Aarne Granlund

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Episode Transcript:


Thank you for tuning into City Atlas TeenCast today. My name is Gabriel, and I’m a rising senior at Hunter College High School, and I’m from Manhattan.


My name is Adam Rudt. I’m also a rising senior at Hunter College High School and I’m also from Manhattan.


I’m Kevin, I’m also a rising senior Hunter College High School, and I’m from Queens.


So, this is the first episode of our podcast and we noticed that in our in our schools we don’t really talk about climate change that much. Maybe you’ll get it in a biology class, maybe you’ll talk about it at the lunch table, but there’s no real dialogue about it. So, in partnership with with City Atlas, Kevin, Gabriel and I decided to go on a journey of making a podcast where we interview different activists and hear what they have to say about climate change.


So on today’s episode we would like to welcome Mr. Aarne Granlund joining us from Finland. Can you introduce yourself, Aarne?


Thank you. So, my name is Aarne Granlund.

And I have a background in law actually, but I switched careers to climate action. And I was studying law before and then I finished my Master’s in law and then took another Master’s in climate policy in the Universities of the Arctic. So I went up to Norway to the Arctic to Iceland to study climate policy,  and then I was quite quickly hired to work at quite high level at Sitra Fund in Finland, the government think tank on climate change mitigation. I did that for one and a half years, and now I moved to the regions to pursue a career instead, more practical tangible climate action in the municipalities and in the regions.


Well, great yeah we’re so excited to have you today. And I’m really excited to hear about your experiences.


So today we’re just going to be talking about climate change, specifically in Finland which just to reiterate is where Aarne’s from. Actions individual people can take, the politics of climate change, and other topics.


If you’d like to start with, with a certain topic that you want to talk about, that’d be great, but we also have some questions for you, if you want to go for that.


Right. Yeah, well, recently. The reason actually why I moved moved out here from from the capital city was that the Finnish municipalities and regions have quite a strict reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions in the short term.

The national target is also quite seems quite ambitious, but I think the regional work the municipality work is more more tangible, more concrete.

The target is from 2010 levels; it’s minus 80% — eight zero percent — out to 2030. So, in the very near term we will see a lot of practical change in the regions, and this covers two million Finnish people.

For me I always wanted to kind of have this sort of more ambitious and really concrete way to approach this problem. Not just on a government and high politics level, to sort of have something to see and something to experience close by.

So that’s that’s something I’m really interested in, the regional, local work. 

But I also took part in developing this this lifestyle test.

In Finland, we’re a developed country, we’re very, quite a rich country, with high standards of living. So that creates a lot of lifestyle emissions, we call them sort of household emissions, connected to what people use their money to for, sort of that.

We calculated that 60 to 70% actually of the Finnish emissions profile — we’re 5.6 million people here in Finland — is connected to households. You know, how they live, how they heat their home, for example. Their electricity use. Mobility, transport, that’s the second sector. Food, obviously — nutrition is the third sector. The fourth sector is basically how you consume things. You know, like, what you buy, and do you buy a lot of stuff, do you waste it. Do you fly a lot. Stuff like that.

With all that kind of profile we get about 10 tonnes per person on the average in Finland. That should drop to 2.5 tonnes within 10 years.


Is that tonnes of carbon emissions?


Tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent so we got rid of the other gases as well. Carbon dioxide is the is the major problem but we also have emissions from agriculture such as you know methane, and also other other gases that we calculated. But obviously it’s the most important thing is to get the cumulative carbon dioxide emissions to near zero.

Or zero, if possible.


So can you explain a little bit as to why…like, what what the harm of carbon emissions are? The harm of carbon emissions, greenhouse gases — people people throw around these terms a lot and I just want to make sure we clarify them.


Well, in a very simplified way, you know, humanity has a huge influence on the way this planet functions, at a big scale. There are 7.5 or 7.6 billion people on Earth.

And we burn a lot of fossil fuels for energy. By energy I mean, all kinds of energy, not just electricity. So this is, often people kind of think that if we build more solar power and wind power then we’re solving, actively solving this problem, but we also use oil. So in mobility and transport. So it’s a simplified version of it, but it’s mostly how it is.

So, cumulatively we’ve been emitting a lot of carbon, as a society, as, as a developed industrialized world, and the carbon dioxide that we emit, that we we burn as fossil fuels, it accumulates in the climate system. By climate system, I mean the atmosphere, the oceans and also the land biosphere. So, the problem in the long term is that while we burn and while we emit, the accumulated sum of carbon in the system raises both the temperature of the oceans and also the lower atmosphere. And this causes all kinds of problems.

