In anticipation of solastalgia* – a report from Helsinki’s Vartiosaari 23.8.2015

[*Solastalgia – the distress caused by environmental change]

Solastalgia, as I briefly mentioned earlier,  is caused above all by mega-scale devastation, for instance of the kind that happens when old (or current) industrial production facilities overspill their bounds. As we’ve been reading, yellow sludge in Colorado destroys life forms but it also breaks hearts and makes it harder to live. Arriving decades after industry has left, this is poison that’s not just escaped the spatial confines that were supposed to keep things in order, it’s messed with linear time too. It’s brought past troubles into the present.

But it wasn’t toxic sludge I wanted to blog about, but Helsinki’s seemingly irrational planning regime. That too, can cause a kind of solastalgia. Importantly, the damage is not done yet and the activists are still busy getting the message across that something uniquely precious is about to be squandered, an island of 82 hectares within Helsinki’s city limits on which wildlife and villa life flourish: NO CONCRETE JUNGLE IN VARTIOSAARI!

Ei betoniviidakkoa

The prospect of turning Vartiosaari into a sleepy suburb for 7 000 future residents leaves me lost for words. So, instead of them, a series of pictures taken today, Vartiosaari Day. Thank you to all those whose activity made today possible.

Waiting to be picked up from Reposalmentie

Waiting to be picked up from Reposalmentie where most of us arrived by bus or bicycle – only about 7km from the city centre

Picnic company is unimpressed by the proposed plans

Picnic company is unimpressed by the proposed plans

Many others still waiting to be shuttled to the island

Activists hung up information about the city's plans

Activists hung up information about the city’s plans

The old stalls - barn dance and nibbles and goat-petting

The old stalls – barn dance and nibbles and goat-petting

A day and a place for taking photographs

A day and a place for taking photographs

That

That “Sibelian” view

Ancient beacon hill

Ancient beacon hill

Views

Views

Photographing and talking, incredulous

Photographing and talking, incredulous

Lots of places to go on this not uninhabited island

Lots of places to go on this not uninhabited island

The biggest oak tree I've seen in Finland - they didn't cut down the forests around villas like they did everywhere else in Finland

The biggest oak tree I’ve seen in Finland – they didn’t cut down the forests around villas like they did everywhere else in Finland

Happy visitors waiting to be ferried back to the mainland by volunteers

Happy visitors waiting to be ferried back to the mainland by volunteers

More Vartiosaari information in Finnish here and and here facebook-based friends of the island here and a slightly out of date text in English by artists keen to prevent the madness from going further here. I will be there again next week to talk about nature, culture and our times.

P.S. Searching online I just found this well-informed and oh-so-beautifully written letter to the planning committee who discussed Vartiosaari in May this year. Well, well worth a read.

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