Pentti Linkola finds it almost inconceivable that, despite all contrary evidence, an intelligent individual might still have faith in man and the majority, and keep banging his head against the wall. Why won’t such a person admit that the survival of man – when nature can take no more – is possible only when the discipline, prohibition, enforcement and oppression meted out by another clear-sighted human prevents him from indulging in his destructive impulses and committing suicide?

Pentti Linkola, Can Life Prevail?, Arktos Media, 2009.

read it at Google Books 


www.penttilinkola.com/

This is the first-ever collection of essays by Pentti Linkola, a controversial figure in his native Finland, to appear in English. It is available in both softcover and hardback editions. Linkola's interest is in the environmental crisis, but unlike most authors on the subject, he does not propose simple solutions such as recycling or electric cars. Rather, for Linkola, the root of the problem lies in the nature of modern civilisation itself, and only by a complete transformation of it can there be any hope for survival.

With the train of civilization hurtling at ever-increasing speed towards self-destruction, the most pressing question facing humanity in the 21st century is that of the preservation of life itself. Can Life Prevail? provides a radical yet firmly grounded perspective on the ecological problems threatening both the biosphere and human culture. With essays covering topics as diverse as animal rights, extinction, deforestation, terrorism and overpopulation, Can Life Prevail? makes the lucid, challenging writing of Linkola available to the English-speaking public for the first time. "By decimating its woodlands, Finland has created the grounds for prosperity. We can now thank prosperity for bringing us - among other things - two million cars, millions of glowing, electronic entertainment boxes, and many unneeded buildings to cover the green earth. Surplus wealth has led to gambling in the marketplace and rampant social injustice, whereby 'the common people' end up contributing to the construction of golf courses, five-star hotels, and holiday resorts, while fattening Swiss bank accounts. Besides, the people of wealthy countries are the most frustrated, unemployed, unhappy, suicidal, sedentary, worthless and aimless people in history. What a miserable exchange." -Pentti Linkola Kaarlo Pentti Linkola was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1932. Having spent most of his life working as a professional fisherman, he now continues to lead a simple existence in the country. A renowned figure in Finland, Linkola has published numerous books and essays on environmentalism since the 1960s. Today, he is among the foremost exponents of the philosophy of deep ecology.

Years ago, “deep ecologist” Andrew McLaughlin (a follower of Arne Naess) produced an essay titled “For a Radical Ecocentrism.” It’s an explicitly political piece, arguing for how the principles of deep ecology are compatible with left wing progressivism. (The essay even includes one section titled “What Deep Ecology Offers Social Progressives.”) McLaughlin and others like him are, of course, fervent egalitarians and advocates of “direct democracy.” And McLaughlin agonizes for pages on end about the problem of awakening “the people” to the ecological crisis they face and getting them to “organize” and do something.
The elephant in the corner of McLaughlin’s geodesic dome is, of course, the problem of whether the ecological crisis really can be solved democratically (he and others like him are quite willing to see capitalism sacrificed in order to save the earth — and rightly so — but for them democracy is the holy of holies). At one point in his essay McLaughlin compares ecologists to the abolitionists who ended slavery in America. He is honest enough to admit, however, that the abolitionists ultimately only triumphed through the use of force.
Enter Pentti Linkola, the controversial Finnish thinker who has the obvious solution to McLaughlin’s conundrum: the environmental crisis cannot be solved democratically, because human nature always plays democracy for a fool. The vast majority of people think only of their narrow, short-term self-interest, of their personal comfort, security, and satisfaction. And they vote accordingly. Saving the planet from the depredations of modern, consumerist culture will require self-sacrifice and austerity. But the majority will never go for that. In order to save the planet, we must therefore bid farewell to democracy.
Linkola writes
I find it almost inconceivable that, despite all contrary evidence, an intelligent individual might still have faith in man and the majority, and keep banging his head against the wall. Why won’t such a person admit that the survival of man – when nature can take no more – is possible only when the discipline, prohibition, enforcement and oppression meted out by another clear-sighted human prevents him from indulging in his destructive impulses and committing suicide? How can such a person justify democracy? (p. 139) And here is an even stronger statement:
Stupidity reaches a climax among those people who argue – without having learnt a thing from history or being able to read a single sign of our times – that man knows what is good for him: “the people know.” From this absurd assumption derives a suicidal form of government, parliamentary democracy, born among the tyrants of mankind, the West. Alas it looks like the bubble of democracy will never burst: as we struggle to enter the new millennium, we can abandon all hope. (p. 159) And I cannot resist quoting a third, magnificent passage:
Democracy is the most miserable of all known societal systems, the building block of doom. Under such a system of government unmanageable freedom of production and consumption and the passions of the people are not only tolerated, but cherished as the highest values. The most serious environmental disasters occur in democracies. Any kind of dictatorship is superior to democracy, for a system where the individual is always bound one way or another leads to utter destruction more slowly. When individual freedom reigns, humanity is both the killer and the victim. (p. 174) Americans remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that the European Right has always been “environmentalist” (a position they associate exclusively with leftism). “Eco-Fascists” have been around for a very long time. It is one of Linkola’s great virtues to show unequivocally that the approach of the Left, with its emphasis upon democracy, egalitarianism, and multiculturalism, is completely incapable of addressing our present ecological perils. The trouble with leftists like McLaughlin, of course, is that they love their fantasy vision of the future more than they actually want to save the planet. Or, perhaps more to the point, it may be that they hate those who would be displaced and disenfranchised by that fantasy future more than they love the earth. (Yet another case of leftists proving they are simply those who are incapable of loving their own.)

