problem as Linkola saw it was that there was nothing beneath this tip of the iceberg; no great reserve of level-headed conservationists or biologically accurate views on nature, evolution, paleontology, the mechanisms of extinction or man’s place in the biosphere; no understanding of the literary classics that informed Linkola’s own platform. It was no picnic to challenge the age brimming over with steel, concrete, glass, laser beams and silicon chips. The party was filled with cliques of feminists, intellectuals and hippies that couldn’t be brought together in necessary ways. Supporters of the Green League were thoroughly modern and westernised in their opinions. Democracy and human rights were more important to them than protecting and revering life on the planet. All of these ghastly observations about the artificial blend of green, grey and red ideological colourings were made with the instinct of «We are going to die and nothing is happening!» constantly throbbing in Linkola’s head. He went on to form Elämänsuojelun liitto, a subdivision of the Green League comprising of members of the intelligentsia and academia, but soon noticed it was too humanistic, bureaucratic and afraid of breaking the consensus to amount to very much at all. Paloheimo as the leader of the group, according to Linkola, was «paralysed».
As Linkola stated in the Werstas interview, the amount of divergent minorities is, at its best, five percent of the nation. One percent of these minorities is fulfilling their causes in action, others focus on building speculation and pedantry. The Green League itself has become largely a fake-green flagship for multiculturalism, equality, nuclear power and urban consumerism. Since it’s election day, we might as well spend a few minutes with democracy.
«Parliamentary democracy is the poorest social system mankind has ever been able to give birth to, but I do follow it to a great extent,» Linkola states. «Those voting in the sleepers’ party are people who know what they’re doing; they know politics well enough not to vote. From what I’ve observed, the Green League and the Left Alliance have more clauses about environmentalism than the other parties. Not able to shake all the optimism, you easily think maybe things are starting to change…
«There are some individual runners I would hope to make their way into the Parliament. Even if their significance is almost nonexistent, they’re still environmentalists. Tiusanen from Kotka should make it; he’s a member of the Left Alliance and a conservationist at heart. Then there’s Salolainen from the National Coalition Party. And Pertti Pulliainen whom I half-wish would make it. In one event I met Timo Juurikkala, an MP that made his way through when another MP left to some other duties. He was one of the founders of Ekovihreät, which amounted to nothing in the end. He wanted to speak about nature conservation with me. When I told him I knew these two environmentalists and a half in Pulliainen, he wanted to add Jacob Söderman who was a half-environmentalist. So we added up one plus one plus a half plus a half and came to three. I don’t know if Söderman is still running but Tiusanen and Salolainen are.
«The means employed to stop climate change are good for nothing. They don’t even do as much as in the seventies when they were scared by the Oil Crisis. Back then they banned formula one and rally events, outdoor lighting and things of that sort. Now they’ve talked about birth regulation, but there are other types of environmental deeds which have been forgotten altogether. People are so strange. I just read that formula one races are one of Pekka Haavisto’s great passions. It amuses me a great deal that people can have things like that! It is a very stupid hobby. I was at an acquaintance’s place once and there was a race blaring on the television. The vehicles didn’t resembles cars at all but were more like gadgets. They were going round the same circle over and over and over. Nothing else happened. People watch that on television and consider it extremely exciting. To think that Pekka Haavisto, whose intelligence I don’t doubt in the slightest, would have such a daft hobby! It bears no significance on his overall personality, of course, but you can add a small amused minus to him, just as you can add a slight plus for him being a homosexualist and not likely to ever have children. What I’ve noticed by reading the surveys of Vihreä Lanka and others is that the Left Alliance is almost leading the Green League in their environmentalism. The survey in Vihreä Lanka had questions about conservationism and environmentalism going as far into detail as the Saimaa ringed seal. The Finns party scored half a point for their honest answers. The Centre Party got a point for something. The National Coalition Party amassed two or three points. The Green League and the Left Alliance both marked full eight points. You can produce any kind of answers you wish in a survey like that but you won’t get any extra votes for environmentalist statements, quite the opposite.»
Lampila tells of an encounter he had had with a Centre Party candidate called Lamminmäki, a harsh and robust guy who had a bit of an aggressive mouth. His stand on environmentalism was that the forests had been conserved for long enough for anyone to notice that this greenie stuff led to nothing. «When they get an increase of ten percent for forest conservation, they will ask for twenty,» he had grumbled.
«At least for me this is true for sure,» Linkola snaps. «Half a point to him for having the courage to be stupid.»
Rather ironically, other social operators such as intelligence agencies, insurance companies and military organisations seem much more intent on researching ecological disasters seriously than political parties. The same may even stand for religious authorities. Lampila connects the anecdote with his work at the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Parishes in Tampere, where his job description includes doing an environmental survey of the premises owned by the parishes, their services and activities. The chair of the committee is a Green politician, yet Lampila is more convinced by the inconsequential ecological ramifications of the criticism posed on the population growth triggered by immigration by the Finns Party. «If Finns want to survive, they also have to be self-sufficient on their sources of energy,» he says.
«And then again they are against abortion and horribly dim in matters of that nature,» Linkola relativises. «Nothing will change even if they get thirty new Members of Parliament. Immigration is a population question of its own. They are right in saying immigration should be reduced. We do not need more people here, no matter whether they’re an employment force or not. Rather, we should send Finns to the lingonberry and blueberry forests or the pea farms in Kokemäki. This loitering nation. The world of computers, that is the real space of elated nothingness.
«Russian women really like to pick peas and berries. I’ve always presumed I would like it too. At least I like collecting berries much more than I do fishing. How do you pick that pea, plucking the skin? How do you cut it? The garden pea is something you pluck out with your thumbs, otherwise you’ll get the entire fruit with roots, soil and everything, and that is the most commonly cultivated pea.»
The more extreme ecological movements—such as the domestic Green Party or the global Earth First!—don’t stand much of a chance to bring change any further. Linkola was once bold enough to dedicate a book, Toisinajattelijan päiväkirjasta, to the «cynosures of mankind’s future», Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, and the example set by their property of being unconditional. In Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun, he characterised a revolution perpetrated by a minority first trying to achieve the support of other minorities by the only effective aid—violence that would start from mild actions i.e. aggressive speeches and demonstrations, and gradually grow fiercer if necessary. But would there ever be enough people willing to show up for demonstrating any sort of real violence for an idea that seems «abstract» until it’s all too late? The hope for change brought by underprivileged radical movements like The Baader-Meinhof movement has long since died. There is particularly little chance of any political activity even remotely resembling an uprising happening in Finland, a nationality Linkola has deemed shyer, tenderer, more cynical and avoiding personal risks than any other nationality in the world. Critics will say that the supporting of violence is contradictory with regard to Linkola’s program of saving life on earth—effectively, he is trying to end one sort of violence with another sort of violence. These criticisms of course have nothing to do with his foundation work.
«I have the Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation, which has bought forests to conserve them, but correspondingly with all the forests we conserve, they cut down more from commercial forests. Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation hasn’t been able to diminish the volume of forestry, which is what everything is about. Another negative impact is that the conserved forests provide another reason for cutting woods elsewhere, since we will have the protected forests anyway. But it is wonderful for the animals, woods, plants and molluscs that live and die naturally in the old-growth forests, as wonderful as I can imagine.
«The significance of the deep-ecological alliances is extremely limited. The Green League and the Left Alliance have a lot of environmentalists in their folds and they’re not all going for this craze over immigration and homosexuality. That’s another tragedy, homosexuality: one or two percent of the whole population are homosexualists, and they’ve made a huge issue out of that. It’s perhaps the one hundredth most important issue! It does not define a human being. Pekka Haavisto and Oras Tynkkynen are presumably both homosexualists, but they are not homosexualists first and foremost! They have a strong political line and many accomplishments, most of them good, some bad. They are people who think a lot and act a lot. Who cares if they’re hetero- or homosexualists. Homosexualism is central for degrowth of the population but its impact altogether is small. Lesbian couples will get children at any rate, though probably not as many as hetero couples, which is a diluting factor.»
«No one is homosexual on ecological grounds, not even Oras Tynkkynen!» Lampila quips.
«But homosexuality isn’t something that stigmatises him,» Linkola argues. «What labels him are the things he talks about and confines.»
Linkola almost falls down because of his back. Lampila hurries to help him.
