Finland's widest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat writes this Wednesday that Finland, for all its work in developing sustainable energy, emits more black carbon (BC) in the form of airborne soot than any of its other Nordic neighbours.
The reason appears to be linked to two national Finnish pastimes, bathing in the sauna and relaxing in the glow of the fireplace. Heating a wood-burning stove or hearth in any of the country's millions of saunas can be tricky ecologically, the HS piece relates, as damp logs can burn in a way that releases compounds into the atmosphere that are harmful to both the planet and immediate human health.
Frighteningly, small-scale combustion (that is, burning fuel at home) accounted for 65 percent of all of Finland's black carbon emissions in 2015, compared to just 18 percent coming from traffic pollution. Arctic ecosystems bear the brunt of the compounds.
"Black carbon is the third most critical cause of global warming, after carbon dioxide and methane," researcher Kaarle Kupiainen from the Finnish Environment Institute says in HS. "Up to a quarter of the energy causing the Arctic to melt comes from black carbon."
Once up in the air, black carbon absorbs light and heats the atmosphere; on the ground it also prevents sunlight from reflecting back into space, melting the globally crucial ice caps.
There are no regulations in place for domestic combustion, but there is still something to be done. HS writes that hearths and fireplaces will have to conform to EU maximum standards by 2022.
Uganda mess prompts talks
Meanwhile in tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen comes down sternly on the jurisdiction of former ministers, calling for ground rules to be set for how ex-politicos may conduct themselves abroad.
Virolainen refers directly to the recent scandal involving once-Communications Minister, Suvi Lindén and a businessman found dead in Uganda's Kampala in early February.
Lindén says she had travelled with the man with the intention of understanding and improving the level of the Ugandan information society. Whether an ex-minister should be allowed to promote such interests in their private life has not been discussed before.
"I think it's clear that there will be a thorough accounting, and that ground rules will be set," Virolainen says in IS.
Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä says in the article that Finnish defence provider Patria, for whom the deceased man worked, will release a thorough report on the Uganda debacle on Wednesday.
Family helped in the dead of night
In another Alma Media tabloid, Iltalehti, a tale of bonhomie unfolds this Wednesday involving two trains, helpful conductors, an Asian family and a cold Kemi night.
A family of three on a tourist holiday in the north of Finland found themselves in a pickle when they failed to disembark from a Helsinki-Rovaniemi train in time at the station in Kemi, where they had hotel reservations. It was Sunday night, past the bedtime of the family's 5-year-old son, with no guarantee of a place to sleep at the next stop in Tervola. The -21 degree temperature made things seem doubly bleak, until conductor Sakari Puotiniemi stepped in.
"After we left Kemi I did my rounds along the train cars, and encountered this lost family," he says in IL. "I knew another train in the opposite direction would be along soon, so I made a few phone calls."
Puotiniemi says that trains can't usually just be stopped in the middle of the tracks on a whim, but that unusual times call for unusual measures.
The trains screeched to a halt side by side on parallel tracks, and the family galumphed through the knee-deep snow to the train that would deliver them safely to their original destination.
"We always serve as best we can, if there's no disruption to the schedule," Puotiniemi says. "The family was very relieved, and it felt good to help people in need."