But, you know, all kind of nations in the world came together in the Paris agreement to say that we want to limit the rise of average temperature of the planet to a certain level. So, two degrees [Celsius] is like the absolute maximum that science says that beyond that we have catastrophic and irreversible impacts in the climate system that we cost, right. So, and also we want to pursue the 1.5 degrees, average from the pre industrial so we are already very close to that average, and if we keep on emitting.

If we don’t have zero emissions during the century, we will cross both 1.5 degrees and two degrees. And that will cause massive disruption. So that’s, that’s the short framing of climate action. We need to get the emissions to zero on a global level.


And also enhance the uptake of carbon in the biosphere, that we control. During this century.


So, now, just to add a kind of a follow up from that, connecting it to when you said around, I think 60 to 70% of emissions in Finland are just from humans [individual lifestyles]. And I know you said there’s a difference based on people’s lifestyle, and we know that you have transitioned to a low carbon lifestyle. So, what are like the largest differences between people who are richer — and therefore maybe you have more emissions — and people who have less emissions?



Well it’s good question, because up to a certain level it’s really not that much about how much money you spend on, on how much you consume and stuff.

You need to have, most people have, people have necessary services that they need. They need to live somewhere, in a house which is heated in Finland obviously during winter, and many people are reliant on personal cars here, because the distances are  quite long. Although many people don’t really kind of think about the driving, they drive a two kilometer distance.

But, but also we need to eat and we need to have, you know basic amenities, core consumption like food and stuff like that. But also, you know, furniture.

So that gets you about seven to eight tonnes, close to the Finnish average, 10 tonnes. Right. So if you really need, if you really want to kind of think about these things and really lower your kind of personal contribution, then you have to think about all the four sectors.

Basically, the housing — for example, for my housing. I live in, in a, in a flat dinner in a kind of a kind of semi detached house, so it’s like a flat top one storey house where they’ll go with like solar panels on the roofs and, and also in the winter like we have around obviously we have geothermal heating so basically the heating is electric and it just goes deep into the ground and sort of lifts up the heat from the ground and sort of circulated around, around the plant so that’s, that’s a good question. We always think about that. If you make the conversion from electricity to heat or to cooling that’s always a good idea, right. So that’s my housing.


I still drive. And then I have a hybrid car, which I use for fishing trips and sort of outdoor stuff, and things like that, so it’s like four liters per hundred kilometers. I don’t know what that gallons are in the US. It’s a very energy efficient car.


For reference, that’s about 50 miles per gallon, more than twice the US average of about 25 miles per gallon. That’s a pretty energy-efficient car.


And I think I guess the food part, I haven’t really been that active on. I still eat industrial meat, sometimes maybe once or twice a week.

But I live in the middle of nature in a way so I can go and fish on my own. And there’s some sort of local sustainable products being developed as well. It’s not just not just like people going out fishing on their own but it’s also kind of system. We are systematically harvesting the resources which are under value, for example, the kind of fish that people don’t regularly eat. So that there’s their industrial process that want to harvest them and market them all. Everywhere.

Food is one thing, but also it’s kind of this — this is the way you think about consumption.


I don’t feel that I need a lot of stuff, I think having stuff is just kind of boring. You know, I mean, it’s usually low quality when you buy the stuff nowadays from stores, I mean I have everything set of us, basic set of amenities and everything I had my flat. I have an electric smoker, I smoke my fish and stuff like that, and also washing machine and everything so it’s not like I’m not living in a cave or anything — like this is just a regular middle class lifestyle. And I quit flying because obviously you know, if you fly, one flight, like one intercontinental flight, that’s like at least my whole emissions, during like one day. And so that’s like the biggest thing I guess that’s mostly, how I kind of got to this level going on.


We sure have enjoyed our talk with Aarne so far, and we hope you have enjoyed listening to it. Now for a quick music break before we wrap up the episode with our second half.

And here we are, back with Aarne.


So, just on the other end from your perspective, have you faced any challenges of lowering your carbon emissions, like living a more low key lifestyle?


Well, that’s kind of an interesting question. I mean I was in the national news — they interviewed me and everything, and that was one question. They wanted to challenge me about, you know, that. How is it possible to live like that.

Most of the choices are available to pretty much everyone. Also, if you sort of are not a wealthy person — when I moved  from Helsinki to out to the countryside, my rent was split in half.