The old fisherman-slash-academic-offspring’s stance on National Socialism is a prominent and problematic one. His affirmative appraisal of the Third Reich seems to be almost entirely oblivious to the booming rise in industrialisation and economy the regime produced, not to mention the aid it received from capitalist corporations like Ford, General Motors and IBM. Rather, Linkola has been unveiling the positive sides of National Socialism and fascism in preventing population growth, to which one may also add the favouring attitude on nature in those societies. Industry may be prominent, just as man may be more important than nature, yet there was a strong romanticism towards nature. The animal care legislation was tight and a return to a more natural society was longed for.
The softness for National Socialism might be slightly odd considering how much Linkola used to loathe the applications of standard socialism, which he saw was similar to capitalism in its emphasis on the increase of material wealth and economic growth, only made more destructive by the impetus that the growth had to be equal for all. This bias is bound to have been at least partly amplified by his family background of pro-Germanic academics. Nevertheless, it has always been clear, like from the brilliant lecture «Älä usko enemmistöön» and its definition of capitalism via an overactive thyroid gland and socialism through an underproductive thyroid gland, that he was more oriented to the right than the left. For both, it was unheard of that an employee would stand up and resist a pay raise or, even more shocking—request for a smaller salary, which isn’t an alien proposition to Linkola.
Although Linkola is anything but unique with his ideas, and never seeks to be either, the view that it is better if the wealth is amassed to the richest ones is rather exceptional. The centralisation of material goods only means the wealthiest will not have the time and means to consume everything they have as exhaustively as it would be consumed if it was distributed to more people. You can only drive one car at a time, after all. Why he at the same time has opposed the heavy taxing on property, wealth and inheritance must have an uglier side to it, one to do with private preoccupations.
«National Socialism was the last attempt in the western world to oppose the capitalism that originated in America. The result in the Second World War was horrendous. The Axis Powers, meaning Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Japan and Finland, would’ve won the race if America hadn’t decided to arm the Red Army and Normandy. The world would have looked different for some time. They couldn’t have occupied Russia by any means. They would’ve needed some form of compromise or regional administration. There would have been no way to control Russia. Apart from that, Europe would have been under a strong arm of order for a long time. Presumably, Mauno Koivisto has a book that speculates on what the ramifications of that particular world history would have been. It is not considered foolish even though it is redundant, of course. Although you cannot predict these things, some manage to have clear predictions on the consequences.
«Winners never rage and rave as much, it is the losers that start the rebuilding programmes. That is where the terror comes from. Like I have written, there is nothing bad about war as such, the worst comes with post-war consequences such as reconstruction. That is what started industrialisation and the destruction of agriculture in Finland. Then there are the large post-war generations that were born like offspring to frogs or Ural owls after a dearth. It’s nature’s law. The problem is that ten years after a war, the population is larger than it would have been without the war. The consequences of war are terrible.»
Contemporary international politics, the trappings of federalisation and the omnipotent human-rights creed make wars a trivial toil with regard to modifying overpopulation. Yet these wars, with the use of chemical and other forms of WMD, can bring quite considerable disaster to nature. The human losses experienced are rapidly compensated for by the large generations of children conceived directly after the war. Poland patched its losses threefold in the forty years after the Second World War. This makes the consideration of where and when war on ecological principles should be waged all the more intricate, even for a thinker like Linkola who is known for paraphrasing Spengler’s «If few can stand a long war without deterioration of soul, none can stand a long peace» with a benign mind.
Interestingly, Linkola started out his literary career as a rather gentle advocate of pacifism speaking for man and fatherland. He was not explicitly against anybody. In the new millennium, his rationalisations of peace tersely point to the opposite: «With a smothering shroud of six billion people and all their demands covering the surface of the Earth, pacifism is dead.» The worse the situation for nature has grown, the more insignificant the means of discrete, gradual intervention to stop the wasting of the planet have turned in Linkola’s eyes. Non-violence is a deviation we should not self-satisfactorily lull ourselves to.
«War is a puny form of tinkering as long as it is not real,» he now utters. «If people cannot bring about the nuclear winter destroying all life on the planet, I guess the last resort will be to fight with knives and bayonets. The time scale of the regular panis et circes human only extends to the next weekend, anyway. They might collect and store something for the winter in their storage rooms, cellars and freezers, to be left there. The hoarding is still there. You notice it when you’re selling fish in January. During Epiphany people will tell you they still have so much of their Christmas cuisine in store. Once there was this guy living on his own, a widow or a bachelor, whom I was selling some pike-perch a little after Epiphany, around the tenth of January. He told me, «Oh boy, I would really like some fish now but the thing is, I still have some ham with me. I was foolish enough to buy a seven-kilo ham for Christmas, and then my employer gave me another ham of nine kilos!» He was crying about it not even having any bone in it. That’s the way an old-fashioned person thinks—you have to finish what you have in store. He had been eating the ham for more than two weeks and was really dying to have some fish for a while but he couldn’t buy any since he had so much of the ham left. There was a tear in his eye when he was explaining how it didn’t have even a bit of bone in it. It was real fun. Generally, people buy huge loads of food for Christmas although the shops are open after Boxing Day. It’s going to waste. They won’t get any fish until late into January.
«From the perspective of the Soviet Union, Winter War was a justified war. The threat posed by Germany was obvious and this country of ours was so extremely hostile, what with its White Guards and all. The Academic Karelia Society was a thing onto itself, they were after the Greater Finland, but that was in the student circles. For sure all of this was familiar to Soviet intelligence.
«This world is not going to calm down. The exhaustion of natural resources causes expansion into other areas. It is development aid that starts this unfortunate tendency and brings the immigration about.»
It is apparent that people do not know what is good for the planet. For nature, democracy is a death blow. Linkola has waxed many immortal phrases on the contradiction. Parliamentary democracy to him is a «religion of death», a «building block of doom» and a «suicidal form of government» born «among the tyrants of mankind, the West». Championing the thinking and existence of «the chosen few» has never been a problem for the Finnish forest-aristocrat. As early as in the nineteen seventy lecture «Tuoreita voimia luonnonsuojelun vallankumoukseen», he stated his thinking had always been elitist, irrespective of how popular or ill-favoured elitism had been in the historical moment. He has even called it the human pattern that we are relatively clearheaded as individuals but in groups we start to lose it and as nations we are totally devoid of any sense. Our most deadly impulses need to be pressured and prevented by outside forces of control. It is perfectly clear to Linkola, too, that the governing unit of the state has to be reformed in other ways than giving power to a group of people elected by democratic means. As he said in the Werstas interview, as long as democracy is our preferred form of social order, there will be no real improvement in anything since people don’t know what is best for them. Linkola makes no objections to strong governance as long as the power is not given to the people. When he stated that in dictatorships consumption is always diminutive and activities tend to be more controlled in general, he received an unexpected surge of support from Miina Äkkijyrkkä yelling «Hyvä Pentti!» with her erratic thumbs pointed at the ceiling or thereabouts.
«If we can start on a blank slate, we need a terribly strong leader to keep the people in control. Man is an impossible creature if it’s not tied to anything. It squanders, consumes, produces, squanders, consumes, which is not conceivable at all in the long run. You need a strong and responsible lead, be that one person, an oligarch, or a board of several strong persons. When a politician lends an ear to the people, it’s game over on the spot. Usually, politicians are very tied-down in the system we have. They have to formulate what they say in a way that will not scare away but lure in voters. This system does not work at all. It has absolutely ridiculous sides to it, like the fact that these runners-up—it’s a great wonder there are any people running for Parliament—have to make themselves visible, to have everyone know that this and that person is a candidate in the election. They have to advertise themselves on television, the streets, the sides of buses and in the press. And when they collect some support money for the process, it is a great sin and crime. It’s insane. Vanhanen and all those others who were funding their campaigns through collecting money for themselves and their allies from different funds, they couldn’t have done it any other way. If there is a crime involved, it has to do with the entire system, not the individual candidates. They are just trying to make themselves visible and known. Their own money would never be enough for the whole process, so they have to find it where they can. If it’s a question of only using your own money for the campaign, the only persons fit for the parliament would be leading figures in industry and commerce.»
If the folder of Finnish Nature Heritage Foundation lying on the table was a folder for a political party, the media would surely be able to create a pussyfic riot about the donors involved.