Pentti Linkola
For many years Linkola (born in 1932) was known only within Finland, his work (except for a few short essays) untranslated. Now Integral Tradition Publishing (publishers of several works by Julius Evola) have brought out a volume of Linkola’s writings in English, under the title Can Life Prevail? A Radical Approach to the Environmental Crisis. (This is a translation of a collection published in Finnish and titled Voisiko Elämä Voittaa.) It brings together a number of relatively short essays by Linkola on a variety of topics, divided into sections such as “Finland,” “Forests,” and “Animals.” The key subdivision of the book, and the one containing Linkola’s most controversial statements, is the fourth one, “The World and Us.” My review will deal almost exclusively with the material in that section.
There is one claim for which Linkola is particularly notorious, and that is his insistence that the planet cannot be saved without a drastic reduction in the world’s population:
It is worth stressing once more that the chief cause for the impending collapse of the world – the cause sufficient in and by itself – is the enormous growth of the human population: the human flood. A secondary cause that is accelerating the process of devastation is the increasing burden that each new member of the population brings upon nature. (p. 127) How can we reduce the world’s population? Linkola advocates limiting the number of children couples can have, as well as cutting off all aid to Third World countries, including an end to all African aid. This is so that, quite simply, nature might take its course and thin out the human herd. He has also been known to muse wistfully about the beneficial effects of natural disasters, and deliberate nuclear and biological attacks on major cities.
However, Linkola’s message is not limited to insisting that the population must be reduced. In the same volume, he states that it is patently absurd to think that the earth could continue to bear its human population without “a dramatic change such as the abandonment of the whole [of the modern] Western culture and way of life” (pp. 128–29). The “deep ecologists” like Naess and McLaughlin also advocate a radical critique – indeed, abandonment – of modern Western culture, but they do not go far enough. Linkola calls upon us to face the fact that modernity is unsustainable, including our modern social and political ideals and institutions.
Though Linkola never says anything (so far as I know) about race, he does oppose the immigration of Third-Worlders into the Western, industrialized nations. He does so for a very simple reason: letting more people into the modern, industrialized nations means that the mechanisms of modern industry will have to expand to accommodate them. And he is keenly aware that the immigrant birthrate vastly exceeds that of the native, Western populations: “There is no use counting the immigrants at the border: one should wait a while and look in their nurseries” (p. 130).
Further, Linkola argues that the egalitarianism that prevails in Western, democratic societies is also incompatible with ecological responsibility, primarily because it leads to overpopulation. It is on this point that Linkola makes some of his strongest, and most controversial statements. For example: “On a global scale, the main problem is not the inflation of human life, but its ever-increasing, mindless over-valuation. Emphasis on the inalienable right to life of fetuses, premature infants and the brain-dead has become a kind of collective mental disease” (p. 137). He goes on to lament the fact that capital punishment has been eliminated in most Western countries, as even the most heinous criminals are deemed to have a “right to life.” Amusingly, he rails against Finland’s (and other countries’) herculean and hugely expensive attempts to rescue “every mad fisherman who has ventured into a storm with a boat made of bark, thus salvaging another unique and irreplaceable individual from the embrace of the waves. The mind boggles” (p. 137).
Part of what motivates comments such as these is Linkola’s general misanthropy: a quality he shares with the left-wing deep ecologists. These latter are always heaping scorn upon “anthropocentrism” and insisting that human beings are simply one species within the vast web of life, no more to be valued than any other. Of course, such an attitude is symptomatic of the perverse mindset of the left: it is absurd to suggest that we should value our own species no more than we value any other.
Further, it is entirely possible to affirm the “organicism” of deep ecology, its claim that we are part of a vast, interdependent ecosystem, and to act to preserve that ecosystem precisely because we are part of it. The biological egalitarianism of the deep ecologists should be completely unsurprising to us. The deep ecologists are almost entirely deracinated white Westerners, who believe it is wrong to value their race ahead of any other. Their opposition to “anthropocentrism” simply extends this suicidal ethno-masochism to the species itself, and claims we have no right to value our own species over any other.
There is certainly a strain of this sort of thinking in Linkola, but it seems, again, to be motivated more by misanthropy than by egalitarianism. (And what intelligent, aware person isn’t a misanthrope in this world?) Furthermore, though Linkola does decry the tendency to regard all human life as sacred, he also seems ready to make distinctions between humans and to argue that some lives are more valuable than others. At one point he says “How can anyone be so crazy as to think that all human life has the same value and all humans the same morality, regardless of numbers?” (p. 139).
Perhaps Linkola’s most famous statement about the dangers of over-valuing life is his “lifeboat analogy”:
What to do when a ship carrying a hundred passengers has suddenly capsized, and only one lifeboat is available for ten people on the water? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to pull more people onto it, thus drowning everyone. Those who love and respect life will instead grab an axe and sever the hands clinging to the gunwales. (pp. 135–36) Christianity (and the Left) would teach us to haul more people on board – but as Nietzsche taught us, Christianity (and the Left) hates life.
Linkola does not confine himself, however, to the issues of over-population, and how democracy and equality exacerbate it. He offers a broad-based critique of all aspects of modern culture, especially its assumptions about freedom and happiness. “Never before in history have the distinguishing values of a culture been things as concretely destructive for life and the quality of life as democracy, individual freedom and human right – not to mention money” (p. 154).
But how can Linkola oppose the idea of human rights? He states that all rights claims essentially express one thing: “ME, ME, ME.” In the West, the rhetoric of rights is essentially a way of securing self-interest, as is democracy itself. The West’s conception of freedom really means “freedom to consume, to exploit, to tread upon others. . . . Words like responsibility, duty, humility, self-sacrifice, nurturing and care are always spat upon [today], if they still happen to be mentioned” (p. 155).
It is no surprise that the country for which Linkola has the least sympathy is the United States. He writes that “the United States is the most colossally aggressive empire in history,” reminding us of the terror and devastation it spreads across the world in the name of “democracy.” “The U.S. is the most wretchedly villainous state of all times. Anyone aware of global issues can easily imagine how vast the hatred for the United States – a corrupted, swollen, paralyzing, and suffocating political entity – must be across the Third World – and among the thinking minority of the West too” (p. 164).
Why so wretchedly villainous? Why more villainous than, for example, the U.S.S.R.? Because the United States, for all its rhetoric, does not act in the name of any noble ideals, but entirely in the name of Mammon. It is for the security of commerce and the corporation that it bombs, invades, exploits, and tortures all over the globe. Linkola goes on speak glowingly of the hijackers on 9/11:
The servants of Allah sacrificed their own lives and the lives of a few disciples of the Dollar. The aim of the servants of market economy is to murder the whole of Creation and mankind as soon as they can. The deep ecologist and protector of life, the guardian of the continuity of life, would certainly choose Allah when things get tough. Given the situation, the towers of the World Trade Center were the best target among all the buildings of the world, both symbolically and concretely. It was a magnificent, splendid choice. (p. 166) It is apparent that Linkola’s instincts are those of a true Right Winger, yet it is hard to peg him as a Traditionalist of the sort Integral Traditions generally publishes. And he would probably reject the claim that he is on the Right, seeing serious flaws in both sides of the political spectrum. He states at one point “For all their mistakes, even such recently-buried ideologies as fascism and socialism, both of which emphasized communal values and contained restrictive norms, were on a higher ethical level” (p. 155). It seems clear, however, that Linkola’s sympathies lie squarely with fascism. Though, again, there is nothing I have read in Linkola that is racialist or nationalist, he clearly opposes the internationalism of the Left, and any sort of global, homogenizing force. He thinks that small is better, and that life must be based in small, local, largely self-sufficient communities.
In the last major section of text, in fact, Linkola describes the sort of society we must build if we are to save ourselves. He advocates a mandatory limit of one child per woman; elimination of the use of fossil fuels; elimination of most use of electricity; a return to traditional agriculture; a drastic reduction in foreign trade; and an end to air traffic. In passages reminiscent of D.H. Lawrence’s Fantasia of the Unconscious, Linkola discusses how he would reform the educational system, which would impart practical skills, and basic knowledge of reading, science, and philosophy.
It seems that Linkola would leave a bare-bones market economy in place, but he would extirpate most forms of competition. Books would be published, but only good books (no trash). There would be tougher punishments for criminals. Drug use would be stamped out, even the use of tobacco. And, perhaps most mouth-watering of all, there would be an end to “information technology.” (Relax: in Linkola’s world this website would no longer be needed.)
Linkola writes: 
What would be left, then, would be: an endless spectrum of arts and hobbies (singing, music, dancing, painting, sculpture, books, games, plays, riddles, shows  . . . ); numerous museums; the study of history, local customs and dialects, genealogy, the countless pursuits related to biology; handicrafts and gardens; clear waters, virgin forests, marshlands and fells; seasons, trees, flowers, homes, private life . . . – in other words: a genuine life. (p. 205)
None of this will be the result of popular choice, of the “will of the people.” Instead, it will be imposed upon us by wise leaders. (I, for one, would be delighted to live under the thumb of Pentti Linkola.)
Linkola tells us that “there is only one considerable problem in the world: the impoverishment of life on Earth – the diminishment of life’s richness and diversity” (p. 168; please note: by “diversity” he means the diversity of species).
To this we might add the following qualification: the survival of life on earth is one of the two most important problems we face, the other being the survival of our race. After all, for whom are we to save this earth, anyway? These two aims, saving the planet and saving the race, go hand in hand. The measures necessary to accomplish one will accomplish the other. It is democracy, capitalism, egalitarianism, and “human rights” that have weakened both our race and the ecosystem. To save both, these forces of decadence and dissolution must be ruthlessly crushed.
Can Life Prevail? is a book filled with challenging and provocative ideas. One of its great virtues is that it demonstrates thoroughly and conclusively how the Left’s advocacy of ecology is incompatible with its fetishes of democracy and equality. Integral Traditions is to be commended for at long last making the ideas of Linkola available to the English-speaking world.
Kaarlo Pentti Linkola was born in Helsinki in 1932. His father was the rector of Helsinki University and his grandfather had worked as chancellor of that same university. Pentti Linkola, however, chose a very different path. Having spent most of his life working as a professional fisherman, he now continues to lead a materially simple existence in the countryside. A renowned figure in Finland, since the 1960s Linkola has published numerous books on environmentalism. Today, he is among the foremost exponents of the philosophy of deep ecology.
 



