A Faustian pact in Finland

A Faustian pact in Finland.

For those who have been following our tale we went to the opera in East Finland a few days ago and saw a production of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. It is one of the composer’s racier offerings, managing to say all it needs to say  in a mere three hours including intervals.

What interests me most about the opera, is a certain parallel between our current situation and the opera story, which is based around a tale of a seafarer, who rounding the Cape of Good Hope, wished for a storm to speed his ship. The Devil granted his wish, also made his ship unsinkable and piled it with unimaginable treasures, but of course at a cost. This was that he continue to go everywhere in a storm at high speed, never stopping except once every seven years, where he was to perform some impossible task.

The parallel is common to many basking in the joys of long service travel- the dream that it could go on forever. We are now two weeks into our trip and we have been in Finland a little over one. Hong Kong and Macau now seem a lifetime away as we seem compelled by the unseen hand of an imagined  timetable to plough ever onward. We have already completed some great things here, getting to the opera for one, and then our day of hard paddling on the Squirrel Route, but we are also becoming aware of being careful about what we wish for.

Last night we were unable to sleep in out hotel due to the temperature, which at 24 degrees at midnight was not what we expected at latitude 62. Our hotel like most of the buildings in this town called Jyvaskyla, were either designed by its most famous son, the influential architect Alvar Aalto, or are clones of his designs. His creations from the 1920s onwards feature the flat roofed, shoebox, with aluminium windows design that have become so popular with developers from the 1960s onwards.

Our hotel was one of these and it was impossible to sleep because it was so hot. Today was approaching 30 degrees and like many in town we went to one of the town’s lake beaches with families and beautiful young things. Blondes, believable and unbelievable. Probably like many people we found indoors unbearable. The windows might be sealed and triple glazed to keep in warmth, but they don’t seem to work so well when the thermometer is at the other extreme. Triple glazing and thick curtains do not keep out the heat from a blazing sun.

Before they were converted to Lutheranism, in about the 16th century, Finns used to worship a sun god and like many Scandanavians, they still do, peeling down and basking in any warmth they can find and they have probably always wished for a warmer climate. So now with global warming it looks like they might get it and they too appear to be realising they should have been more careful about their wishes.

Apart from having an electric sauna in nearly every home, they appear to be vastly more environmentally conscious than Australians, Bikes and public transport are more popular than at home and they are managing to keep their population for the whole country to that of Victoria, they don,t seem to have many kids and I have only seen about four pregnant women.

So with all this in mind, in two days we go to see what some Finns believe is a piece of environmental salvation, while to others it believe is the most infernal Faustian pact of all- the world’s most advanced but still uncompleted Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power station in west Finland. Through the Finnish Embassy in Canberra, I was able to arrange a tour for us of the construction and to see how the existing older power plants work.

They have arranged one of their senior scientists to show them around and we will be treated to lunch. After it is over, let’s hope the only things glowing are our reports.

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