Can Life Prevail? A Radical Approach to the Environmental Crisis. Linkola, Pentti, Arktos Media, 226 pages, 2009, ISBN 978-1-907166-00-6.
Brian Anse Patrick
Looking for some cheap dystopic thrills? Put down your Orwell and pick up Pentti Linkola’s latest environmental hortatory, a compilation of essays, translated into English for the first time from the original Finnish. Probably the biggest difference between Orwell and Linkola is that in 1984 Orwell intentionally presented a dark futuristic extrapolation based on the world-politics of his day. Linkola’s vision for a totalitarian regime based on “deep” ecology seems more an unintended side effect of long brooding at high latitudes.
While some have praised Linkola as a tough, realistic thinker, others associate him with eco-fascism. Yet others, including himself, seem to see him, first, as a savior to the Environment and, a distant second, to the human race, at least what would survive of it under Linkola-ism.
After diagnosing the Earth’s ecological malady in easily understandable terms that indicate much first hand naturalistic experience—the counting of bird species, a career as a commercial fisherman and thousands of hours observing the great Finnish woodlands—Linkola prescribes what would be essentially a return to the Dark Ages. This is the only way, he says, to save the planet from Man’s coming environmental crisis. Government regulators would carefully ration the firewood that would light and heat this new Age. Thicker clothing and bodies would provide most indoor heat. Food would be grown on sustenance plots, manually: no mechanized farm equipment. Most of the population would work at menial tasks related to food growing and processing. Few roads. No new construction. No carbon footprints from personal or family motor vehicles. No media—and use of paper would be cut to two percent of present production, this being sufficient to transmit culture. (Whose culture one wonders?) After a few generations of government regulation of procreation, one child to one woman except for the case of exceptional individuals, with licenses denied to homes perceived as “genetically inadequate or unsuitable” (p. 193) the population would decrease three-dimensionally, in absolute numbers, shrinkage of average height by 20 centimeters (8 inches) and by weight, thus removing so much more overwhelming human blight. Those given over to mindless economic development would be reeducated and resettled. And the almost incredible statement, discoveries unrelated to preservation of technology “will not be allowed.”
Move over, Mao. Here comes Linkola.
There’s much more. Just a sampling: human stupidity, says Linkola, reaches its “climax” with mass democracy. Man must therefore be led. Cats, which Linkola sees as an invasive species thriving on natural fauna, would be an endangered species in Linkola Land.
Nostalgia, once categorized as a disease in its extreme forms, haunts these essays. In this I find Linkola sympathetic, but only up to a point. He laments changes for the worse during his lifetime. He is aggrieved by loss of natural beauty. Finnish forestry planning has put economic development above the preservation of life. He mourns the disappearing birds of the forest and the fishes of the sea. He waxes indignant about government regulations that required refrigeration of fish taken to market. Back in his days refrigeration wasn’t necessary. The “hygiene scare” is modern foolishness. Children should lick floors and eat compost to develop a healthy Darwinian resistance.
Perhaps the scariest aspect is that, allowing for a few notches of adjustment, many of Linkola’s sentiments are quite common. If one has spent much time in the woods or in the mountains, or outside the cities, one mourns uncontrolled and apparently useless development, e.g., America just can’t have enough strip malls, apparently. It’s just that Linkola’s ideations on these subjects are oddly refracted, amplified and projected. But internal sadness does not mean the world is dying.
I do recommend this book for a number of reasons. It reminds me of the prototypical philosophers of another totalitarian movement—Nazism: the Treitschkes, Wagners, Chamberlains, Nietzsches and Gobineaus who wove the skein that the soft hands of other intellectuals later twisted into a hyper-rational bureaucracy dedicated to Thanatos. We must remember that careerist intellectuals have been the great spinners of the absolutist nightmares of the 20th Century. We can only guess how Linkola will inform future bureaucracies.
But I may be overstating the case. It may well be that Linkola will inform just another harmless social political fad, e.g., the current sustainability craze. For example the woman’s urban sustainability garden that sprouted up at my University, fertilized by about $50,000 dollars in grants donated by the evil corporate sector, aided by dragooned grad student and facilities labor, produced, in addition to a great deal of sanctimonious cant and signifying behaviors, approximately a peck of jalapeno peppers as its only edible product, as humans generally do not eat exotic grasses. The soft-handed do not make very practical gardeners. Fueled now by even more enviro-talk and government seed monies, there is much talk about transforming the ravaged house lots of America’s inner cities into small farms. This, from persons who have never grown a radish, have never sweated over weeds, and whose idea of natural sustenance (for themselves) is a walk through the organic produce section at the whole food store.
Finland has long had one of the highest suicide rates in the world—in an underlying sense Linkola’s book recommends a form of cultural suicide. Maybe, via Linkola, Finland is now trying to become a suicide exporter.
Beware the “reasonable existence” of Pentti Linkola.
Brian Anse Patrick, Associate Professor
Department of Communication
University of Toledo
25 August 2011