Can Life Prevail? is a translation from the Finnish [16] of 35 essays and articles written between 1989 and 2002 with a preface added in 2004. They begin with reflections on nature and the human impact on nature, drawing on the author’s 50 years of ornithological travels on foot, horseback, bicycle and rowing boat through Finland. As the book progresses, the author’s focus shifts from describing and lamenting the damage to Finland’s ecology and humans’ separation from nature to advocacy of what he feels his country needs to achieve real sustainability, healthy citizens and a rich biosphere.
In his native Finland, the only country in which his books have been published, Pentti Linkola (b. 1932) is a controversial figure. Can Life Prevail? is the first collection of his writing to appear in English.
He tackles ecological problems as a biologist driven by a “love of life” and as a "deep ecologist" [17], not as a politician. He outlines what he believes must be done and leaves it for others more adept in the political sphere to implement a successful transition. Although all of Pentti Linkola’s proposals are fully consistent with the aim of achieving long-term environmental sustainability, few feature in the green manifestos we are familiar with. Above all else, Linkola reveals to us the ideological constraints we have imposed on our thinking about more sustainable biophysical arrangements.
A program for sustainability in Finland
The following extracts from Linkola’s 205-point program [1] bring out the flavour of his plan to reverse human demographic and technological expansion and return to a local, healthier and simpler lifestyle in harmony with the rest of nature's processes. [2] He puts forward his proposals not as a total solution, but in the hope that they will "give nature a little more time". [18]
Population
• The cornerstone of any population platform is the dismantling of the freedom of procreation, the most senseless form of individual freedom. The population will have to be reduced to about ten percent of what it is now. [13]
• Procreation licences would be denied to families deemed genetically inadequate or unsuitable for the raising of children.
Energy
• Fossil fuels, including peat, will be abolished on the first day the program is implemented.
• Bodies will first be warmed by clothing rather than air [ie, space heating].
Forests
• Reforesting a significant portion of field acreage will be made possible by replacing grain with mostly animal protein ... hunting and fishing will provide a greater proportion of food but within ecologically prescribed limits.
Food production and consumption
• The position of agriculture as the country’s primary source of livelihood should be acknowledged: society should strengthen the agricultural sector by all possible means.
• Farming will be organised into small units, agricultural machines will be abolished and a major portion of the population will be made to practise light agricultural work.
• Half a million horses will be reintroduced onto farms to perform heavy duties, and sufficient land turned over to the production of their fodder.
• Most commodities will be rationed: rationed foodstuff will be allotted according to age, body build and profession, so even the bulkiest performers of heavy work will be guaranteed sufficient nutrition, yet obesity will be unknown.
• Domestic cultivation and gathering of food will not be regulated.
Transport
• Transport use will be radically reduced as people will be required to live and work in their home districts, travelling only by walking, skiing, cycling, rowing and paddling.
Technology and manufacturing
• Since metal, plastic and rubber products will be in little demand, the majority of cars, household appliances etc. will be pressed into blocks and transferred, firstly, to fill mines.
• No product will be manufactured unless there is a buyer in real need of its use.
• The construction of new buildings will cease.
Education and culture
• The school system will be cherished as the most precious aspect of society ... foreign languages will be removed from the syllabus of elementary schools, less mathematics will be taught ... civil skills will be taught to adults as well as children (these include responsibility to one’s neighbour, nature and mankind), ... every citizen will learn how to mend, patch and handle the common tools, build axe shafts, file saws, gut fish and skin animals.
• Universities will be maintained whatever their cost. However, university buildings and equipment will be modest ... research will focus on the humanities, philosophy and natural sciences ... applied sciences will concentrate on supporting the new economy (repair of buildings, production and preservation of food stuffs).
• Art and music will be widely practised and taught, but buildings specifically devoted to the practice of the arts will be abolished.
Health
• The opulent excess of fat, even obesity, would be decreased by regulating, controlling and normalising the nutrition, vitamin and hormonal levels of adolescents. A drop of twenty centimetres in the average height could realistically be achieved; the same goes for a drop of twenty kilos in the average weight. This is a very important step to be taken and among one of the most humane ones in order to reduce the demographic burden.
• From childhood, citizens will be made to develop immunity to the most common strains of bacteria. In other ways, too, the medical sciences will leave the path of Pasteur to embrace practices more in accordance with Darwin.
National political and administrative arrangements
These occupy the remainder of this review.
It is not clear if Linkola is serious about all the points in his program or if he is laying out one possible sustainable future and provoking us to come up with a better way to attain – quickly – true sustainability and the preservation of the biosphere's processes – if we can.
Rationale for Linkola’s reforms
Justifying this program, Linkola writes: “faith in humanity is the greatest of all follies. If man knew what was good for him, would history be chock-full of wretchedness, war, murder, oppression, torment and misery? ... the sole glimmer of hope lies in a centralised government and the tireless control of citizens ... the underlying error that is leading us astray is a political system based on indulgence. Our society and ways of life are based on what man desires rather than what is best for him. These two things – desire and necessity – are as far from one another as east and west.” Linkola is critical of democracy because leaders must aim first for short-term popularity within the wholly human subset of affairs preoccupying people at election time rather than what is best for the health and well-being of the entire biosphere over the long term. For Linkola these two are irrevocably and fundamentally irreconcilable. The environmental crisis is now such that a choice must be made between nature and society.
How would human affairs change after these reforms?
What we would lose
Looking into the future Linkola says “Besides guaranteeing its main goal, the preservation of life [ie, the health of the Finnish biosphere], the suggested model of society would also secure an incomparably better standard of living. What are the sweet, cherished traits of the modern world that man would lose? Record suicide rates, exhausting competition, unemployment, stress, job insecurity, alienation, depression, the need for psychological medication, bodily decay, individual arrogance, corruption, crime...”
What we would gain
“What would be left, then, would be: an endless spectrum of arts and hobbies (singing, music, dancing, painting, sculpture, books, games, plays, riddles, shows); numerous museums, the study of history, local customs and dialects, genealogy, the countless pursuits related to biology; handcrafts and gardens, clear waters, virgin forests, marshlands and fells; seasons, trees, flowers, homes, private life – in other words, a genuinely human life.” (p 205)
Why we need an authoritarian government
“Why then, is a strict central government needed? I have already referred to the shameful history of mankind. If ordinary individuals, the people, are given the chance to choose, like magpies they will again and again go for the shiny things, leaping like moths into the flames. A government led by a few wise individuals is necessary to protect the people from themselves.” (p 205) Linkola assumes that the wise individuals will remain true to their original purpose of protecting life processes; he has no answer to the question Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? [3] or how to replace powerful leaders if they go off the rails (Mugabe, Mobutu, Stalin et al.).
Contemporary reaction to Linkola’s proposals
Whatever Linkola may see as his message, because his writing is grounded in clear practical illustrations and precepts, others readily take from his writing what their prepared minds select. They may do what is intellectually easy: ignoring those aspects that do not resonate with their predispositions. Here are six features of Linkola’s writing that (a) many traditional greens would find unacceptable, yet (b) are welcomed by those from the political far right:
1. Linkola is determinedly anti-democratic.
2. He opposes immigration – not for ethnic or cultural homogeneity, but to reduce the Finnish population to a sustainable level.
3. He is unsentimental about how the human population should be reduced.
4. He admires the forest conservation programs and outdoor youth activities of the Nazis in the 1930s.
5. He condones – in language that resembles fascist rhetoric [4] – violence to achieve the ends he advocates [19] “resort to violence against violence: to a tougher, sharper, more astute, massive and determined violence; an iron will ...” (p 174).
6. He praises the 9/11 attackers for the damage they did to the operational heart of the environmentally destructive US.
7. He advocates economic contraction and 'undevelopment' (Joseph Tainter's term) rather than economic growth and increasing complexity and formal administrative coordination by government. [23]
These features have attracted contemporary fascists [5] and repelled many others, distracting – because of our culture’s prejudices – from Linkola’s environmental message. Many of those who have experienced authoritarian government would not welcome its return over their lives, but Linkola puts it to us as our only choice: authoritarian government or environmental and human catastrophe.
How could anyone come up with ideas like these? I can imagine Linkola trekking or rowing for days on end, observing birds, fishing and living off the land and composing his articles in the open air. That is, he has not tempered his ideas by discussing them with other people – rather he has sharpened his proposals and enriched his observations as he absorbed himself in the natural world. [22]
Piecemeal reforms or revolutionary change
There is also Linkola’s despair that the environmental prospects are so dire that it would be futile to transition incrementally to new societal arrangements. He argues instead for a tabula rasa – a clean slate – and leaves open the possibility that this need not be mitigated to avoid violence. Mao Tse-Tung used the Red Guards to impose a cultural revolution on China, but the most thoroughgoing attempt at a tabula rasa in recent history has been that by Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia.
Solutions to the environmental crisis not owned by the left
Linkola has performed a useful service in breaking what is, in effect, an assumption of entitlement to the environmental/green movement, love and wisdom by the left, social democrats, intellectuals and others. Australians and Americans who are already suspicious of the left or offended by its assumption are inclined to be similarly suspicious of the environmental movement – condemned by association. William Lines, in his history of the Australian conservation movement, Patriots, showed that environmental activists were often motivated by a feeling for “place” and that this translates politically into a positive feeling for country and nation. By this reckoning, there is potential for strong environmental advocacy by the radical right in Australia. In the UK, the far-right British National Party has a clearer and less equivocal environmental platform than the major parties in that country.
Sustainability in one country?
Perhaps it is typical of a naturalist who sees all life (including human life) through a biologist’s eyes that Linkola fails to put sufficient weight on how human nature will be expressed in politics under his program. If Linkola’s vision of a sustainable [21] Finland came to pass and other nations became very environmentally stressed, can he imagine that the country would not be invaded by environmental refugees or other nations or foreign corporations looking for lebensraum, forest timber, hydro power or other resources? A low-tech peasantry scattered through a country of forests would be no match for a determined, well-armed invader. Russia, to which Finland was annexed 1809-1917, might feel it had some right to Finnish resources if its own were seriously depleted. And we would not expect any invasion to be environmentally sensitive: it would, almost certainly, plunder the Finnish environment. Would there be no government in exile? No internal underground? No organised criminal opposition? Linkola makes no mention of “ecological police”, but without such an institution, it is difficult to see how “human nature” could be prevented from continuing in its ecologically-destructive ways. [10]
Is Pentti Linkola’s program fascist?
Is Pentti Linkola a fascist? And if he is, does it matter? It does matter because Linkola’s proposals have been labeled fascist and because of the deep negative emotional resonances associated today with the term “fascist”.
On the evidence of this book, Linkola is not a fascist.
The defining characteristic of fascism [6] is nationalism and, although Linkola loves Finland, his affection is for Finland as a country, an ecological entity, rather than Finland as a nation, a political or cultural entity. [12] Furthermore, Linkola does not meet other criteria for fascism: he has no place for national expansion by conquest or population growth, [14] militarism, a mass militarised ruling party, admiration of manufacturing, technology [16] or finance capitalism, [15] anti-Semitism or racism. Nor does he focus criticism on feminism or communism. On the other hand he shares with fascists a organicist conception of community; yet, unlike the fascists, his view of community is not rooted in national ideology but in biophysical reality. Rather than communities being mobilised to further nationalistic goals, he sees communities operating autonomously: under broad national direction but not mobilised to contribute to national progress or aggrandisement.
Ecofascism
“Fascism” is an emotive word and is used liberally and indiscriminately to criticise far more than is justified on the evidence. One example is the term “ecofascism”; this has frequently been applied by conservative populists to discredit deep ecology and even mainstream environmentalism. The term has thereby been smeared and rendered unavailable for Linkola’s position. Linkola certainly shares with fascists a contempt for democracy and a preference for strong authoritarian government – in his case to deal effectively with the emerging environmental crisis.
Misanthropy
Linkola has also been labelled a misanthropist, but balancing Linkola’s biologist’s attitude to the plague species Homo sapiens with his clear love of real people, conviviality, community and the arts, we can dismiss this labelling. To give Linkola any existing label is futilely procrustean; his program is in a category new to political science.
Linkola’s personal example
Pentti Linkola stands out not only for his ideas and his total unconcern for political correctness. He has always lived with the simplicity he advocates (he has worked as a fisherman [20], not a salaried biologist) – and his unremittingly austere lifestyle has itself attracted admirers. Although Linkola’s program is something he says a government must implement, he has adopted the lifestyle he advocates in advance of government action. Furthermore, he is not one of those who seize the environmental imperative to further their own, unrelated agendas. [7] Linkola explains that our human desire for ease and comfort is both natural and – now that we depend on increasing technological complexity and have an ecological footprint score greater than 1.00 – our undoing:
“Man has been dominating the globe without rivals ever since the invention of the stone axe, and our lives have become unnaturally and hopelessly comfortable” (p 145).
Conclusion
Linkola’s program puts biology first, differing from other approaches to the environmental crisis in his assessment of the evidence for both the scope and seriousness of the crisis, the assumptions he makes about human nature and his proposed political and social arrangements to ensure his program’s effectiveness.
A strength of Linkola's proposals is that they do not depend on a change in human nature, our attitudes, our priorities etc. He is reconciled to the fact that the species that brought us ethnic cleansing, the Gulag, Kampuchea, the Rwandan genocide, drug lords, suicide bombings and environmental destruction is us. The same species also brought forth Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, J S Bach, William Shakespeare, the Red Cross, the people you and I admire and hundreds of millions of loving relationships in the world today. Linkola is not in denial about the negatives and he addresses them directly. This puts his program ahead of others who lack his courage and honesty.
One weakness in his program is his failure to address the transition and how his proposals might become practical arrangements for everyday living for Finns. Another weakness is his selective consideration of human nature [8]. A third weakness – shared with most reformers – is faith that the future he imagines will be far more fulfilling, enjoyed and embraced than the present; that is, he makes too uncritical a case for both the benefits and the popular acceptance or tolerance of his program [8].
Technical note
The translation into English is generally good (and occasionally inspired [9]) but stilted and there are lapses in the proof reading. I have been in correspondence with the translator and he assured me that, in the original Finnish, Linkola’s writing is fluid and sophisticated.
Recommendation
The book is recommended for anyone whose mind is open to alternative political and social arrangements to achieve biophysical ends. Such openness has, I believe, potential to draw new and significant segments of the population into the push for a sustainable future.
Notes
* This review is a longer version of a review accepted for publication in the journal Nature and Society. A copy is available in Russian here. I am conscious there may be gaps or inadequacies in this version - something that easily happens if you are working alone so I welcome your comments and suggestions. Please e-mail them to me. David Orton has also reviewed Can Life Prevail? available as a .pdf here.    Back to top