«The parliamentary system is hopeless. How on earth did they conceive it in the first place? It is a relatively recent stroke of genius in mankind’s history. If parliamentary democracy is harnessed for the uses of capitalism, what is capitalism harnessed for? In Finland, it works from the perspective of bread and circus; it’s entertainment. In Greece and Ireland, when a democratically elected government has tried to pull their act together and introduced tight new budgets, hundreds of thousands of people have immediately gathered in fierce demonstrations. «No savings! No cutting of benefits!» Even the worst of governments is always better than the people. There isn’t a government that could not be at least a bit more responsible than the people. It is a natural law of sorts that when a man turns into a leader, he assumes some form of conscious and responsibility. With his other ear he will still listen to the roaring crowds, though.»
Not surprisingly, Linkola has hefty reservations for the occurrence of freedom of speech in society.
«Under no conditions can you say just anything. It cannot escalate into a situation where the media, the dullards known as the knights of freedom of speech, write in the way they did when Islamists were insulted by the Danish cartoon that had Mohammed drawn, I believe, with a head of a dog. It was an intentional disgrace and blasphemy of values that were sacred to some others, and the Danish cartoonist should’ve been imprisoned for that. You should not blaspheme but respect foreign values that are sacred to others. It is about the question of the existence of absolute evil. Leena Krohn, who I have given the epithet «nation’s conscience», was contemplating whether we should accept foreign cultures just because they are old cultures and traditions elsewhere or do supranational evil things really exist. Homosexuality is no longer punishable, the treatment of animals has improved a whole lot—or would have if it wasn’t for factory farming—so there are these certain victories for mankind.»
Leena Krohn isn’t the only conscientious female figure in Finnish public debate. Linkola’s texts about women as protectors of life, nature and, ultimately, men have made for defiant and touching reads in a society that emphasises masculinity and continuously speaks about tree huggers and «fox girls» in a scornful manner. He has called attention to the animal protection movement being dominated by females, listing a variety of organisations including Vihreä Risti, Vihreän Elämänsuojelun Liitto, Vihreä Liitto, Animalia, the Finnish chapter of the WWF, Greenpeace Finland, Luonto-Liitto, parties such as the Green League and the Ecological Party and magazines such as Vihreä Lanka and Elonkehä having females in important and critical roles. He also mentions Sirpa Pietikäinen’s work as the minister of the environment being superior compared to her predecessors.
Linkola has said he cannot think of any pro-life ideologies that wouldn’t have as visible a female presence as a male one, and that empirical evidence indicates that if women had all the «power» of decision, political leadership, decision making, administration and the economy would be in better hands. Women are caretakers of the continuity of life. He says he knows that females in the western world are in better shape than males, both physically and mentally. «There is no doubt that the soul of a man, beneath its rough surface, is paradoxically more sensitive, fragile and weak than that of a woman,» he declares in the essay «Women as the Protectors of Life», which enumerates the many ways in which females in White Karelia are more enduring than their male counterparts who tend to be ravaged by unrestrained alcohol consumption, smoking habits and over-eating. On the word of Linkola, the sensitivity of man is more egoistic than that of women; a man relates very sympathetically to human sorrow and disappointment when they are his own but rarely to those of others; he is the one to be consoled, not the one to console. «There will never be a future where woman stumbles and man does not,» Linkola proclaims.
This isn’t all there is to it. The old fisherman has the ability to write about women in a manner that isn’t as debonaire and modern but downright condescending, as in the essay «Kirje Suomen henkeville naisille» where he is humorously wondering about the tremendous yearn for cultural activities urban modern females have, their continual bickering about being overstressed and overemployed, having children with Unesco officials who soon abandon them. There is also the more sober and cynical perception of the female role during wartime, staying at home and bearing children in high numbers no matter what the losses of men in battle are. Yet Linkola always has a charming way of overcoming these notions, recognising their root in bitterness and envy, and turning them into endearing notions about the dizzying beauty of the Sääksmäki women, for example. A sympathetic courage creeps into maxims-within-narration like «Each night slept alone is a crime against nature» and «One’s love life is more important than drink and food.»
«Women always lead all sorts of gallups,» he insists on tape three. «If there is an analysis of those who vote against nuclear power, the percentage among females is always higher than males, as it always is when it comes to conserving and protecting something. But then there are women who have made their way to high positions in society, like Paula Lehtomäki who is the worst environment minister we have ever had, but they are curiosities. It might be that females don’t always see far enough into the future in questions concerning development aid and immigration. They have always been speaking about the «avulias aatu», the helpful dufus who is the worst aid you could have at a construction yard, ruining everything he has come to help with.»
Lampila all of a sudden wants to talk about the «folk artist» and Internet slanderer Seppo Lehto and the two-year conviction he got for incitement to ethnic hatred. Lehto gets out of prison a few times a week to attend a course at Tampere University, where Lampila has met him for chats in the cafeteria. The inequality of religions is apparent in Lehto’s sentence, says Lampila.
«Sentences that big aren’t given for anything but drug-related crimes,» Linkola wonders. «It’s astonishing if that really is the case. Jurisdiction and the court are dim in the head. I know a lot of cases where the police has wasted an enormous amount of effort on catching some burglary team and have expected them to get a hefty sentence for their crimes. What they get is a few months on parole for years of burglary and theft. About Islam as a pedophile religion; it might be a historical truth in their culture. Athenian nobilities always took some boys to teach them sexual behaviour. It was part of that ancient culture even if today they would be the worst pedophiles of all. Child brides and male companions are likely to have existed already during Mohammed’s time. It is reprehensible in our time.
«People shouldn’t travel or move to western countries at all. Everybody should remain in their own territory. It’s enough to have some good reporters and explorers visiting other corners of the world and tell us how it is at the edge of the planet. We have no need to go ogling from here and they shouldn’t do it vice versa.»
In Finland, as traditional family values have become more popular again during the last fifteen years, the birthing of children has increased. The realistic means to revert this trend are not diverse, but there are some forms of juridical and ideological persuasion. Decades ago, Linkola, always a fervent supporter of abortion as you might guess, used to be more lenient on the matter of birth regulation, only suggesting mandatory sterilisation on women should be operated after three births. Perhaps this had something to do with him having three small children at the time of voicing the opinion. These days, however, he is much stricter on the mathematica of allowed births on the planet.
«One child per fertile woman should be enough. Men do not need to be taken into account at all since the female is the breeding unit. It is of no importance who the men responsible for the insemination are. If another pregnancy occurs, the child should be aborted with no question. When this system has allowed for the populations to diminish to millions instead of billions, families a little larger may be permitted.»
Compared to the rather small violation on human rights it would denote, effective birth regulation would bring rather healthy accumulations of population degrowth over time. According to professor and author Alan Wiseman’s calculations, allowing each woman to give birth to only one child would mean the planet’s population would decrease to about two billion in one hundred years. Could we bear waiting?
In the nineteen eighty-three article «Itke rakastettu maa», Pentti Linkola delivers a touching account on what have been the main contact points of his life. The primary category of worldly gateways includes «forests, islands, peninsulas, bays, swamps, mountains, streams, trees, birds and flowery headlands ridden with insects». Friends, loved ones, books, thinking and noting what’s going on in the world has been important, too, but they form a secondary category, the cultivation of which always receives its power from the experiences presented by nature. And without nature, the objects in the second category inevitably lose their contours and turn into a fog.
In one of his later essays, Linkola goes on to explain the tragedy by an appealing—and no doubt familiar—analogy to a person who devours books, a booklover to whom books constitute everything there is. The booklover reads for hours each and every day, ventures into book stores, libraries and antiquarians on his journeys, lends and exchanges books to others, discusses them with all of his friends. Then little by little he will see book stores closing, newspapers and magazines stopping printing book reviews, friends disposing their home libraries and the booklover’s own collection being confiscated pile by pile. He is left with half a dozen of his childhood’s favourite books stuffed into a mattress—until one day comes the house search in which they are discovered and taken away from him.
Linkola is a staunch supporter of the old intelligentsia. Sometimes he’s even been dubbed as «the intelligentsia of Finland». Therefore it was of interest to hear where in contemporary society he recognises the appearance of a certain sophistication and intelligence.
