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Finland experienced a severe recession as a result of banking crises in early 1990s. Hundreds of thousands of people found themselves without jobs. Many lost all their property. While the banks were saved, 60,000 people were left in a long term debt trap.

In the middle of the recession Europe’s second largest pulp producer Metsä-Botnia was planning a pulp mill investment in Rauma. Permitting was handled effectively and rationally. An investment decision was made. The project started to radiate work and prosperity to the hard hit Finland’s west coast area. This could be seen as a turning point from the recession.

Finland joined the European Union in the beginning of 1995.

Now Europe and Finland seem to be heading towards rough times. Unfortunately productive investments that could help us out have become difficult to make. Project permitting processes have become burdensome and time consuming. The body of environmental regulations has ballooned. The capricious application of environmental rules has become an issue for those engaged in productive activities.

An effective and rational justice system is important for a healthy economy. Timing is a key factor for investment activity. The last place an investor wants to be with a project is ensnared in a regulatory bramble watching his money burn with only a vague clue on how to untangle himself and escape across a minefield of unmanageable risk. European environmental bureaucracy is one reason why those investing in productive activities are looking elsewhere. Jobs and prosperity are disappearing.

I am a McGraw-Hill science author and I hold a doctorate in engineering. My work as an independent consultant focuses on coastal, off-shore and arctic engineering, as well as on environmental impact assessment. I approach problems from an analytical perspective and my professional views are the result of broad international experience.

Since childhood, I have also been an avid hiker, fisher and bird-watcher. I find nature a wonderful source of inspiration. Yet in the forty-odd years I have rambled around this country, the actual environmental changes caused by people seem generally modest and for the most part positive. The nature is cleaner and richer and the number of bird species I encounter has increased. Generally speaking, the Finnish environment is in better shape than it was forty years ago.

Given my personal experience, I initially was confused as it became increasingly frustrating to work with environmental officials, who would take miniscule environmental details and blow them up into major issues. Strange interpretations of new environmental legislation and guidelines trumped simple arithmetic and common sense as administrative subordinates where forced into submission.

In my naivety, I spent years trying to educate the bureaucrats on the relative magnitude of environmental issues and their significance to nature’s own processes. These efforts fell on deaf ears – something that made little sense, given that under both EU law and Finnish law, the proportionality principle is a cornerstone of environmental legislation. And Finland prides itself on being a justice society.

John Kenneth Galbrait’s book The Anatomy of Power made a big impression on me. The psychological and sociological processes underlying bureaucratic thinking and the exercise of power explained to a large degree what was happening in environmental policy. At issue is not the rational pursuit of the common good, but rather a gold rush mentality among environmental politicians and bureaucratic institutes staking claims in a new emerging sphere of power.

Environmental matters of huge importance to us such as climate change are deliberately conflated and confused with minor issues. Science institutions and mass media contribute to this process because it serves their interest also. The costs and other harms inflicted on direct victims of power abuse, on society, and on third parties have so far been largely ignored.

During the last five years much of my spare time has been devoted to studying the literature on social psychology and power and analyzing developments from this perspective. There was no shortage of material. Finnish mass media was a rich source of manipulation examples. Concrete cases of power abuse and violation of the proportionality principle kept pouring into my office.

The first revision of this study was published in Finnish in 2007. It was received with great enthusiasm. Finally somebody stood up and focused on the madness of environmental bureaucracy. People also pointed out, that other bureaucratic branches exhibited similar symptoms.

There were also different kinds of voices. Some people working in public administration, in the environmental science community and in the green movement considered me as a man following his own path or one with a mindset focused on economic values only with no respect for ecological values. I was even branded a conspiracy theorist.

Others questioned who has financed this effort. They found it difficult to believe that somebody would go to so much effort – and risk the career consequences – simply in pursuit of scientific inspiration and of love for freedom and justice.

In complicated issues like environmental policy, there is no single objective truth but many sides of the truth. This report examines environmental policy from a perspective that has been largely suppressed in Western and especially in the Nordic democracies as politically incorrect.

I do not see myself a conspiracy theorist. Instead I have trust in the lessons of sociology. History is rich with examples of how manipulation, guilt and ideology have been used to distort reality for the concentration of power. There is a need for reasonable forward-looking behavior and acting in a responsible manner. However, the ideology of “sustainable development” is used to submit us to irrational acts of power.

Democracy requires constant vigilance of our own beliefs as well as a willingness to publicly and openly confront the most difficult challenges facing our society. It is the goal of this work to inform average citizens, politicians, administrators, scientists, and the business community on the relative magnitude of the environmental impacts of various phenomena, measures and activities.

My hope is that this book will generate discussion and rise awareness of how we are manipulated. Perhaps this will help us to concentrate our limited resources on managing the most significant environmental problems in a rational, cost-effective way and put aside the less important issues and turf wars. I also seek to offer a path to reducing the regulatory and bureaucratic burdens now imposed for minor environmental issues.

However, making real difference would require changing the system. More specifically Europe and Finland should find ways to deal with excessive concentration of bureaucratic power and cognitive dissonance, i.e. the tendency of our political and administrative elite to turn policy errors into mistakes. I am not optimistic, though. The present setting is very good in serving the narcissistic needs of those with real power and in blurring their accountability. The great opportunities of European co-operation are turning into a bureaucratic burden on its people.

I would like to wholeheartedly thank the many public officials, experts and friends who have offered their insights and experience at all stages of this decade long research effort. I am also grateful to those who have pushed me to deepen and refine my original premise. They are too many to mention. Finally I thank Greg Moore for editing help, Pietari Visanti for artistic design of the figures and Leena-Marjut Rautio for technical production assistance.

Espoo September 15, 2008 Esa Eranti