1. Pages 185-203. A proposal on competition in society and one on unemployment appear on page 185. 12 points on agriculture appear on pages 186-187 and 191 wide-ranging points are presented on pages 192-203.    Back to text
2. Some of Linkola's points extracted here have been edited lightly to compress them for this review.    Back to text
3. "Who will guard the guardians?" (Juvenal)    Back to text
4. I have no knowledge of Finnish, so cannot vouch for the translation of this or any other part of Can Life Prevail?    Back to text
5. See, for example, the YouTube videos about Linkola.    Back to text
6. This paragraph draws on Fascism by Kevin Passmore, and The Fascist Tradition by John Weiss.    Back to text
7. In Australia, Trotskyites formed Green Left as a vehicle for entryism into the green movement; some of those urging a vegetarian diet to mitigate global warming; those who claim that the 2008-09 global financial crisis (or other significant development) presents a "golden opportunity" to implement their own personal agenda.    Back to text
8. Linkola says mankind's unquenchable desire for indulgence and ease means that humanity will choose to destroy the environment rather than sacrifice comfort and convenience. [11] He proposes an authoritarian government to design and oversee the population to prevent humans' natural tendency to net destruction. However he does not take human nature into account by considering the response of the populace to the social/psychological implications of – and responses to – his largely practical 205-point plan. That is, he assumes the populace will accept (or, at least acquiesce in – albeit with coercion) sufficient austerity and the implied greater discomfort to preserve the natural environment. My own feeling is that Linkola's proposed authoritarian government would face widespread and continuing dissatisfaction and this would be expressed through insurrection, disruption, fear, false rumour, incremental weakening through concessions to special interests including fairness and social justice, a host of 'black market' behaviours by seekers of advantage, comfort and ease – all of which would, ultimately, be at the expense of the environment. North Korea maintains its tyranny partly through starving its population; integral to Linkola's plan is adequate nutrition for all. He also makes it clear he does not want a culture of fear and terror. (p 155)     Back to text
9. For example: "Man is more clueless than careless" (p 152)     Back to text
10. And yet could Linkola's proposed society afford a sufficiently large number of "ecological police" (my term, not Linkola's)? They would be non-producers and, like the parasitic priestly classes in past civilizations, sap communities of their food- tool- clothing- shelter-production surpluses and grind the actual producers down.     Back to text
11. Linkola's consideration of human nature is not one of direct biological determinism. "It is of course a truism that human nature is behind all human actions. This, however, does not make all deeds [or events] unavoidable ..." However, our drives and instincts limit the range of possibilities. (p 152)
12. Unlike a fascist, Linkola takes many opportunities to criticise or even ridicule the Finns, his own countrymen (eg, p 154). He also refers to ecological regions straddling – and being more important than – national borders. (p 183)     Back to text
13. Linkola advocates "a controlled pruning (of both population and its material standard of living) before [the otherwise inevitable] chaos breaks loose. In this manner violence could be minimized ..." (p 157)  See also suggestions as to Earth's maximum sustainable human population    Back to text
14. Linkola's often-expressed preference for a far smaller human population runs counter to the fascist promotion of national population growth.     Back to text
15. Indeed, Linkola despises economic competition, "... which is nothing but the immoral subduing of others [and which] must be disposed of in all areas of life. Even the thought of vying between nations or economical coalitions must be extinguished; no country is an enemy to be overcome."     Back to text
16. Pentti Linkola despises (p 70) and fears the swamping of Finnish culture by "the most horrid forms of market economy, an uncritical worship of technology, to automation and media vapidity ... (American) English has now been adopted as a second language in Finland." (p 20)     Back to text
17. Linkola frequently refers to himself (and others with a similar perspective) as a deep ecologist, guardian of life, protector of life etc.    Back to text
18. Page 19.    Back to text
19. Ward Churchill writes that those who draw the line at committing acts of violence in support of their cause are thereby declaring their commitment to non-violence to be more dear to them than the cause they advocate. Linkola appears to set his priorities by Churchill's principle. He seeks to protect the continuity of a healthy biosphere above all else. No "only if ...", "but only when ...", "Unless ...". He uses mischevous rhetoric to point to the big picture rather than transient 'human interest stories', so when seven people were killed in a school shooting in Finland, he grumped that it was nowhere near enough deaths - as the planet has about 6 billion more Homo sapiens than it can bear.    Back to text
20. You can view Pentti Linkola in his natural habitat on YouTube. I recommend this video, which intersperses images from his childhood with images of his present life, and this video of Linkola at home both outside (first two minutes) and inside, among his ornithological notebooks. This more recent video shows Linkola in August 2009. The dialogue in all is wholly in Finnish.    Back to text
21. For a thoughtful discussion about sustainability, see Joseph Tainter's August 2009 paper Human Resource Use: Timing and Implications for Sustainability
22. Viktor Postnikov has placed Linkola in the context of deep ecology in this post     Back to text
23. This is what Joseph Tainter says about 'undevelopment':
"Peer polity systems tend to evolve toward greater complexity in a lockstep fashion as, driven by competition, each partner imitates new organizational, technological and military features developed by its competitor(s). The marginal return on such developments declines, as each new military breakthrough is met by some countermeasure, and so brings no increased advantage or security on a lasting basis. A society trapped in a competitive peer polity system must invest more and more for no increased return, and is thereby economically weakened. And yet the option of withdrawal or collapse does not exist. So it is that collapse (from declining marginal returns) is not in the immediate future for any contemporary nation. This is not, however, due so much to anything we have accomplished as it is to the competitive spiral in which we have allowed ourselves to become trapped.
"Here is the reason why proposals for economic undevelopment, for living in balance on a small planet, will not work. Given the close link between economic and military power, unilateral economic deceleration would be the equivalent to, and as foolhardy as, unilateral disarmament. We simply do not have the option to return to a lower economic level, at least not a rational option. Peer polity competition drives increased complexity and resource consumption regardless of costs, human or ecological." Joseph Tainter, ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’, p. 214     Back to text
Evfit home   Contact evfit  On to a consideration of the maximum sustainable human population   On to a considerations of human nature  -

