Text: Sommer Ackerman
Helsinki city will begin to cut down Honkasuo forest in February. They will cut down around 3 acres in order to build new ‘sustainable’ housing. However, does this not contradict the values of sustainability? To cut down a forest is to remove biodiversity, to remove habitats and release emissions. This seems like a rather ironic and hypocritical message. Another important question to ask is: what will happen to all the wood cut down? It will be most likely turned into pulp or burned for energy, which again, isn’t very sustainable.
The criteria for sustainability is built of three pillars which are economic, environmental and social. In this case, it seems that the economic factor is being prioritised over the environmental and social aspects. Helsinki city has already been critizsed for poor land use in regards to building new housing. It also seems nonsensical and hypocritical to me how there is upset around the lack of infrastructure and economy in rural areas and yet plan to populate the biggest city in Finland more at the expense of the last remaining nature.
There are flying squirrels in the area, which ELY (Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment) has granted the city an exemption for felling trees in these area. Last year they began to build a road through this forest, which is the same year that forest mappers went looking for the presence of flying squirrels and did not find any.
The cutting down of this forest is a true shame, it is an ecological corridor for other species, placed in the centre of a forest crossroad, which affects things like the movement of habitats of species. In November, city councillors expressed their regret for the destruction of this forest saying that “the damage is done” and “hopefully this will never happen again”. However, it keeps happening time and time again and this is why forests are declining in urban areas.
Last year I moved directly outside of Honkasuo forest, this was also the start of me learning to love and care for forests. Moving to this new apartment hit me with a depressive spell, I did not have a lot of friends in this area and I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing in life. Before this, I had been living in rural areas for the past several years, where I could walk amongst nature and hear the sounds of birds and the rustling of trees. When I felt moments of sadness this forest was always there for me, it was the friend I needed, it taught me to connect with nature in ways that I hadn’t done before.
I learnt to find forest species, inside this forest was one of the very first times I learned how to make a forest inventory. We ended up finding rakkosammal, a near threatened moss and lahokaviosammal which is an endangered moss. Aside from this, we found evidence of old-growth indicators which show the value of this forest.
Throughout the year I would walk in this forest and count all the different birds I saw; how many squirrels passed by and take photos of all the different fungi that I encountered. This is a place where I would pass people walking their dogs, see kids riding their bikes and people spending much needed time with nature. Without this forest, the local access to nature is limited and this is detrimental not just to biodiversity but also to people’s mental health.
With the construction of the road going on, slowly the forest became no longer peaceful. Every time I walked through it; I would hear the sounds of hammering mixed with the sound of birdsong. I would hear the sound of children laughing mixed into the sounds of drilling. The capitalist notions of the city slowly crept into this haven, slowly driving biodiversity out and leaving people and nature with nowhere to go. The more I walked through the forest that year, the less I would hear bird song because they had been driven away by destruction.
Finland is a country that prides on its forest, but yet they are trying their best to destroy them all. I think that it is time that it is stopped.