climate change


What if you lived in a place with almost unlimited possibilities to make your dreams come true? What if – at the same time – that place contributed in destroying the dreams of a better future for our planet and the future generations? Could you reconcile these two dreams that seem so incompatible? Or would you have to sacrifice something? These were the questions in my mind before I went to see the documentary Dark Eden (2018) at Helsinki Documentary Film Festival – DocPoint 2019. I wondered if the film might give me some answers.

Dark Eden, directed by Jasmin Herold and Michael Beamish, paints a picture of life in Fort McMurray, located at the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. The Athabasca Oil Sands is the largest industrial project and the third largest oil reserve on the planet. People from all around the world are drawn to oil business to earn high salaries and to pursue a better life for themselves. But oil is also one of the world’s most destructive industries. It damages the environment by polluting the waters and releasing toxins in the air as well as contributing to CO2 emissions that add up to the blanket of greenhouse gases surrounding the planet.

It is difficult to watch people chasing after fortunes at the expense of the environment. I find myself wanting to rewind and watch some of the scenes again and again to understand better. Dark Eden does not explain. The lives of the protagonists just roll in front of the audience’s eyes framed by massive plumes of smoke rising from the oil sands. The scenery looks bleak. The waters, land and wildlife are affected by the oil industry. The livelihood of indigenous peoples in the area is in danger: the wild food is contaminated by pollution. And if the wildlife is affected, then so are the people. We find out that children are being diagnosed with rare conditions and diseases. And it gets more personal for the film makers when the film’s other director is diagnosed with cancer. People in Fort McMurray are worried but they seem hesitant to voice their opinions. After all, the oil industry is a major employer in the area.

There are no statistics, expert interviews, politics, demonstrations or oil company CEO interviews in Dark Eden. There are just people whose lives are intertwined with the Athabasca Oil Sands in good or bad. Greenpeace is mentioned in passing, and we see a glimpse of the celebrity activist Jane Fonda visiting Fort McMurray. Otherwise, no environmentalist action is seen in the film. I think it is more thought-provoking this way. The film does not point a finger at anyone. The audience is forced to deal with their own thoughts and feelings about the subject in the darkness of the cinema.

The reality of Fort McMurray crawls under your skin. The town exists because of the oil industry. If and when the companies leave the oils sands, the town might cease to exist. If there is no work, people will leave to pursue their dreams somewhere else. But the nature will stay damaged, and the people whose health has been affected, will still be ill. In the film, people talk more about what the collapse of oil prices might do to their future than about health and environmental concerns. Reconciling the two dreams is not easy. “You don’t see what you know”. Is this the answer that I am looking for? I feel it is only a survival strategy of sorts. The reality behind the dream future is something you do not want to or cannot see in order to go on.

People think, talk and dream about their life after they leave the oil sands. They dream of buying houses, building houses in the mountains, reunited families, good life, and in one case, trophy hunting in Africa. Nobody talks about leaving the oil industry in order to protect the environment. A human desire for a better, wealthier life outweighs the will to protect nature.

I am not sure if I got the answers I was looking for. The film asks what is the price for a better life. I might say that the price is the sacrifice you have to make. And what is the sacrifice you have to make in order to fulfill your dreams? In my view, there is not only one sacrifice. The environment, the future of the planet, the living conditions of future generations, health and even one’s conscience are all sacrifices here. There is no reconciling the two different dreams. There is only the question: which dream are you willing to sacrifice?

DocPoint 2019 took place 28 Jan to 3 Feb 2019 in Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno


People gathering at the Senate Square before the march. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

For several years now, I have followed the news with both fear and hope. Will we be too late or will we be just in time to stop the consequences of climate change from getting out of hand? What kind of a planet will we be leaving for the future generations? I have felt that as an ordinary citizen, my chances to make a significant impact are somewhat limited. But what I can do, is to demand the decision-makers to act now. In order to put pressure on the politicians, a group of organisations arranged a climate march in Helsinki on Saturday 20th October 2018.