 Very rarely does a book make you feel good about receiving bad news. Usually, there’s something you fear so much that you want anything but to face it. But if someone is able to explain in clear steps what you must do to face it, and how the other side is indeed brighter, it lessens the burden. With decreased resistance and doubt comes greater effectiveness, and you may emerge with more triumph than suspected possible.
Can Life Prevail? is one such book. Since I was old enough to walk and perceive, it has been clear to me that something is very wrong with our world. Our adults are not focused on the task of living, but on the task of managing their self-image. Consequently, they ignore stupidities great and small. From the dumbness of school to the boredom and fear inherent to the workplace, to the poor design of everyday objects, to the inanity of our public culture and the transparency of our politicians’ lies, adults are oblivious. They are easy to deceive and are so distracted they are “shocked and amazed” any time their children have sex or take drugs, their politicians cheat them, corruption is found to be rife, etc. In short, our civilization is a ship with no one at the helm. Most disturbing is our effect on the environment; we can get more humans if we screw them up, but we’re short on extra earths.
Unlike most environmentalists, Pentti Linkola does not try to talk to us through the filter of denial and distraction. Instead, he levels with us as a Machiavellian scientist would: each additional person takes up space our nature needs, we have too many people, most are thoughtless oafs who destroy eternally beautiful things for temporary cash, and our modern laziness arises from the ease with which we interact with life through machines. In this collection of provocative essays, Linkola targets every sacred cow with an even-handed but unequivocal whittling down of our resistance to the obvious: our species is out of control and needs pruning, and the problem is too many individuals of low intelligence and character. Unlike most “environmentalist” books, this is not a hand-wringing or maudlin work; it is forthright, assertive, strong and also very funny as Linkola probes the ostensible logic behind our decisions and contrasts it with his observations from many years in the field as an observer of birds, fish and trees.
Linkola asserts a number of worthy points:
  • Habitat loss is more destructive than pollution;
  • Climate change is a vile problem resulting from lack of woodlands;
  • We can fix climate irregularities by re-planting forests we killed;
  • Domesticated animals destroy wild species;
  • Most people are careless and unable to be stewards to nature;
  • Democracy will not limit the selfish actions of individuals;
  • Human overpopulation is the driving factor behind habitat loss;
  • We are too distanced from nature, even the gross aspects;
  • Our machine-oriented mentality makes us lazy and weak.
At his best, Linkola is half scientist and half satirist, always nudging us back to a level of reality. If nature were a machine, he seems to say, we’d pay attention to signs of its decline. But it’s too complex for our point-to-point modern mentality, so instead we space out and hope for the best. Each of these essays picks an intriguing angle to its topic and explains it through a clear example, usually backing up observations with factual data from ornithology or the experience of a fisherman. As stated above, it gives hope by giving us a clear analysis of the problem that isn’t mired in ulterior motives or the greatest ulterior motive of all, “don’t rock the boat.” Where most green books offer you what’s basically a shopping guide for “green” products, Linkola goes further — not only by realizing that consumerism and environmentalism are incompatible, even if that consumerism is of a “green” kind, but by striking against our preference for all things human. He makes the point many times that we only consider human emotions and thoughts, and do not stop to observe our world. If it were named Steve and talked with a lisp, we’d respect it as equal. But outside the anthrosphere, nothing gains equality to us brave equal humans.
He brushes by the question of our reactions to, or judgments of, his ideas. Like a researcher he gives us the data and recommendations, and leaves it to us to react in private and then realize our reactions have nothing to do with nature; as history shows us, only what is effective matters. All of our fond notions and egalitarian sentiments, politics and politeness, feelings and validations are entirely irrelevant. What works matters. What is not part of that process is irrelevant and forgotten by time. I find this very comforting because our world normally has a stop-start rhythm where a new concept is uncovered and then we must all wait for the inevitable simian panic, outbursts and finally grudging admittance. This part of our monkey heritage disgusts me the most. There is none of it in Linkola. It is like reading a lab report on the fauna of the North Atlantic. It’s unusual to see humans treated like the other subjects we write about, but comforting in that it is purely logical.
There are parts of this book where I cannot get onboard the Linkola train. It’s hard to tell when he is provocateur and when he is prescribing a medication of lucid sanity, but in most cases, he seems to be serious and it’s hard to disagree. It shocks the average human when he rails on housecats as killers of birds, but when we think back on our own experience, we’ve all seen stray cats slaughter wrens by the bushel. I can handle that, and the idea of being less squeamish about day-old fish, but during the last few pieces, Linkola outlines more of his ideal for a society and it falls short. Primitivism is a neat idea on paper and would solve the problem, but lose so much of what makes us vital. Unlike Linkola, I cannot blame our machines for the fact that most people are thoughtless, destructive, short-sighted and corrupt. I think we need to realize that we like the wrens are biological creatures and just do as our instincts instruct. Perhaps another future thinker will suggest that those humans who do not have such frailties should prevail, and the others quietly go away, but Linkola stops short of calling for world eugenics on that scale.
Most importantly, Linkola says what so many of us think in private moments. There are too many of us, and too many idiots. If we keep growing we’ll kill everything. People sacrifice nature for short-term profit. Because most voters are idiots, we cannot control this process. The instant we try something constructive, a corrupt person will buy a few hundred thousand dollars of TV time and use it to sway the masses of useful idiots to do his bidding. As a result, our current civilization is like a speeding car with no brakes. We’re out of control and cannot stop. As we accept this, day after day, it kills us a little inside. Linkola is the antidote who removes our false pretense and the emotional manipulation of our fellow citizens, giving us instead a clear path to victory that true, must rocket through taboo and the herd fear of a mass of humans whose average IQ is barely 100, but nonetheless can be achieved if cooler minds prevail — and are willing to as relentlessly manipulate the masses as their ideological opposites. -
“If there were a button I could press [to radically reduce world population], I would sacrifice myself without hesitating, if it meant millions of people would die.” - Pentti Linkola, Wall Street Journal Europe, May 1994
“A minority can never have any other effective means to influence the course of matters but through the use of violence.”
“Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent dictator, that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. Best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and government would prevent any economical growth.”
“Foreign affairs: All mass immigration and most of import-export trade must stop. Cross-border travel is allowed only for small numbers of diplomats and correspondents.”
“Science and schooling: Education will concentrate on practical skills. All competition is rooted out. Technological research is reduced to the extreme minimum. But every child will learn how to clean a fish in a way that only the big shiny bones are left over.”