«Of course, the most definite characteristic of sophistication and civilisation is that one thinks of others than oneself,» he says. «Then there are the interests of a civilised person and that which has experienced into civilised behaviour. Antti Nylén is for sure a civilised and sophisticated writer, and not only that, but a good writer as well. He makes up for a textbook example of civilised language usage.»
Nylén, one of the main literary inspirations behind the volume you’re reading, has written a beautiful little essay on Linkola called «Katkera oppositio». In the essay, he acknowledges at the outset that Linkola is crazy and that such a great writer as Linkola is impossible to accept in his entirety, to swallow him for all he’s worth. Nylén calls the disappointed, apologetic criticism directed at Linkola a humanist literary genre of its own in Finland but then advices every enthusiast of philosophy interested in new thoughts to stay away from Linkola for their own good. He calls «Talaskankaan ikimetsä» a masterpiece, a miracle of prose the reader will remember for the rest of his life. Nylén denounces the style of writers like Tuomas Nevanlinna for their preference of intellectual surprise, paradox and ironic backflip; they operate on concepts whereas Linkola operates with things, images and emotions. They lack the danger, the ship’s axe, of Linkola. Words to Linkola—says Nylén, to whom the words mean more or less the same thing—are weapons whose use demands a whole lot of sensitivity, patience and practice. Repetition and variation, acceleration and slowing down are crucial tools in Linkola’s poetics according to Nylén. An impeccable sentence can be a strong form of revenge. And for likeminded spirits pressed by anger and desperation, that revenge reads as a consolation. To them—to us—Linkola is a comforting writer, and all of the hopelessness he exorcises a reassurance of sorts.
Linkola also mentions Timo Hännikäinen’s opus Ihmisen viheliäisyydestä, which he has tried to launch into his hands, but unfortunately the book store closest to him did not have a copy at the time of the interview. He also shows interest for Timo Vihavainen’s Länsimaiden tuho, which is a kind of modernised, less civilised counterpiece for Spengler’s The Decline of the West.
In Linkola’s model for a controlled future, humanistic and philosophical tertiary education play an important part. You might think this is surprising, what with the emphasis the model places on returning to a more traditional un-information society. Here too Linkola cannot escape his family background, which is distinctly permeated by academic presence.
«For Assyriology, one professorate at Helsinki University is enough. It does not need to be expanded but it needs to exist so that we’re aware of the world. Man has been analysed through and through for so many times. Biologically, races are defined on their external characteristics. If some population is shorter and darker than some other, it forms a race of its own. They are of the same species, of course. The Neanderthal man was of another species. The species was determined by individuals being able to have offspring together. But this doesn’t erase the races and their many qualities. Tatu Vanhanen is stubbornly trying to fight for this notion with his research. He has biases in his study; he appreciates intelligence. Aside these valuations, the divergences between races are clear to us all the way to the DNA. There are great differences in mathematical intelligence. But which is better, to have a lot of mathematical intelligence or not, is another thing.»
As Linkola noted in the Werstas interview, he considers racism a built-in characteristic in man just as it is in other animals. It is useful for human beings to shun communities and members of communities other than their own.
«Probably there are differences in music as well. If someone is trying to insist that the Saami yoiks are as valuable as high culture as Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms or Sibelius, that person has to be a bit hazy in the head. There is nothing more hopeless and boring as the Sami yoiking, as exotic and folkloristically exciting as it is.»
A freezer and a record player are some of the few concessions to technology Linkola has made in his own life. Since we are running a magazine that is primarily about music—although you might not have detected it from the more important principles of this interview, and rightly so—it was justifiable to ask the fisherman about his own musical preferences. Music for Linkola used to be a perfect example of a culture that was completely autonomous from and oblivious to the problems of man and nature. He was under the impression that no matter how gigantic a fallout would hit the earth, the top musicians still wouldn’t notice it; instead, they would continue talking about and practicing their profession as long as any buildings were standing. Nonetheless, he also has a refined admiration, respect and curiosity for music.
«I can easily say that symphonies are more commonly played here than more minuscule forms of music. You have to have long, grandiose symphonies. Then there is spiritual music in general. There are terribly beautiful melodies in the psalms.»
Trivial detail: This is where he goes to repeat the Finnish word for psalm, «virsi», since he notices the distortion in his pronunciation of the letter «r».
«If there is a request concert for spiritual music on the radio, I will listen to it while I’m gutting the fish. Even though I’ve never had the habit of listening to any particular programmes on the radio, I will turn it up and start listening. I don’t have much use for monitoring myself but once I was amused to notice how incredibly fast and flexible I was in running to the radio to pull the plug when there was some rock n’ roll music playing. I’ve always been a little clumsy but I wasn’t then, ha ha! That sort of racket is so awful. I don’t understand jazz either but I do know that you might come across some great parts in there. I think I have pretty much the tastes of an oil-skinned fisherman and plebe. Negrospirituals are sweet to my ears, though. And «Eagles of the Andes» and popular music from South America. Then there are of course folk songs. I just sang «Hyvää, hyvää huomenta sanon sulle kulta kun voin sua vieläkin tervehtiä. Sinisiä silmiäsi, punasia poskiasi, kun minun mieleni näkevi...» as a birthday song to someone. I know all the three verses to the song, which I sing with this voice of mine that has turned all hoarse. I’ve sometimes sung at the lake, and on the hills of Karelia. I’m also amused by the old-fashioned rillumareis, Helismaa’s «Kaksi vanhaa tukkijätkää», Erkki Junkkarinen’s «Syksyn lapsi» and others. They’re brilliant in how full of self-pity they are: «Syysyönä synkkänä synnyin, ei tuikkineet tähtösetkään.» I don’t have any songs that would be hits for me among contemporary schlager. In recent years, I’ve had somebody pay me visits to Lahti, Tampere and some other places to listen to orchestras. I haven’t been to Helsinki for music in a long time, it’s mainly theater or some other select events that take me there. I visit primarily symphony concerts, at least if they have the fourth of Sibelius performed. Symphony No. four by Sibelius is so wonderful that although I have owned it for twenty years, I have never been able to play it since I don’t think I have felt sacred enough for it. It is such a holy work. The first, second and seventh symphonies of Sibelius are too. I am amazed by the absolute pinnacle of the world’s musical library happening to come from Finland. Just as the top of world literature is Seitsemän veljestä. It is an insurmountable work even if you consider all the Russian classics, the Buddenbrooks and everything—the pinnacle of WORLD literature. Sibelius has some tunes that he had to do because he was poor with his financial matters, but those are still songs that you instantly recognise as Sibelius when you hear them on the radio. There are all the symphonies of Beethoven as led by Herbert von Karajan. And Dvorák’s New World Symphony; that is a great one. The third part of Mahler’s first symphony is one that I have to tell my daughter to play at my funeral. In a thematic sense, it an extremely simple but exquisitely beautiful piece of music. The entire symphony is wonderful but that third part is almost up to the standard of Sibelius. I have a fairly broad musical taste. I remember Kari Rydman, who moved from Helsinki to Sääksmäki, defining the downfall of world music starting, as I recall it, after Sibelius. For me it’s difficult to draw lines from specific to general, but he was able to distinguish a clear borderline like that.»
We then talk of the type of music Lampila makes, neofolk, which he explains to Linkola as a form of traditional folk music mixing elements such as violins and trumpets from classical music. This description «sounds good» to the oil-skinned fisherman. Lampila mentions Julius Evola and his radical traditionalism, to which Linkola’s only answer is a soft «Mmm». The seasoned fisherman then turns to the shortened life expectancies of schlager musicians, no wonder a pleasing phenomenon to him. «Quite different than the average age of generals, which must be in the region of eighty or so,» Linkola notes with a dash of his marvellously dry and black wit. From this he goes on to some day of theosophy he spent in Tampere decades ago, observing that apart from the circles around professors of philosophy, the only people upholding thinking in contemporary society are priests and theologists. Army-booting the big fat line between sleazy musician and ethereal theologist are Babylon Whores, who are some of the few musical guests-slash-youthful delinquents that have visited Linkola’s abode in Ritvala. You can read Antti Litmanen’s account on the occurrence at the beginning of this story. Linkola is a bit undecided whether he remembers the encounter.
