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Monday's papers: Catalonia reactions, sawmills to feed fish, Finnish Studies

Domestic dailies carry President Niinistö's and Foreign Minister Soini's reactions to the restless voting in Spain, sawdust by-product serving as ecological nutrition for farmed fish and the most comprehensive Finnish Studies module in all of North America at the University of Toronto.

Hakkuutähteitä sahalla.
Sawdust could be used as fish feed instead of being wasted, researchers say. Image: YLE

With the independence vote in Catalonia turning ugly and making global headlines, Finnish politicians also comment on the sequence of events this Monday.

President Sauli Niinistö tells tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that Spanish and Catalonian leaders should sit down to talks as quickly as possible to quell the unrest.

"Flammable situations like this one may be the first steps towards something much, much worse," Niinistö warns IS readers. "New tactics are needed."

Foreign Minister Timo Soini also weighs in on the Spanish strife, echoing the President's call for dialogue and emphasising restraint in use of police force.

"But these things aren't just open and shut cases, someone can't just declare themselves independent and join the EU," Soini says. "Spain could shut down this independence bid if it wanted to."

Soini points to the healing power of negotiation in the IS piece by drawing parallels between the Catalonian endeavour and the de-escalation of ETA hostilities in the Basque Country in 2011, as well as the ending of nationalist violence in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.

"I don't think anyone wants another violent nationalist coup, and the spirit of independence should not be used as fuel for extremism," Soini also says.

Sawdust for fish

Meanwhile, regional paper Aamulehti runs a piece on a potential agricultural development that researchers from the Natural Resources Institute (Luke) may help solve broader problems of resource scarcity worldwide.

A by-product of the sawmill industry is of course sawdust, which mills accumulate some 3.3 million cubic metres of every year. While a portion of the dust is reused as cellulose or burned as fuel, much of the flakes are simply left in piles to rot, AL writes. That is what scientists are now trying to change.

A research group of ten scientists, headed by Risto Korpinen, is looking into an initiative to utilise the glucose in sawdust as feed for farmed fish. The sawdust sugar cannot be used for human consumption, unlike some other forms of organic protein.

"We could do the same thing with potato or corn starch, but these are edible proteins," says Korpinen. "It is against my own morals to use foodstuffs in fuel production, for instance."

The innovation could change the face of domestic fish farming, an industry that requires about one kilogram of feed per kilogram of fish. Luke statistics put the amount of fish grown in Finland last year at some 14.4 million kilos, AL reports.

Kalevala to Kaurismäki in Canada

Studying Finnish history and language as an academic subject is possible in a number of universities abroad, but nowhere as broadly as at the University of Toronto. This Monday top Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat features an article on professor Börje Vähämäki, the man behind the most comprehensive module on Finnish Studies in all of North America.

Originally a Finnish Swede, Vähämäki emigrated to the United States from Oulu in the 1970s. The HS bio says that eventually he made his way to Canada, where he founded Finnish Studies in 1989.

"My Finnish-Swedish background has somewhat fallen away after such a long time as an expat," Vähämäki says. "I always wanted to be a professor of Finnish, but back then the attitude in Finland was that some Swedish-speaker can't take on the job."

There are some 130,000 people with Finnish backgrounds living in Canada, where Finns came in several waves since the 1920s. Thousands of people with Finnish heritage live and work in Toronto, many of whom are interested in studying their roots. Vähämäki's enterprise is integral to the identity of many Canadians, and the effort requires cash; the professor is in Finland now raising funds for the continuity of his Studies programme.

Vähämäki's favourite subjects to teach are among the pillars of Finnish culture: the national epic Kalevala, and the films of award-winning director Aki Kaurismäki.

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