“By decimating its woodlands, Finland has created the grounds for prosperity. We can now thank prosperity for bringing us – among other things – two million cars, millions of glaring, grey-black electronic entertainment boxes, and many unnecessary buildings to cover the green earth. Wealth and surplus money have led to financial gambling and rampant social injustice, whereby ‘the common people’ end up contributing to the construction of golf courses, classy hotels, and holiday resorts, while fattening Swiss bank accounts. Besides, the people of wealthy countries are the most frustrated, unemployed, unhappy, suicidal, sedentary, worthless and aimless people in history. What a miserable exchange.”
Pentti Linkola

Linkola is one of the few voices who advocates:
  1. No immigration
  2. Downsize population
  3. Kill defectives
  4. Stop rampant technology
In the eyes of the most credible sources, planet Earth can sustain a half-billion humans without any sizable destruction of our habitat, or any loss in species or stability of our ecosystem. Any numbers higher than that, no matter how much they recycle, will cause environmental chaos. The modern leftist-tinged environmental movement is terrified of telling anyone that they cannot breed and keep buying whatever strikes their fancy, but someone must do this in the future. The sooner we do it, the fewer people in the future will be left without a means of sustenance and thus require termination.
As Linkola himself has said, "We still have a chance to be cruel. But if we are not cruel today, all is lost."

**
Wikipedia: Kaarlo Pentti Linkola (born 7 December 1932 in Helsinki) is a radical Finnish deep ecologist, polemicist and fisherman. He has written widely about his ideas and is a prominent thinker in Finland, but, at the same time, is also an extremely controversial figure. He lives a simple and austere life. Linkola was a year-round fisherman from 1959 to 1995. He has fished on Keitele, Päijänne, Gulf of Finland and from 1978 he fishes on Vanajavesi. Nowadays Pentti Linkola receives an old-age government pension and fishes only during the winter.
Linkola blames humans for the continuous degradation of the environment. He promotes rapid population decline in order to combat the problems commonly attributed to overpopulation. He is also strongly in favour of deindustrialization and opposes democracy, which he calls the "Religion of Death," believing it to be an agent of wasteful capitalism and consumerism. He considers the proponents of economic growth to be ignorant of the subtle destructive effects which free market policies have had over the past two centuries.
****
Little known outside of Scandinavia, Pentti Linkola is a voice that deserves a wide audience. He is revered amongst radical environmentalists for his uncompromising stance on a variety of issues and for his works that show the breadth of his vision.
Linkola shows that “progressive” and humanistic dogma in collaboration with aggressive capitalism is leading the whole planet toward inevitable destruction. Greed and consumerism, the opiates that (for many) mask the sheer banality of much of what constitutes modern life, are leading us into the abyss. There has to be another way. Rather than obsessing on “the Rights of Man,” Linkola underscores the duty that man has to Life in its entirety.
In doing so, he offers pointers to a more authentic and fulfilling mode of existence – one in harmony with the whole biosphere and, therefore, the natural order of things. Thus, we are treated to original and rigorous critiques of modern society’s obsession with soulless technics, the acquisition of non-essential consumer goods, uncontrolled human fecundity and population growth, and other activities ruinous not only to the environment as a whole but also to the actual quality of human life itself.
To those effectively brainwashed by the contemporary “Cultural Dictatorship of the Left” (ironically sponsored by big business and the mass media) which virtually deifies the freedom of humans to do anything they wish regardless of the long-term consequences, much of his thinking is likely to be considered “offensive.” However, when one considers what is at stake, to leave these things unsaid is more offensive still.
Even left-wing conservationists (an obvious contradiction of terms when one comes down to it) may not like Linkola’s conclusions as he eschews most of the inanities of Political Correctness – implicitly demonstrating the dangers of this modern day pseudo-religion. Indeed, Linkola once famously said “The composition of the Greens seems to be the same as that of the population in general — mainly pieces of drifting wood, people who never think.”
Perhaps Linkola is not always right, but he most usually is. Nevertheless, because of the gravity of the issues which he addresses, his thoughts (and those of others like him) certainly deserve more attention. We ignore them at our peril.
Ideas and Quotations:
“What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides.”