«I can’t recall… I remember Ilkka Salmenpohja by name somehow. I remember there were some talk of my works being translated, but it never amounted to anything. I never heard of him since. I do also remember there was somebody with them that was publishing records and some books on the side. Ilkka Salmenpohja was supposed to make some translations but I didn’t hear from them. If there is any need for categorising these fields of culture, literature has been the absolute number one for me ever since I was a small child. But theater is very important as well. The rare periods I spent in Helsinki between being at the bird observatory and observing birds in Tavastia, I went to the theater more often than I did to the cinema. It is one of the loves I can remember. Many people from my generation still remember the Jurkka family, especially Vappu, Sakari and Jussi Jurkka. I can still imitate Sakari Jurkka’s laughter in the macabre comedy Arsenikkia ja vanhoja pitsejä made by Intiimiteatteri. In the play, old men were committed to full board and murdered in the cellar. The laughter he had was something akin to this (ed. note—this is where Linkola lets out a long quiet lung-patient whine followed by a sizzling mischievous guffaw). I can’t do such a terrible laugh. They’ve all disappeared, Kyllikki Forssell, Tea Ista and Tarmo Manni. They’re still great names, in memories. They were my actors at the time. And the Huoneteatteri Jurkka. I visited it by old habit last year. It’s an enormously enchanting small theater on Vironkatu in Kruununhaka, Helsinki. It was a play by Jean Genet, this crook who went to jail at one point and was considered a terribly good author. I think it was called Pesijättäret or something. It was the worst piece of theater I have seen in my life. The only play where I didn’t applaud even once. My hands didn’t even approach each other. It was uncomfortable, useless and impossible all the way, starting from the script. Implausible and completely wretched.
«Just recently, the twelfth day of this month, I went to Tampereen Työväen Teatteri, which is, as is known, the most professional and best theater we have in Finland. It beats both the National Theatre and City Theatre in Helsinki albeit not everything is good there either. It was Sirkku Peltola’s Lämminveriset, the third part of the trilogy, that I went to see. The first part, Suomen hevonen, is the most famous one but that I have not seen. In the first part, society deprives the family of their small holding. In the second, they have managed to secure a one-room flat, which is then expropriated from them. In this third part, they end up living under the bridge. There are many kinds of immigrants living there as well. The way the plot is woven is so frigging… It’s one part farce, one part comedy, one part tragicomedy and one part tragedy. At the end, it’s laughter with a twist. I thanked Sirkku Peltola personally for it. I called her, asked if she was busy and told her I had a stupid reason to call. «I know you’re drowning in feedback but I just couldn’t help but to call and thank you,» I said. Then I told her I had a great temptation to run the plot of the play to her! I continued talking and all of a sudden I noticed I had to tell her a little bit about the plot. Bloody hell. She comforted me by saying she was working on a new play and the previous one had been a bit lost to her already. So it was perhaps a bit welcome of me to tell her about the play, ha. There is this scene in the play where a real police car enters the stage. There’s both horses and cars on stage in the play. A Lada has ran out of petrol and it’s being pushed by the characters. When the police car has entered, it appears that some women had called the cops. The two brisk policemen don’t have the slightest clue of what’s going on but they’ve been ordered to check out the situation since there are some persons without identification papers there. The only solution they can think of is take everybody to the station, in other words delegate responsibility to others. When they have stuffed everyone inside the police car, they start hearing somebody crying in a distressed manner, which means they all have to get out. Others climb onto the roof of the car and are dragged back in. It’s Christmas time, there are all sorts of embellishment made out of paper under the bridge, and it’s easy to guess that when the police car arrives, it is difficult for some to take the attitude of the policemen. The only solution is to take the whole lot to the station to wiser people who can decide on their fate, defend them and examine the situation. Then when there’s a moment of quiet within the police car, there is a Christmas carol playing. And the car won’t start! They’ve run out of petrol. There is an academically educated black Moroccan in an important role, and he makes some short, considerably pleasing and laughable remarks in the situation. He jumps out of the car and before the policemen can stop him, he’s run to where they have a storage shelf and a sofa. He brings a can of gasoline and drizzles it into the police car. The actors are awfully good in their roles, they look just like they should for their roles. There is this old grandma, the eldest of a serious family, and when they’re going through the long trouble of gathering people, interrogating them and taking them to the police car, the grandma needs to go to the bathroom. She stands there with a roll of toilet paper in her hand and the others explain that being of that age she cannot hold it in for long, and then she disappears. When they’ve all left, she returns from the bathroom, still holding that roll of toilet paper. This is just part of the plot. It is a clever piece in the sense that a lot of things are happening all the time. Like there is this really good bridge engineer. The bridge is only half a bridge since they’ve run out of money. The people, half of them immigrants, are standing under the bridge. Over the bridge appears a gentleman with a long rope. That is the bridge engineer, who has been fearing the bridge might go to waste. His depression is communicated to the chairperson of the municipal council who is able to blow away his thoughts of hanging himself and make him join the lot under the bridge. At some point the engineer produces a bottle of whisky he circulates. In the Christmas tableau he reads the Christmas gospel to the rest. The rope has somehow ended up to the old grandma who has woven it into a fine skein. She puts it into the engineer’s briefcase and tells him it’s for worse times! Others are not so much into the crowd, they want to separate themselves from it, the youngest members in particular. In its own way, everything is so sympathetic and sweet in the play. It’s fun and exciting and jubilant and positive as well.
«I’ve been in the same theater in Tampere watching a play of an American family who were so wretched I felt I didn’t want to watch it for two hours. It was a good play but the characters were so rough and full of it that it was difficult to follow. Then very recently I was in Helsinki for an orthopedic treatment and went to see Zaida Bergroth’s film while I was there. She is the other daughter of Marjatta Tapiola and I decided to see the film since I know Marjatta. It was an acclaimed film praised by critics and film enthusiasts but I thought it was wholly impossible. It portrayed a group of actors, theatre makers and authors, and their stark raving mad children. It was a really bad movie, although probably not in a cinematic way. The name of the film was Hyvä poika. I would have liked to like it.
«Music and theatre are competing for the second spot if you want to compare different areas of culture. In literature I’m an oil-skinned fisherman as well, I don’t follow poetry that much. Though I must say that Heli Laaksonen, the poet that has won Finns over, is an impossibly funny and good writer. Then there are the classics of poetry, other than that I don’t know or follow much of it. In prose, I already mentioned Aleksis Kivi being my favourite. There is an awful amount of classics, not just in Finland, but in Russia too. They have Obruchev and Valentin Rasputin, not the Rasputin who was playing tricks with the czar’s court. They have Turgejev, Pushkin and Aitmatov, who’s only been translated into Finnish with The Scaffold, which is a masterpiece as well. Then there is the degenerated French literature which I used to read a lot. Aragon, Mauriac and of course Camus, but they are so estranged from real life that I don’t consider them as my favourite literature. In Spain there is Saramago and Molina, which I read only just recently. There is something in every country. Every third Finnish Swede author is a master of writing. That must be the greatest minority that ever existed. They have Kjell Westö, Bo Carpelan, Anders Cleve, Werner Söderhjelm, Monica Fagerholm, so damn many of them. In Sweden there are very few great writers. I never cared to read Selma Lagerlöf, she isn’t among the classics. Once my brother gave me an old-fashioned backpack as a present, and within the backpack there was Harry Martinson’s Kulkijan pilvilinnat and a bottle of Vinetto. That was a backpack well considered.»
The day flaps on quickly with the wings of these stories. Lampila asks if people are hungry, which we aren’t. Linkola says the oatmeal will keep the hunger away for a while, then extends to a story about a writer who visited him some years ago, a rower better than the fisher trainee Eero Alén who went on to write an embittered book, Linkolan soutajan päiväkirja, about his experiences of rowing for Linkola. «I had a fishing buddy for one autumn. He wanted to come here and I thought well alright. He proved to be a very good rower, so he was rowing my boat for a few months then. That was before I had diabetes so I was trained not to need any food with me at the lake. You have a proper breakfast, spend ten hours at the lake and eat well when you return home in the evening. I had programmed myself so that when we returned at home bay, I was hungry as a wolf. Then we left the fish and the equipment outside, came in and the rower still wasn’t hungry and instead went to get the mail. He did eat something in the evenings, but mainly it was the two high plates of oatmeal that he ate in the morning that kept him going for twenty-four hours. He really knew how to tank up, to store the food within him..»
