In the small Finnish village of Selkie, villagers and locally-based YLNM members the Snowchange Cooperative are working to rescue their watershed from the impacts of a local peat mine.
In Selkie, a new 30-minute film from Pretty Good Productions, the story of this remarkable village unfolds, exploring local identity, the importance of place and tradition, and how saving one thing means the survival of others.
“Despite all of the damages, it’s still a paradise,” says Tero Mustonen, head of Selkie Village, president of Snowchange and YLNM Coordinator for the Arctic, as he thinks about his home village and it’s surrounding environment.
The damages Tero refers to are a national phenomenon in Finland. They began following the Second World War, when Finland was forced to pay a 300 million dollar war-debt to Russia. A period of rapid industrialisation to fund the repayments followed, including the draining of over half the country’s marshlands for timber farming, agriculture, and peat mining – a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
As Finnish people migrated from villages to more populated areas during this period, they also suffered a loss of fisheries and traditional knowledge dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Many also lost something else precious- hope.
Referring to the impacts peat mines have caused in their own villages, lakes and rivers, people from elsewhere in Finland tell Kaisu Mustonen, also of Snowchange, that “It’s a very good thing that you’re doing, but you’ll never win.”
“They feel like there’s no way to change these things,” says Kaisu.
But although rural communities in Finland have few resources to challenge state-controlled forestry and mining companies, Kaisu, Tero, and the villagers of Selkie have shown that this power can be challenged and ecosystems restored.
After two major pollution events caused by peat mining in 2010 and 2011, the people of Selkie came together to close down the mine for good. Since then, they have taken it upon themselves to develop a new form of co-management to revive areas damaged by the mining and other industrial activities. This process has brought “new thinking – good thinking” to the village, and planted the seeds of change for an entire country.
By merging traditional knowledge and practices with science and contemporary policy the people of Selkie have created a thoroughly modern approach to healing the damages of the past century – an approach that can be replicated world-wide as we respond to a changing climate.
Selkie shows how one small community can not only stop destructive mining, but also begin to restore the living ecosystems that sustain life on Earth and the knowledge that can enable us to live well within our planet’s limits.
The film is an inspiration to all those resisting mining and seeking to live out and/or create regenerative alternatives. See more here.