“A minority can never have any other effective means to influence the course of matters but through the use of violence.”

“Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent dictator, that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. Best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and government would prevent any economical growth.”

“The most central and irrational faith among people is the faith in technology and economical growth. Its priests believe until their death that material prosperity bring enjoyment and happiness – even though all the proofs in history have shown that only need and striving cause a life worth living, that material prosperity doesn’t bring anything but despair. These priests will still believe in technology when they choke in their gas masks.”

“That there are billions of people over 60kg weight on this planet is recklessness.”

“Alternative movements and groups are a welcome relief and a present for the society of economic growth.”

“We will have to . . . learn from the history of revolutionary movements — the National Socialists, the Finnish Stalinists, from the many stages of the Russian revolution, from the methods of the Red Brigades — and forget our narcissistic selves.”

“A fundamental, devastating error is to set up a political system based on desire. Society and life are been organized on basis of what an individual wants, not on what is good for him or her. . . . Just as only one out of 100,000 has the talent to be an engineer or an acrobat, only a few are those truly capable of managing the matters of a nation or mankind as a whole. . . . In this time and this part of the World we are heedlessly hanging on democracy and parliamentary system, even though these are the most mindless and desperate experiments of mankind. . . . In democratic countries the destruction of nature and sum of ecological disasters has accumulated most. . . . Our only hope lies in strong central government and uncompromising control of the individual citizen.”

“If the present amount of Earth’s population is preserved and is reduced only by the means of birth control, then:

- Birthgiving must be licensed. To enhance population quality, genetically or socially unfit homes will be denied offspring, so that several birth licenses can be allowed to families of quality.

- Energy production must be drastically reduced. Electricity is allowed only for the most necessary lighting and communications.

- Food: Hunting must be made more efficient. Human diet will include rats and invertebrate animals. Agriculture moves to small un-mechanized units. All human manure is used as fertilizer.

- Traffic is mostly done with bicycles and rowing boats. Private cars are confiscated. Long-distance travel is done with sparse mass transport. Trees will be planted on most roads.

- Foreign affairs: All mass immigration and most of import-export trade must stop. Cross-border travel is allowed only for small numbers of diplomats and correspondents.

- Business will mostly end. Manufacture is allowed only for well-established needs. All major manufacturing capacity is state owned. Products will be durable and last for generations.

- Science and schooling: Education will concentrate on practical skills. All competition is rooted out. Technological research is reduced to the extreme minimum. But every child will learn how to clean a fish in a way that only the big shiny bones are left over.”  -
Diord Fionn |