Lampila: «Are there a lot of maniacs that come here, I mean apart from us?»
«There’s not a lot... It’s hard to get in touch with me, for one. Over the years and decades, there have of course been some. I used to have a guestbook in the early years. The kid in the house over there was six years old when we started building this place, and he was very anxious to see what was happening. The place was all finished in three months from getting the building permit, which wasn’t as fast as the Kingdom Hall of the Jehova’s Witnesses. When the inspectors came to check the electricity, the neighbor’s kid was there again. He told me, «Pentti, don’t forget to have a guestbook!» The guestbook disappeared a long time ago. It would be nice to see it, of course, and to recall who has visited over the years. It was for all kinds of tales, not just for names. I had a small instruction that went, «Write anything you please, as long as it’s praising the hosts», ha ha. That was the only small condition.»
Something that has not been talked about often in relation to Linkola is his attitude towards cannabis and other narcotic, non-chemical «natural products», which are becoming increasingly common among those who say they share a connection of sorts to the earth and nature. Linkola does not generally like the effects of alcohol, even if he has humorously stated that the alcohol law of nineteen sixty-nine—which made medium-strength beer available in grocery stores and increased the national consumption of alcohol by forty-six percent—was the greatest post-war deed of nature conservation because it made so many people so much less productive.
«Yes, well, I am against intoxicants like alcohol. The taste is so sharp, I don’t like it at all. I’m good with the twenty minutes I spend in a diabetic shock. Others can smoke whatever they want, though I don’t see the glory of it. One should have enough strength to handle this world with a sober mind. There is an impressive Finnish cultural personality that I know who had small weed plantations in his closet at home. He also had some outside the house. He was so afraid of being searched by the police that during wintertime, he would walk to the large site in Pispala, Tampere always backwards so that there would be traces leading only away from the place. He got caught once and was fined accordingly. The wooden houses in Pispala have broad gardens placed next to each other, which leaves a large farmland on the hill. He would place individual seedlings there, and they would get no attention, growing there among tansies and other big grass plants. He succeeded in his plan and collected the crop later on. I think he had about ten plants growing there individually. He got caught for the ones in his closet.»
Although Pentti Linkola is a non-religious atheist, he has not disregarded the link between god and nature. God, he writes in the essay «Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun», can very easily be transformed into Nature and the reality of nature’s limitations. He has stated he is fond of the dimension of the sacred and the preaching of the gospel. This sympathy for Christianity and the wisdom and psychological insight of the church is something that started to occur in Linkola’s writings roughly during the mid-nineteen seventies, when great personal crisis was at hand. It was fortified by his sentiment of the forest as a sphere of the sacred, a holy temple exuding life at its fullest, if you will. The church is a stabilising conservative force that goes against the ideology of superconsumption present in the western world. When I ask Linkola to explain the significance of religion and the holy in his life, his voice falls into gears that are low, cautious, ponderous and quiet—it is as if he was placing his words under the surveillance of a controlling supervisor. God? Who knows.
«Bishop Wille Riekkinen has written a book called Metsä kirkkoni olla saa. He is a great friend of nature and, as you could expect from a bishop, a devout believer. He considers that what unites all nature is that it’s God’s creation and that is why we should respect it. In her bishopric, the vicar of Eno, Armi Rautavuori, has praised nature and condemned the uranium mining plans they have in the area. Colleagues have given her severe admonitions for discussing topics that do not belong to the church. Yet the female vicar has given this severe declaration for nature taking into consideration how the atmosphere in the area would be destroyed should the mine be opened. Altogether, the church is far too passive in what they do. They are all too cautious in their social statements. The little they do is all good, though. I have just rejoined the church via some amusing rituals. I did it as a protest against the barbaric, lowbrow statements of the neo-atheists. I have always supported the church. I was born an ethic and believe in personal deities, not in Jesus of Nazareth, except as a great philosopher. I joined the church as a supporting member.
«Sacredness is the feel I have in an old-growth forest. The same feel catches me in a church. The atmosphere in churches is unique, what with the organ music and all. I would go to church more often if they were here in the centre and not there in the periphery. The distances are considerable. In any case, nature and the sacred are above the big-mouthed human. Priests have contradictory views on god, too. Some consider it a power that is above us while some see him as a primeval geezer and creature. You can say that whatever it is that clenches your fist or makes Mars revolve around the sun is sacred. There have been demands for ending the teaching of religion in Finland, just as there have been demands for the teaching of Swedish to end, not to have children singing psalms or preaching the Christmas Story at school. One of the reasons why I joined the church is that science is so unspeakably tedious. There is nothing worse than natural science. It is horribly dull. I’ve told these bird colleagues of mine that when you open the Ornis Fennica, with its boxes and arrows going from one box to another three boxes, it’s horribly boring and stupid.»
It was, in fact, after reading one of those tedious volumes of Ornis Fennica that Linkola decided to join the church.
«I’d rather read my natural science from the Nativity of Jesus, which is the story of all stories. There is a poetic appeal to religion. It’s been developed in numerous heads, I reckon, a story born in the midst of a terrible militarist Jewish philosophy where the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and others predict the birth of the son of God. Then they invented the birth, the three Biblical Magi, the abreuvoir, the star in the sky, it’s all so glorious it beats the One Thousand and One Nights stories through and through. It’s all due to science that the old divinities have disappeared.
«I could go on about the history of Jesus. The crucifixion was a way to scare people, but then there is the suffering and the resurrection. It’s a bloody clever invention! The disciples receive the permit to open the tomb, upon which a large stone has been rolled. Nevertheless, he made his way out of there. The story wasn’t made by a bunch of fools. Then there is the declaration and the twelve apostles, half of whom were fishers, which of course appeals to me. The Nativity of Jesus is brilliant, as it should be, what with two thousand years and quite a chunk of mankind having reminisced it. It is reason enough to join the church. I asked the vicar, whom I know to an extent, if it’s possible to rejoin the church. I had left the church as a young student. «A large part of our members do not have the deepest faith,» he said somewhat ruefully, «so even if you do not have the deepest faith, welcome aboard!» I was there another time with my fish and bird buddy Olavi Virtanen, who is a municipal vicar these days. He comes to visit me once a year, we go fishing and so on. He used to be a vicar in Kylmäkoski, where someone left the church because all of Olavi’s sermons had to do with birds, ha ha. It was inconsiderate as such; the Bible is full of bird parables after all. But maybe he did talk about them a tad too often! So I went to the community center with him. There was this chaplain called Neulanen there whom I have met once before. We talked for half an hour with him. He was waiting for some of Olavi’s student friends from the Department of Theology. As the conversation turned to joining the church, a clerk started to inquire me about the formality of whether or not I had been baptised before. The clerk had a national register that went back decades. The register had no information about me being baptised. Coincidentally, I don’t remember the event myself, but I do know that my parents were standard members of the church even if they weren’t believers. Then Neulanen had the idea of asking about my godparents. I said, sure, they were aunt Eeva and aunt Hertta. «There must have been a baptism if you have godparents,» he reasoned. They asked me about my confirmation school. I lied to the clerk and said I remember very little about my school years. «I consider it possible that I have not attended confirmation school, but I consider it just as likely that I have,» I said. The clerk didn’t find me from the register but we made an agreement and they handed me a catechism. They didn’t arrange me an exam on it, though we were joking with Neulanen and Olavi Virtanen that I’ll now have to join a confirmation camp with the fifteen-year-olds. They drew a lot of mirth out of it. Afterwards I heard I had been accepted as a member of the church. I did leaf through the catechism for a good while. The argumentation for the commandments is full of circular logic. You do this and you don’t do that for the glory of God. There’s no greater logic to it. But those stickers attached to buses saying «Leave the church, enjoy life!», they are outrageous. It is this consumer culture. You need to add consumption and squandering. It is a terrible gang! People leave the church because Päivi Räsänen holds on to the scripture on a television show’s gay special. The Jehova’s Witnesses never slide away from anything. For them, man was made three thousand years ago. It is so because so it has been said. And they don’t even discuss the possibility of female bishops in the Roman-Catholic church. The dogmatic faith that is absolute to Päivi Räsänen was decided upon in synods like the First Council of Nicaea. The thought was that whatever the Bible says, it should be stuck upon. Just as the Green League should have stayed with the philosophies descended from Lehtivihreä.