You know, because the countryside is emptying out. It’s the same phenomenon perhaps in the US, that you know people are moving to the bigger cities and so they’re promoting the growth of cities. Then there you have very small flats, which cost a lot.

And so what I’ve been explaining is that I’ve mostly gained from this. Think about this in a traditional way of of thinking about progress that when I moved on to the region’s, immediately I got a few job offers. Because people are interested like ‘why did you do this?’ And this region is really ambitious on climate climate stuff. And also I have a bigger flat, I have my own sauna, I have a front yard. You know, I mean it’s like, I cannot honestly say that something’s been difficult. Maybe, like — when I used to live in Helsinki, a lot of my friends were this kind of these people who wanted to have a have an international career and travel a lot and spend a lot of money. And their focus on life was kind of external, if you know what I mean. They were into this kind of consumption and stuff like that, which was like there was some friction sometimes when you know people are saying that, yeah I flew to Bali five times. Really cool. And I was like, Have you looked at the news? Like it’s really strange. Now we have this big, big crisis and you’re just like spending the carbon budget for that. So that must be a bit difficult but I don’t see that problem here in the region side.

People live quite sustainably, even if they’re not like reading or left wing or whatever and it’s like my neighbor like he’s a fisherman and he’s like, are you green? I’m like no I’m not. ‘Then well okay we’re friends.’ Well, fishing, sort of have that answer the question.


And when, when you take this approach, are you hoping — obviously your motivation is to reduce carbon emissions, but is it a personal motivation? Do you hope to inspire other people? It’s not like  you as a single person is not going to save the world.


That’s not. Yeah,


So then, could you explain a little more about your motivation?


So I mean, the reason why I made these kind of drastic changes and changed my social setting, was that I became aware of how difficult this problem is and how imminent the problem is, and how difficult it is to act on it. We are not seeing much sort of action in terms of of consumption and stuff like that. So I just felt like okay, this is something that — if I’m going to tell other people to tell society to do something, I need to do it myself.

But also, this was kind of a strategic choice as well, on the high level that I used to work. We also wanted to not just lobby the politicians and governments and businesses. We wanted to sort of in a bottom up way inspire regular people and citizens to think about their contribution.


Sometimes people are saying that okay yeah it’s sort of, it’s kind of an individualist way of approaching this problem. Or, you know, the oil companies saying that you should reduce your driving or something.

Then it’s weird but this also comes from a government think tank, and you know our test — it has the lifestyle test and everything on it and it’s just sort of suggests  healthier cheaper ways to live. So it’s sort of, it’s not like — there’s no judgment in it or anything like that. So I was thinking like okay yeah I want to live like that. 


Why not. I mean, it’s just improved my quality of life. To be honest, I mean, and that’s the reason. But also, then obviously, the media is interested in someone is moving like this — for this reason why did you move to, you know, North Karelia in the middle of nowhere.

For this reason, so I was explaining them like my personal choices but the most important thing I told them that’s definitely not about just you know individual choices right, everybody would have to make them in order for us to see anything in the in the macro scale, you know, they’ve done emissions and stuff, but it makes the message, quite tangible and if you do it yourself, you know you’re really kind of it’s easier to be relate to you. Right. So for example, it’s usually a person who votes for the green sort of left wing looks really like a hippie guy in the news, talking about these things.


When they were interviewing me I was like what we might fly fishing gear, you know, like fishing and stuff. Yeah, and a lot of conservatives were like okay he seems like an adult, but people like you don’t have to quit this that and that and that quitting, life is horrible. It’s like, Look life can be alright you can have a regular life with like, you know, low emissions. So that’s what I kind of wanted to also. That’s the reason why I agreed to the kind of personal way of treating it so they kind of told the story for one person, which is, I was kind of.


I didn’t like it before but I think this this case was very interesting. So, and I also told them that you know the real reason why I wanted to move to the regions was that I see more concrete reduction here. It’s really I mean people are cycling during the winter, it’s crazy here. They are building a huge, you know, wind farm. You know the local supermarket chain is the biggest employer in North Korea it’s like a huge company so and then, you know, putting solar panels on 30 shops. And so it’s really tangible, that’s, that’s kind of nice.



Thank you for tuning in to our first episode, which is our first segment of our talk with Aarne, we touched on Aarne’s life, mainly focusing on his experiences moving from Helsinki. the capital of Finland, to rural region North Karelia, where there’s more concrete action on climate change. And at the end we touched on his motivations to lower his carbon emissions. Thank you for listening to City Atlas TeenCast today. And make sure to tune into our other episodes.



Follow Aarne Granlund on Twitter