Interview by Francisco Martínez (EHI, Tallinn Univ) & Larissa Vanamo

A democracy where there is freedom of consumption is the worst thing possible”
 The worth of an individual is smaller when there are a lot of humans”
Force and oppression are needed because life as such is a value”
Pentti Linkola is a Finnish fisherman and ornithologist. He was born in Helsinki in 1932 and lives in a 30 square meter wooden cabin in Sääksmäki (Ritvala).
We visited him together in March 2011. Despite our awareness of some general gossip about his temperament, he kindly attended to us for several hours. During this time we talked and took a walk. As a curious anecdote, he seems to have a particular notion of order and disorder. On the wall of his cabin hangs a sign that says: ‘a house which is not dirty is not a home’.
Linkola has two daughters and until not so long ago he had no electricity at home. He lived from what he earned, selling on horseback the fish he caught in the lake Vanajavesi. His father, Kaarlo Linkola, was Rector of the University of Helsinki and his grandfather was Chancellor there too. Regardless, he chose to leave his zoological and botanical studies after one year in that same institution.
For a long time, his family lived in the main building of Kaisaniemi’s Botanical Garden, which was planned as a castle for the king of Finland in 1918. Nevertheless, most of the family heritage that Linkola received he donated to the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation, an NGO created by him to preserve the forest for the Finnish society. He has also been writing for Finnish journals with a certain frequency; added to which he has published nine books in Finnish and a book in English compiling some of his articles (see here). As a curiosity, he asked during our interview which of his articles were translated into English (one search engine reveals over 180,000 hits when entering his name).
Linkola is not totally isolated there in Sääksmäki. He appears occasionally on TV and from time to time he visits his family in Helsinki or goes to listen to certain seminars (for example about Dostoevsky). He is also known for his legendary expeditions -walking for weeks throughout the forests of Finland or riding a bike in continental Europe (he has never gone lower than the Pyrennees). Besides literature, one of his favourite hobbies is to study the migration routes of water birds.
Linkola encourages the concept of an integrated nature of life, besides the intrinsic value of nature. For that he proposes a set of radical mesures: to return to a smaller ecological niche, to reduce human population (licensing procreation), to abandon “the quasi religious” pursuit of economic growth implanting subsistence economy, and to abolish democracy and the distribution of energy (electricity, gas, oil, etc). To sum up, Linkola takes the idea of environmental balance as a base for the organisation of society (we should turn from anthropocentrism to eco-centrism).
Q. How is your health as you are already quite aged?
PL. Well, a good month ago I was young and strong and in excellent health, but then my back crumbled and I have just managed to get rid of the pain with strong painkillers. But I guess it will never become good again, apparently the discs have collapsed.
Q. When I said to some people in Helsinki that I would meet Pentti Linkola, all of them showed respect towards you, somehow, some people told me that you are like a hero for them. So are you conscious of that and how do you understand yourself, as a reference to something or not?
PL. Well yes, I am aware of some kind of fame, but most of all I am aware of the fact none of the things I have written about have become true, that I have really written in the wind in that way.
Q. Is it absolutely necessary to reduce the population? Is it not enough to change the way of living?
PL. Oh no it is not enough. This gigantic surplus, it is just too much. The living layer of the earth cannot endure this. You can see everywhere that drinking water is finishing and the climate is changing and sea-levels rise and drown land and the fish of the oceans are becoming extinct and it is all… after all you bump into this everywhere, the only problem is that there are too many people. There is nothing else, all other problems are a consequence of this.
Q. How would it be possible to reduce the population?
PL. Well first and foremost by regulating the birth rate globally. Among others one child per fertile woman – right away, today.
Q. How do you explain that the human worth is relative, that the more people the less is their human worth?
PL. Well I do not think it really needs any explanation, I think that it is clear that the worth of an individual is smaller when there are a lot of humans, than when there are few humans. Actually the value of the human is negative as long as there are too many people. And there are too many of them till the end, everything’s end will come.
Q. If there were too much of some other species, their value would diminish too?
PL. Yes, but this is not the case. They belong in this system where they always face hunger, which defines the size of the population; after all they do not constantly swell like the homo sapiens, a billion after the billion.
Q. You propose a program that is almost like returning to the middle age way of living…
PL. Yes that is not so relevant, what would be important would be reducing the population. For example what would be essential is that if in some part of the world it is not possible to produce enough food for the whole population and there are people starving, there should be no food brought to them, doing that is extremely wrong, they should of course starve to death, this is axiomatic. If there is not enough food then you die of hunger, you should not bring there wheat and other foodstuffs from the other side of the world. The same thing goes if you run out of drinking water in some place. Water should not be brought there, like there are these crazy options to transport icebergs, they are towed to the Mediterranean sea and a part melts on the way and a part arrives and you get drinking water out of it. It is obvious that if you run out of drinking water then you must die of thirst. Both of thirst and hunger. And specifically die.
Q. But regarding this change of lifestyle, do you think people would change their lifestyle out of free will?
PL. Well we have had edification for I do not know how long already… But the reaction is that once a person is aware of this avalanche of ‘eco-catastrophes’, they react so that they have three words: “as long as”. As long as we still can we will still travel more and more to far-off countries and India and the Maldives and to the Dominican Republic and we will shop as long as it is possible, we will buy more cars and build larger apartments, in other words natural resources are constantly used up, or what is left of them. The result is contrary, very strongly contrary, because people react very strongly like this, they do not start to save but consume more and more because they know that this will not last long, one must go to town now. So in that sense you can say that if I have written against this world destruction, then I have had a negative impact because I have sped up destruction, just like everyone else, starting from Rachel Carson.
Q. Well do you regret then having written so much, if it has had such a negative impact?
PL. Well…no I cannot, a human writes and thinks how he thinks, he cannot do anything about it, I cannot do anything about it that I have written something like that, although with destructive consequences. I mean that I have sped up. Of course this end of the world, the disappearance of the human species that is, it is very close in any case, but this speeds it up still, that life has even less time when humans react this way.
Q. Why do you dislike democracy and what would you propose instead?
PL. Well I have written about this too, that any dictatorship is always better than democracy because people are kept under control then. A democracy where there is freedom of consumption and freedom of production, it is the worst thing possible. But the more draconian the dictatorship, the better, a person is captive like that and cannot cause so much destruction.
Q. What could we do to change, or at least to delay the collapse? Should we change the behaviour as an individual, should it be the community acting or do we need a more global approach?
PL. Well on community level of course. I mean there are these things such as the UN and international conferences in which you do not talk about any essential things, for example these climate conferences, if they do not start about cutting down the birth rate, then I do not follow them at all, I do not read about them, they do not matter, it is complete junk, one must begin with the birth-rate and nothing else is really needed for stopping the climate change and this extinction wave of animals and plants and fungi and all of this. It is the only thing. And what is related to that, like I already said, that in any case help from outside should not be brought to areas that are suffering from hunger, because these people are meant to die of hunger when there is not enough food, as what happens in the creation.
Q. So the agendas or meetings have no worth then if…
PL. Unless they do not touch this population question or take it as the only subject of discussion.
Q. It has to be the only one?
PL. Yes, because everything else depends of that. And such organisations like the Red Cross, they should be brought to an end, that once again, these earthquakes and volcano eruptions and such, which are nature’s way to, you could say, put humans under control, that each person there in Japan is meant to die and Finland and other countries should not, the Red Cross should not go there to bring tents and medicine, I mean it is greatly irresponsible and terrible. It is really about not understanding what it is about, that the more Japanese that die the better, like everywhere else too, regardless of if you die of hunger or earthquakes or a tsunami or such. Because these aid measures of course reduce natural resources too, there is so much material and energy put into that.
Q. You have said that everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed. Was the 20th century that bad for the Earth?
PL. Well this has really been negative development since the stone-axe, but now it has sped up so immensely, for example the use of electricity, yes it is a huge catastrophe, just huge.
Q. What do you think was the worst invention in European culture?
PL. Well electricity and its appliances.
Q. Why do you think the Soviet Union disappeared and what was the mistake of the Soviet system?
PL. Well these leaders were not strong enough, they passed up the raging people and they did try to prevent these Western shopping paradises from being shown on TV but they did not succeed and the people saw this shine of plastic and neon-lights in other parts of the world, then it cracked, as long as they had a strong leadership it was a great system. And the people were under control. But when we talk about the individual’s freedom and human rights, then the game is over. I have once seen in this forest conference, where they showed a column chart of the forest reserves in the Northern hemisphere; for Finland there was a tiny column, Sweden’s was twice as high, then Germany, in Germany they discuss in a completely different manner, it was three times as high, Canada was this size (shows with his hands) and then the Soviet Union, it rose there high up, to the skies, because there they still had forest, now they are being gnawed by Japan on one side and Europe on the other, but at the time, during the Soviet Union it was brilliant how natural resources were not robbed, there was some robbing but what was great too was that the pollution landed into the factory towns where they belonged, whereas in the Western countries for example in Finland we have these long pipes due to which the pollution spreads all over to the country-side, it descends only there whereas the city where the factory is stays clean, which is of course as absurd as possible. Yes it was, with all its conditions and faults, the Soviet Union really was great compared to Western societies.
Q. But they were really exploiting natural resources and not respecting nature.
PL. To some extent, but like I said, they had 20-times more intact forest than on the whole of the Northern hemisphere. Well they did of course dig for oil and those oil pipes leaked and there were large areas like that, but it was small compared to the Western countries that have destroyed their whole surface area, their whole land, like Finland. But what I would like to say is that the individual’s liberty is simply the liberty to destroy the world. It is the human’s liberty and that is how he uses it.
Q. Then you believe it is legitimate to use violence to end democracy and establish a dictatorship?
PL. Yes. In short, by saving life. Because of the population explosion; these kinds of figures are impossible, there should be five billion people less and then there would be some hope of continuation. But in any case good concepts are discipline, forbiddance, force and oppression. Without them it is not possible to think about the human being, for long I mean, that life would continue on Earth.
Q. So in a way, the human being is always harmful then?
PL. It is of course, the evolution’s basic misfortune is that this kind of species has evolved, one that destroys its own foundation, it is completely new, there have been these world-wide extinction-waves, but they have been caused by meteorites and such, but is this now the sixth I believe very rapid extinction-wave, which is due to one of evolution’s species. It is just that within this species there are so many individuals, there is some dispersion, there are some who do not destroy, just like these cultures that stay within boundaries, and in all communities, for example in Finland there are a few of those grannies living in a cabin who have a small potato field and once every two weeks they walk or cycle to a village to buy a package of coffee. It is of course imported and should not be bought but this is still extremely minor what these kinds of people consume. They have a tiny cabin that is a hundred or two hundred years old, sometimes the roof is a bit repaired, but they do not consume much more natural resources than a bird couple. That nevertheless these people do exist as a small minority, that in that sense it is just as wrong that the world will be destroyed and they will be destroyed simultaneously, it is just as wrong that nature, animals, fungi and plants are destroyed because of human, a small part of the people are innocent or will die innocently.
Q. Why is immigration so harmful in your opinion?
PL. One should not come here where the individual burdens and consumes more. If a Finn moves from here to a clay cabin in Africa to a lower standard of living, that could well be argued, but not so that a poorer person comes to a richer country, which only means using up faster the natural resources.
Q. Is there still something you would like to add or comment on?
PL. Force and oppression are needed because life as such is a value, not only human life, all nature meaning animals and plants and fungi. And what is valuable in human life, in short it is science, art, sets of values and civilisation. But their volume too should not be too large, that regardless how precious the jewels of music are, we still have too many orchestras and too many composers and too many theatres and painters, that there should not be more of even them than what the planet can take, not even culture, although the value [of the human] is only in culture. That a normal human being, this kind of person who does not differ from an animal in any way, only if it produces food and distributes food to culture-people, there is its value, but it has no more intrinsic value than a chaffinch or a squirrel or a jaybird, a human is born, he develops, has offspring which then have offspring which then have offspring and so forth and like that his life is exactly the same as a squirrel’s life, but culture is the thing that justifies, but no more than there really is space for, that not a single animal, fungus or plant species must diminish. That the monstrous human can take for the use of culture only a small part of the earth, most of the earth should naturally be untouched by humans. - www.materialworldblog.com/2013/03/invoking-the-apocalypse-a-promenade-with-pentti-linkola/



"We still have a chance to be cruel. But if we are not cruel today, all is lost."

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