People getting ready before the march. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

Getting ready. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

In the last few years, the world has seen the effects of climate change up, close and personal. Stronger hurricanes and typhoons, wild fires, heat waves, droughts and alarming amounts of algae are here to stay. And these are only some of the effects. Suddenly, the climate change and its impacts are everywhere: in the news, in social media discussions and at home when you sit down to your evening supper. The wake-up call has been sounding for years but now the alarm is getting harder and harder to ignore.

When the Paris Agreement was forged in the 2015 Climate Summit, the United Nations asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to examine what the goal of keeping temperature at 1.5 C would mean. According to the panel’s report, it is still possible to keep the temperature below 1.5 C but it will be challenging. To reach this goal, every single country in the world will have to commit to prompt climate action in order to lessen the impacts of climate change. The panel was very strict about this. Even the rise of a half a degree to 2 C would be a significantly worse scenario for the world. And if we keep going like we are now, the temperature will rise to 3 C which is something the world cannot handle. Therefore, the action against the effects of climate change must be taken now and not tomorrow, next year or in five years time.

The march has started. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

The march has started. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

On Saturday last week, the day of the march was finally here. I and thousands of other people took part in the climate march and demanded climate justice, ecosystem protection, support for the increase of renewable energies and energy conservation, environmental education to all school levels, support for the climate action of the poorest countries, and a just transition.

The weather was crisp and beautiful. The crowd gathered at the Senate Square in front of the Helsinki Cathedral before the march. The sight of all those people attending was almost emotional. I was happy to be there with others who were worried about the state of our climate.

The young Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, 15, who has been in a school strike for climate since August this year, gave a moving speech before the march and urged decision-makers to act before its too late. She pointed out that the climate crisis has already been solved: we have the facts and the solutions. Now we only need to open our eyes and change ourselves.

At the Parliament House. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

At the Parliament House. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

Soon after Greta’s speech, the march proceeded from the Senate Square to the Parliament House. In front of the Parliament House, we heard speeches by Kaisa Kosonen, the Climate Policy Advisor at Greenpeace Nordic, Petra Laiti, the chair of Finnish Sámi Youth Organization Suoma Sámi Nuorat, and the politicians from eight parliamentary parties. Petra Laiti’s speech was very impressive. She reminded us all that as one of indigenous peoples in the Arctic region, the Sámi people are in the frontline of climate change. They have the best knowhow of their land so they should have a place in the decision-making when it comes to making sustainable decisions about the arctic nature. I hope that her speech made as powerful impression on the decision-makers on the scene as it did on me and on many others listening to it.

Before the march ended, I had an inspiring discussion with one other participant about what we ourselves can do for our planet. We agreed that using renewable energy, avoiding food waste, being vegans or vegetarians, and setting an example ourselves are some of the things we can do. On Saturday, there were many of us setting an example. The reports say that approximately 10 000 people participated in the march. It was the biggest climate march that had ever taken place in Finland. The aerial photos I saw online later that day looked amazing. I felt empowered with a renewed sense of hope for the future. I hope that the knowledge that so many people are worried about climate and our future and the future of our children will accelerate the actions we as a nation have to take to do our part in keeping the temperature below 1.5 C.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

Sources: IPCC, The New Yorker, Greta Thunberg’s speech (in English), Petra Laiti’s speech (in Finnish)



Can countries with different agendas unite in the face of climate change? How do you reach an agreement with the aim of limiting global warming when you have the countries whose economy thrives on fossil fuel industry and the countries that suffer most from the said industry’s consequences at the same table? Reaching a consensus on climate issues among countries with different interests has always seemed like a miracle which I did not expect to happen. Until it did. To get a better look at how it all came about, I went to see the film Guardians of the Earth at Helsinki Documentary Film Festival – DocPoint 2018.

Guardians of the Earth, directed by Filip Antoni Malinowski, tells the behind the scenes story of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, which was the 21st yearly meeting that finally resulted in the Paris Agreement, the first legally binding global climate deal. 195 countries and 20 000 negotiators took part in the climate change negotiations that lasted for a week and a half in Paris, France, in December 2015.

