Finland is called the country of the thousand lakes. It’s around two hundred thousand lakes, actually. Nature is everywhere. I grew up in a city, but even in cities there is always a forest nearby. There is no clear split between city and countryside. I really value that. I am most happy when I am with my loved ones and when I am in nature. There is this sense of how small you are, how you are one part of this beautiful thing that does not rely on you to exist. I enjoy the change of seasons. The big lake I live next to froze last winter. Just a few months ago, I was walking on ice and now, slowly, bit by bit, it’s all melting and turning back into water.
Some people here say we should not talk about climate change, that we don’t want young people to get anxious. But if we don’t talk about it, how are we going to find solutions? As a psychology student, I try to contribute by investigating the connections between climate anxiety, climate hope, and climate action. When fear overwhelms us, we can become paralyzed. When we have both on the other hand, a bit of anxiety but hope as well, we found that people start acting. I don’t mean false hope or wishful thinking, but active and constructive hope. To feel that we have the power to do something, that our actions have meaning. Almost everyone in Finland believes in climate change, but we are such a small country that not everyone feels we have the power to change anything. But even if we don’t think that our actions can solve the whole problem, we can still feel that we live a meaningful life, that we are doing what is right.
Lately I have been fascinated by the topic of sustainable mental health. Modern society demands that we need to do everything more, faster, and more efficiently. We work constantly, we are exhausted, and then we think we need more things because we worked so much. These processes are contributing to climate change, but they are also causing people to burn out. I’m convinced that saving the environment is also about helping people to be healthier mentally. We need steadiness, slowness, boredom without constant information, we need to live in slower ways.
One time, I took a night train to Lapland in the far north of Finland, almost a twelve-hour trip. It was the most amazing travel experience. You get on the train in your hometown, you see it slowly disappear, see how the environment starts to change bit by bit. You fall asleep in your bed in your small room, but even in your sleep you hear the train noises and you can feel the train moving. And then you wake up and you are in a new place. It’s snowing, there is forest everywhere. It’s just a magical experience.
Everybody needs something to make themselves calm. I really like taking care of houseplants. You can’t rush them, they are just there, doing their thing. You water them, you don’t do anything else. All they need are the basic principles of life, light, water, nutrients. Humans are the same. Regarding climate action, people are often talking about losing something. We should talk about what we have to gain. Resting can be the most revolutionary thing.
Story collected as part of the stories for future international pilot project.