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
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
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
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