In the film, we get to see the story through the perspectives of several people from both developed and developing nations. Most of the time you feel like a fly on the wall watching things unfold. You get to see and hear the experts, activists, politicians and celebrities arguing their cause. Ultimately the goal has to be, as Laurent Fabius, the president of the summit, points out: there cannot be any country saying ‘no’.

Getting a glimpse of the mechanics of global negotiations was definitely one of the most interesting aspects of the film. If you haven’t been in global negotiations – and I’m pretty sure not many of us have – , you probably have no idea how they work. I had no previous knowledge of them so I didn’t know what to expect. To see the negotiators that represent different countries or groups of countries working towards an agreement, was a revelation of sorts. Still, at times it felt like saving the planet was not at the forefront of the summit. There was a lot of nitpicking over language of the agreement draft which made it look like as if some of the nations were trying to weaken their obligations. On several occasions I wanted to stomp my feet, facepalm or shout at the screen when sitting in the cinema audience.

What countries wanted to achieve, seemed to differ based on their wealth and link to fossil fuel industry. I was surprised that in the talks, the issues circled around economy and national self-interests instead of saving the planet and truly committing to taking action against climate change. You couldn’t be nothing but sympathetic towards the plight of the small island states such as the Seychelles. When your land mass is slowly being devoured by the rising sea level, your concern is not how to keep fossil fuel based economic growth of developed nations intact but how to save your people’s lives. I felt sad that the vulnerability of the nations most affected by global warming appeared to be often overlooked by those whose actions contributed to climate change. At times, solidarity seemed to be trumped by self-interests.

Despite having an aura of seriousness, Guardians of the Earth had its emotional moments. You could see the friendships of people who had worked towards the agreement for years, and you could also see the toll the fight was taking on the participants. Even though climate issues are a big deal for me, I could feel the enormity of the matter in a different manner than before. When the clock ticked forward and only a handful of hours were left to reach an agreement that was going to shape all our futures, the strain was quite visible in the faces we saw on screen. I was only sitting in the audience but at that moment, even for me, any other problem felt trivial in the face of losing our future.

It has been two years since the climate summit and it still feels a bit unreal that the countries actually came together and managed to seal a climate deal. Since then the US withdrawal from the agreement has thrown a shadow over it and it has made me think what it might do to our joint progress in the future if a major polluter of the world is not doing its part for the good of the planet. That being said, Guardians of the Earth left one very thoughtful viewer in its wake – uneasy but hopeful at the same time.

DocPoint 2018 took place from Jan 29th to Feb 4th 2018 in Helsinki, Finland and in Tallinn, Estonia.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno


The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Okko Meinilä

I have been following Climate Street since the spring 2016. My first thought when I found out about the project was: “This is interesting.” I was curious to see the residents and businesses of the street named as climate street trying out new things that aimed towards positively affecting both the living and working conditions of people as well as bringing forth ideas to fight climate change in the future. We at Global Senses were also thinking about participating in the Climate Street agile pilot competition last year but did not have enough time at that point. And of course, I was rooting for the project because I like to follow climate-friendly things happening in my city.

Climate Street is a project that aims towards climate change adapted low carbon city. The project was realised in Helsinki and Vantaa. Since I live in Helsinki, Iso Roobertinkatu street which was the climate street in Helsinki, made me curious. I wanted to find out what kind of collaborations, new ideas and events were taking place.

Both the residents and businesses at Iso Roobertinkatu street seem to have had interesting experiences. Climate Street organised a competition for agile pilot projects and then funded three projects which were realised in 2016. The residents of the street also got to try out appliances that saved energy and/or water in their homes. Apartment blocks got energy audits to find out the energy-saving possibilities of an apartment building. Real estate companies and housing co-operatives on the street monitored the buildings’ emissions and one apartment block even installed a solar power plant on their roof. In Climate Street bootcamp, businesses searched for ideas on how to move their businesses towards low carbon direction.

