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Harri Lammi

Harri Juhani Lammi
Born December 3, 1971

Master of Arts, University of Helsinki (theoretical philosophy)
Phd student in environmental politics 2001–05, University of Tampere

Senior campaigner (carbon) 2014–, adisor to the Chinese climate and energy campaign 2011–14, manager of the China Office’s carbon campaign team 2011–13, Programme Director of Greenpeace Nordic 2006–11, energy campaign officer 2000–02, Greenpeace
Part time lecturer 2003, researcher 2000, University of Tampere

Founder and board member of the windpower company Lumituuli Oy 1998–2000
Board member 1998–99, Friends of the Earth Finland
Vice-chairman 1997–98, Dodo ry

Photo: Salla Tuomivaara
Written by Harri Lammi (Tiia Niemelä, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Problems with the environmental debate

In the environmental debate, the problems are pessimism, cynicism and the view that environmental destruction is inevitable, which is also the defence mechanism that people employ when faced with unpleasant environmental news. In my own 20 years of experience, pessimism in the face of challenges is completely wrong, but it is one of the largest obstacles in the environmental debate. Throughout history, discussion on the future has often shaped the course of development. If our dominant way of talking about the future is dystopian, I fear that it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Although the problems are certainly serious, there is much that we can do about them, and often much more is being done about them than people realise. For one reason or another, these positive developments are not reported in the media as often as negative developments. For example, in the fight to mitigate climate change our ability to respond collectively and produce solutions has grown. The work against the use of fossil fuels in different countries has grown into a global movement which is already shaking up the world of finance, which directs energy investments. The development of renewable sources of energy, which began as a fringe sport, has rapidly grown to answer the energy needs of even the world’s larger nations. Nevertheless, there are also growing trends in the opposite direction. These are changes to ecosystems brought about by environmental destruction, which threaten to increase emissions and the rear-guard action of the power structures benefiting from the use of fossil fuels. We are fighting against time, often in a situation where the general public imagines that the battle is already lost.

in a Shanghai skyscraper. China’s environmental decisions are of critical importance to the world. That is why the opportunity to work in China has been one of my most rewarding experiences.

As Greenpeace’s programme director between 2006 and 2011, I was responsible for Nordic campaigns and a team of around 70 people in four countries. That time brought home to me the differences and similarities between the Nordic countries in the environmental debate. Each country has its own painful environmental issue: in Finland forestry and nuclear power, in Denmark fishing and agriculture, in Norway oil extraction and whaling. The atmosphere of the debate can be different, but the dynamic is still similar. For painful issues, positions in the debate easily become entrenched. In Finland I attempted to highlight the risks of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant project before its approval: costs and construction time far exceeding estimations. This was based on the problems of previous nuclear power projects abroad, but no one wanted to discuss them in Finland at that time. Often, even well-founded criticism falls on deaf ears, because instead of concentrating on the message, the focus is on the messenger. Our society would benefit from listening to different actors and from genuine discussion, rather than just sniping from the trenches.

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