«Green is still the colour I see in my rest and sleep. Once I saw a dream where I almost made it to the Politburo. A host of friends were escorting me into a vast hall that was full of Soviet leaders. The Politburo was sitting across the hall, with many tables in between us. I couldn’t get to them so the plan backfired. Another good dream was when I woke up in a place that was part familiar, part fantasy. There was this one peninsula of Pälkänevesi and on the peninsula there was a villa I know. The householder of the villa shouted out and wanted me to see a bird nest he had found. In their garden there was a nest with an entrance on the side which looked like it belonged to some willow warbler. It was made out of hay and it was almost bigger than the nest of a thrush. I was correct to estimate in the dream that no such nest could exist. There is no bird that would make a nest like that. Then I came up with the explanation that it must be from some other reality, and that’s when I woke up. Sometimes you dream that you’re dreaming, it can get layered. Then you wake up still being asleep. You can put it like Yrjö Kallinen: we are living in a dream.»
Linkola, once an editor for the handbook of the birds Pohjolan linnut värikuvin, is visibly impressed by the erudition he showed in his dream. I am reminded of his old remark that not seeing nightmares of flipping off a cliff and somesuch was, to him, a proof of powerlessness, of losing hope and faith. In Lampila, the anecdote strikes a different note. «That brings my mind to a fellow that’s written that anarchists do just the right thing when they attach posters that say «If voting made a difference, they would’ve made it illegal» to trash bins. Then there’s a ballot box with an arrow pointing to the trash bin, haha.»
Linkola: «That’s counter-propaganda.»
Lampila: «There won’t be any real resistance until a man will miss three meals. As long as man is content, he will not think reasonably.»
Linkola: «People have parents that are too good. Although I’m a terrorist to someone, I had an unspeakably good, tender and sanguine mother.»
He then throws out a slightly exasperated question, «Well, are you satisfied enough already?» I manage to cackle out that there’d still be a few more large-scale inquiries. For instance, the John-Muir-Forest-sized What Would You Say Is the Most Important Thing You Have Done to Prevent the End of the World? Linkola wipes it off with an easy answer: «I suppose it is the conservation work and the foundation.» He has no set of instructions to give to young conservationists. As he said in the Werstas interview, he has no need to try and find a «new Pentti Linkola» among the young generations of conservationists. To secure new protected areas has always meant an achievement from a large group of people. Linkola’s own experiences from setting an example are bad—this goes for fishing, where his more organic form of fishing, using rowing boats instead of refined machinery, has been sneered at. One can set an example by way of his own lifestyle, by not travelling round the world and making a host of offspring. This can cause the general opinions towards these occupations change gradually to a more sustainable direction, which may prolong the total destruction and mass extinction of the planet.
But. There’s always The But. Which means…
THE END OF THE WORLD
«We are living in the eleventh hour, at the edge of the abyss, on the verge of extinction, two minutes to midnight.» These are some of the popular expressions Pentti Linkola amassed on the position of humanity at present in the essay «A Refresher Course in the State of the World». The end of the world for man, according to Linkola, does not denote the end of the universe, the solar system or the planet but simply the extinction of one’s own species, in our case the death of humanity to the single last individual. The remedies offered to the condition he calls «a policy of fiddling»; recycling protocols, building filters and catalytic converters, solar panels, electric cars, etc. To him these actions are aimless and misguided.
In the Werstas interview, the Tavastian prophet of doom formulated his main thought on the conditions of life on earth in a nicely anti-bagatelle manner. The conservation of life on earth, he said, has been brought into the sphere of intellectual dandyism, pedantry and nihilism, which is not natural for any animal. People are not shaken by the extinction of species—happening at the rate of approximately forty thousand species per year, half a million if you count in the plants and fungi—yet they are greatly upset by the nicking of their wallet. Linkola is obviously unmoved by such trivialisations. To him the apocalypse of the flora and fauna is the gravest issue, a genuine matter of life and death. He admits he does not know exactly how and when the end of the world will come.
«If end of the world to each species means the moment when the last individual of the species dies, there are ends of the world served every day. Extinctions ARE apocalypses to the species. There will be an apocalypse for mankind as well, but how it will arrive is unclear. I’ve sometimes written about the way anorexia nervosa disturbs the ovulation of women. Then there’s the fact that the amount of gametes is decreasing considerably in the semen of urban males. Could it go that way, to have the fertility of humans decreasing enough? This is one perspective. Then there is the possibility of nuclear war, nuclear winter and fallout. Then there is the solidarity within the species which largely contributes to the acceptance of immigrant populations who have wrecked their conditions of living elsewhere. When they’re welcomed to another country, the soil will soon be impoverished there as well. Would that be the way of the apocalypse? The eco catastrophe has gone far but it is not easy to say what will be the final hit. After all, we still don’t know what killed the mammoths. We don’t know if the climate change destroyed the hay and meadows they needed. When an extinction starts to happen, it easily goes all the way. For reasons unknown to science. Mankind is a terribly vital species at the moment. It continues growing, particularly in Finland. We had a net growth of twenty-five thousand last year, half of which comes through our own population growth and half being due to immigration. Then there is famine and the running out of drinking water looming ahead, even if they were able to transport shards of glaciers from the South Pole. We can calculate how much unmelted ice there is for us to drink with the outrageous level of consumption we have at the moment. On no account do we have thousands of years to go before this species is completely wiped off the face of the earth. At the moment, we do know that we exist physically. The changes in the soil and elsewhere may be whatever, but the average life expectancy of humans still keeps on growing. They expect epidemics to be a terror or salvation. But they’ve all gone to no avail, the Ebolas and AIDSs that were expected to have a greater impact than they did. I was once asked about the bird flu when it was a hot topic. It was said a few tufted ducks died in Sweden, but I do not know of any other effects. That was it.»
Lampila recounts an example of the destruction of an entire ecosystem on the Kirkkojärvi lake in Kangasala. A friend of his had bought a house on the shore. They decided to go to see the river during nighttime. What they found was a small dam and a huge number of dead fish just floating on the water. To witness a lake, and the ecosystem with it, go to waste with your own eyes was a strong experience for him. «Nothing grows there anymore, it’s all death and apocalypse!» he smirks.
It is of some note that Linkola has never been overly cautious about the condition of Finnish lakes. In the nineteen sixties and, increasingly, in the seventies he was vehemently against all accusations concerning the amount of methylmercury in the country’s fish and fresh waters, pointing towards research that indicated that levels of methylmercury weren’t higher thanks to industrial drainage than they had been hundreds of years earlier. In the highly contaminated waters, the fish is very rarely completely destroyed. More likely, their variety and age scales have twisted into unnatural. Obviously, as a fisher, a practitioner of what he calls the real oldest profession in the world, Linkola had his own trade on the line in the at times hysteric discussion but was proven right in the end: Finnish fish was safe to eat. What was more insane to him in the seventies was the useless fish farming and the idiotic governance of the fishing counties, which meant fish wasn’t allowed to be caught for sale as much as it was for recreational uses. The price of fish didn’t rise in congruence with the prices of everything else connected to fishing; the equipment, the carriage and so on. One would have needed a trawler to get even close to the economic level of industry workers. Not to mention that a spoonbait or a spinning rod would get you only the smallest and youngest fish in the water, not the big overage individuals.
«What we do know is that there is enough oxygen for a significantly larger population of humans. When the population grows, a few plants and animals consuming oxygen and carbon dioxide will drop out. A certain amount of people will survive. Apparently, our DNA is not that close to some other parts of the animal kingdom.»
Lampila brings up the comparison Eero Paloheimo has made: there are six hundred and fifty mountain gorillas in the world, and six and a half billion people. Just for a moment, for the sake of the argument, reverse the roles and think of the world with six hundred and fifty humans versus six and a half billion mountain gorillas. Insane, isn’t it?
«Once it was funny to follow a public conversation of Martti Tiuri and Eero Paloheimo who were arguing about population explosion among other things,» Linkola recalls. «Tiuri said he could not even imagine birth regulation taking place. Having children to him was a basic right of human beings. Paloheimo was typing figures into his calculators and said that with the present growth rate, there are so and so many billions humans more in four hundred years. Tiuri said we should move to space ships then. Paloheimo estimated that a square metre might hold about ten humans. We would then have to cover the entire earth with those square-metre human cubes, all the way to space to the height of thirty-five kilometres. Tiuri still argued against him, which made Paloheimo calculate that in one thousand years, with the present growth rate, mankind would fill the entire known universe. That is when Tiuri lost the debate. And they were both doctors of technology. It wouldn’t take that long for the human mass to fill the known universe.»