The residents of one building at Iso Roobertinkatu street generated ideas about cosier living conditions in Happy Housing Cooperatives Workshop organised by Dodo, a Finnish environmental organisation. Some of the better living conditions described by the residents were “empty cellar space turned into a wine cellar, cosy sitting area in the garden, beautiful and energy-efficient lighting systems” (Climate Street). Who wouldn’t want something like that for their living quarters?

Two of the three Climate Street funded agile pilots were concentrated on food. Zero Food Waste fought against food waste at supermarkets whereas Sustainable Meal helped restaurants and event planners to create and sell sustainable meals. The third pilot was Resource Efficient Existing Buildings (REEB) that aimed to develop new digital tools in order to help increase the space utilisation rate and advance the sharing of spaces, resource effectiveness and circular economy in the existing building stock.

In 2017, the project organised a competition for an ecologically efficient terrace. Helsinki city was looking for ways to lengthen the the restaurants’ and bars’ short summer terrace season here in the north and invited businesses, organisations, designers, engineers, architects and students to participate. The aim was to build the world’s first ecologically efficient terrace in Helsinki during the summer 2017.

What intrigued me the most of all in Climate Street were the energy saving devices and servives that the people living or working on Iso Roobertinkatu street got to test. I used to be wary of smart devices, and IoT (Internet of Things) is still a concept I am trying to grasp. But if I could control my home when I am away, for example, to see if my coffee maker or stove is on or off, I would have a lot more peace of mind. This is what Cozify does. It is a wireless smart home hub with which you can control your (smart) devices, safety of the house and lighting among other things. The other tested service that I found interesting was Fourdeg Smart Heating Cloud Service which maintains the desired temperatures in the rooms of an apartment with the help of smart thermostats. This kind of system would have been great to have back in my student days when I lived in apartments where you had to adjust the temperatures again and again with thermostats that did not want to co-operate.

The project is coming to an end this summer. The latests news from Climate Street tells us that the winners of the eco terrace competition have been chosen. While I wait for the ecologically efficient terraces to rise up in the city, I can go back to all those ideas that have taken root while I was following the project. Maybe I will try energy saving devices in my own home, explore what it’s like to control your coffee maker from afar or do my part in reducing food waste.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

Sources: Climate Street, City of Helsinki


Chili sin carne with spicy bulgur and cucumber strips. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

Can you make gourmet meals out of food waste? Eating at a restaurant where lunch is made of surplus food is a new experience to many. I explored this uncharted territory at Loop, the first food waste restaurant in Finland. If you are a person who lives sustainably but hasn’t really thought about the effects of food waste, you might be in for a surprise – and guilty conscience – when you find out that there is more food in the world than ever before but massive amounts of it still go to waste, overload our environment and accelerate climate change.

Food waste or surplus food is perfectly good edible food that ends up in trash. In grocery stores, it is not just food that has passed best-before dates but also weird-shaped and funny-looking vegetables, a little darkened fruits, or ingredients that consumers do no want. In Helsinki, these unpopular foods are turned into delicious restaurant meals at food waste restaurant Loop.

Loop is located in the idyllic, parklike surroundings of the former Lapinlahti Hospital in Helsinki. It came about as a part of a circular economy project, From Waste to Taste, that fights against climate change and food waste. The restaurant was created with the help of a crowdfunding campaign and it opened its doors in 2016. Since then it has turned surplus food into gourmet lunches, dinners and brunches.

Every morning From Waste to Taste project’s Food Resque car makes rounds at grocery stores in the neighbourhood and collects surplus food for Loop restaurant. Approximately 70-80% of the saved food is delivered to food charities. The meals at Loop are prepared by professional cooks, but following the aims of From Waste to Taste project, the restaurant also provides job opportunities for young people, refugees and others with difficulties in finding a job.

The restaurant offers lunch on weekdays, dinner on Friday nights and brunch on weekends. Some of the brunches are theme brunches. And here’s some good news to vegans: A vegan brunch has a permanent spot on the first and the third weekends of the month.

When I visited Loop, I chose a lunch called Waste du Jour. It includes a soup, a salad buffet, a warm main course and a dessert with coffee or tea. The other lunch choice is Soup du Jour which is the same except it does not include the warm main course. After paying for lunch and getting my food reservation number, I sat down and started with the salad buffet and soup.

The buffet had several choices. You could choose to have purely green salad, cabbage and cauliflower salad or pasta salad with tomatoes and pepper. Or you could have it all. This was my first food waste lunch so I decided to taste everything and have some bread on the side. All the salads as well as the bread were delicious. The pureed carrot soup brought the desired warmth with its gentle taste free of spice overload. I would guess that pureed soups are easier to make when you have limited amount of ingredients but I am hoping to get a chance to taste different kinds of soups on my next visits to Loop.

The main course for the day was chili sin carne with spicy bulgur. The food was beautifully laid out with bulgur on the bottom and cucumber strips resembling fettucine with basil leaves on top. It was fantastic. Onions, tomatoes and black beans infused with spices together with mild cucumber strips were a lovely balanced combination. Before the main course was delivered to the table, the waitress asked me if I was ready for it to be brought to me from the kitchen. Being taken care of in such a way was a nice touch to my lunch experience.

After indulging myself with my chili sin carne, I was curious to find out what was next. The dessert of the day was a pear pie, small croissants with jam, and a collection of fruits that could be enjoyed with tea or coffee. The pie and croissants were delightful and the fruits were fresh and not at all something that might be considered food waste. For beverage I chose tea since I am an afternoon tea and a morning coffee kind of person. On my visit, the tea served was black tea. There might be different sort of teas on different dates depending on the ingredients available. I hope one of my future visits to Loop will include green tea which is my favourite of all teas.

While eating my lunch at Loop, I thought about food waste. In Finland, grocery stores throw away more than 65 million kilos of food per year and the whole food chain produces as much as 400-500 million kilos of food waste. These numbers are rather breathtaking. And the burden on the environment is huge since a lot of resources throughout the production chain have already been invested in making food that now goes to waste.

Food waste has an impact on climate change which isn’t necessarily thought about often. Natural Resources Institute Finland reveals that yearly food wastage of Finnish households corresponds to the emissions of approximately 100 000 passenger cars. That is one massive carbon footprint made of food.

One could argue that all the food that is destined to go to waste should be transported to the countries that suffer from famine. The thought is wonderful, of course, but the reality is not as simple as that. A recent article on the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, points out that it is often countries facing war that suffer from famine. When countries are not at peace, it may be impossible to produce food amidst fighting or food aid may be blocked or sold by someone who benefits from it monetarily.

It is not easy to reduce food waste when more food than can be consumed is produced every year. Some food waste is inevitable but there are still heaps of food being unnecessarily thrown away. The connection between climate change and food waste should also be more clear. On a smaller scale, using surplus food to create new kinds of restaurant experiences and going on in an adventure as a customer to those restaurants are a couple of ways to make a difference.

On my daily life I often buy food that is in danger of getting thrown to the trash and use everything in my kitchen as best as I can. I know what I am eating and how old my food is. But eating in a food waste restaurant was a different experience. Before my lunch at Loop I got asked by a friend if I was sure I wasn’t going to get sick. It’s food waste after all. And I haven’t selected the ingredients myself as I do at home. I was not worried: I was thrilled! Yes, finally I am going to see and taste what Loop is all about. I am probably more adventurous with foods that have passed best-before dates all by myself than any restaurant so I was just happy to go and discover what Loop had to offer. And what I’ve learned from From Waste to Taste, only the ingredients that are suitable for eating will be used in Loop which is the same for any restaurant.

The food was delicious. I was completely taken by my lunch and woved to return. I hope Loop will attract new customers and just by its existence encourage people to rethink the way they see food waste and its significance for climate change. And did the food help me to have a better conscience compared to other lunches I’ve had? Well, yes it did. I also found myself thinking about my next grocery store run and how I would raid the store of red-labelled foods that are about to go to waste.

Ps. The newest from From Waste to Taste project is a crowdfunding campaign for Wasted beer that will be made from surplus bread. Check it out!

Written for Global  Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

Sources: Loop restaurant, From Waste to Taste, The Globe and Mail, Natural Resources Institute Finland