Lampila falls into a sort of doomed euphoria and declares, «It could be said that something radical will happen in the next two hundred years. Or a hundred. Or five. Perhaps even today if the Finns Party wins the election!»
In the Werstas interview, Linkola himself speculated it will take a little over one hundred years for us to run ourselves into a situation that is not solvable. He anticipated that the rich elite of the world will withdraw underneath the earth, into caves drilled into rocks, with considerable resources of food and water, when the time is up. Industrial fishing and the availability of drinking water are the naturalist’s main concerns. As he pointed out in the interview, we will run out of energy in the transportation of water and fish because their consumption is on a far too high level thanks to overpopulation. As stated by the world water forum that convened in Istanbul in two thousand and nine, by two thousand and thirty the unavailability of fresh water is a reality to four billion people. Of all the water in the world, only under three percent is fresh drinking water. Of all the land, only about eleven percent is productive. According to Sir Brian Heap, a British biologist, the amount of land available for cultivation is growing by two tenths of a percent per year, and even that growth is decreasing, while the amount of mouths to be fed is shooting in the opposite direction. Perhaps even more startling than that is the statistic delivered by the United Nations stating that over the course of the last one thousand years people have turned over two billion hectares of fertile agricultural land into wasteland—which is more than is currently available for cultivation.
«Yes, we will run out of nutrition and water,» Linkola says coolly. «It has been calculated that in eighty years the biggest granaries of the world situated in the United States and Canada will have their humus washed to the Pacific Ocean and they won’t produce anything anymore, whilst at the moment they produce enormous amounts of corn and wheat.»
«Tere Vadén and a lot of others,» Lampila points out, «are talking about how our lives depend on the production, transportation and consumption of oil. The whole circulation that has to do with your tummy being fed with nutrition is dependent on oil. The verdict is that we’re living the mid-period of the oil peak and that it will head to a deep decline by no later than two thousand and twenty.»
«Even if they did locate new sources, no unlimited supply of oil exists,» Linkola says. «They cannot prolong their sources forever. It is all sheer madness. There shouldn’t be enough people on the planet to come even close to the boundary of exhausting these sources. If there were six and a half million people on earth, with the plants, mushrooms and animals we have, it would be easy to manage. But since there are as many of us as there are, we’re in a situation where you have to shout, «There’s still enough water for the whole gang! There’s still enough!» The availability of drinking water shouldn’t be a problem anywhere, there should be an unlimited supply of it. With small populations there would be game, fish and grain for everybody. All other species can stick to a reasonable system. Diseases always work their way if the stocks become too large. The amount of nutrition is always a factor. All other species are tied to the system. Excessive increase always stops somewhere. Two winters ago, half or two thirds of our Ural owls died due to the appearance of both a massive snow cover and a famine year for the voles. Last year, hardly any Ural owls were born. Unlike humans, most of the owls didn’t nest at all. The worse the conditions are for humans, the bigger families they produce. In other species it’s vice versa: bad years bring one or two eggs, on good ones you see fifteen. This year the owl generation of two thousand and ten is strong enough to offset the losses in two or three years with normal nesting and vole generations. Then there will be a set of large generations, but they never get excessive because there’s not enough food for everybody. Then there will be famines among the nutrition animals. Although there is variation and dynamics at play, the system works on a constant basis. The main line is steady for all but homo sapiens. It’s unfortunate and kind of shameful to belong to this species, and to the branch of the species that produces the largest strain. I do that as well, albeit I try to compromise by not using combustion engines and so on. I am a terrible consumer and force of strain in world economy. In the consumption of paper, I am above all averages. And though I have a foundation conserving forests, it means more forests are cut down elsewhere.»
The long and meandering answers Linkola has given on the thematic of the apocalypse pretty much freeze time and us within it. The four of us now gaze out of the cabin window and sit silent, accosted by whatever conclusions are combusting in our heads. Linkola snaps out of it first. «Well, that should be enough,» he says wryly in a slightly irritated manner that leaves no room for extra negotiation. Would I point out that I still have a quartet of questions left on our future sources of energy, intensive farming, participating in useless television shows, and foreign trade and immigration as aspects of the death dealing between western and developing countries? No, I wouldn’t.
The time of departure marks a juicy mélange of sentiments. We hand over the books we have brought for Linkola to sign. What I’ve brought is a copy of Johdatus 1990-luvun ajatteluun bought from a library clearance sale—I thought it would amuse Linkola. He looks at the book with an unctuous look and says it is his magnum opus. He still refuses to learn the spelling of our German friend’s name by ear. He needs to fetch his identity card for the fisherman to examine. Inspecting the card with a magnifying glass, Linkola still questions the German origin of the name, but a shine of realisation reaches his face when the German compares the name to his namesake, former President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Why this is such an epiphany, we don’t know. Reagan wasn’t German.
There is one final task of assistance reserved for us: the record player should be made usable. There is nothing wrong with the player as such; Linkola just hasn’t had the nerve to use it on his own. So, we plug the player and the speakers and turn it on. Like the king of all hipsters, Linkola draws out a bag of records that he jokingly says has his «latest findings»—years old as they are. Unlike the nerd cherishing the exterior parts of the records as though they were components of philately, Linkola rips open the LP cover from the seams and sets the record on the turntable. The needle finds the groove of the album on automatic operation and starts to produce notes that are familiar to most Finns as definition-of-nationality kind of fodder: it is the second symphony of Sibelius as conducted by Herbert von Karajan and released by Deutsche Grammophon. Listening to the initial notes, Linkola looks grave, tired even, although he has waited for the moment to listen to the album. We listen to the recording only for a short while before gathering our stuff and leaving. Perhaps the oil-skinned fisherman will return to it later and enjoy the product of his fatherland in solitude exactly as he pleases.
It feels only painful to leave for real. We stop by for a donut and coffee at a roadside cafeteria on our way back and speak in a manner that could be recognised as post-coital under conditions dissimilar. Any cathartic innuendos notwithstanding, it only takes to see the staggering clutter of paper rubbish swirling about tirelessly in front of the old Scandic Hotel in Tampere to remind you how impossible it is to make even the most striking efforts of neglect end. Fortunately, the smoky, mouldy smell of Ritvala emitted on the cargos and pullover puts up a graceful fight to wear off. When I leave my apartment and walk aside the serene detached houses and blocks of flats populated by alcoholics and junkies to cast my vote in what proves to be one of the strangest parliamentary elections of my time, the day of the «jytky» courtesy of the Finns Party, I am thinking of the elaborate melodies of the birds, the varieties of privacy shrubs and backyard trees, the tints of yellow ochre splashed about by the setting spring sun, all the small rattlings of life in the trained and tamed environment that feel electrified with new meanings. This is it. This is the bearing that should prevail, difficult as it may be. This is what earth’s last picture should be about, not you, nor I, nor that fat obnoxious Shrek-a-like grimacing in a black tie in the political memes. This should become.
Pentti Linkola on hell:
«Metaphorically, you could say we’re living in hell today, with the society and humankind in the state they are in. It is perhaps a bit of a show-off to say so. I don’t quite know what the Bible says about hell. I do know that the church has left hell out of its declarations. The gospel cannot banish people. Those believing in metempsychosis must have a huge storage for souls since the population is growing all the time. If we knew how many souls there are waiting, we would know how large this population is going to grow. Would the end be at ten billion; would these souls stored for reincarnation then run out? There has to be a soul for everyone there, so it must be a good storage with seven billion souls waiting. And the eagles and beetles need to be waiting there as well since there is the possibility of being reborn as one of them. They cannot just come out of nowhere, there needs to be a creature staking out there.
«The most hellish phases of my own life are the stunning sorrows related to nature. To find some island or traditional forest you’ve liked appearing as raped. In private life, the divorce was of course a painful experience. Life is made out of small disappointments. A man’s life is the sum of disappointments; that is how you could define it. Truly immense shocks have been few. They are mostly to do with the destruction of nature.»