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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Converging Environmental Knowledge: Re-evaluating the Birth of Modern Environmentalism in Finland

Tuomas Räsänen

Environment and History 18 (2012): 159-181. doi: 10.3197/096734012X13303670112696

In this article I wish to challenge the current scholarly consensus on the origins of modern environmentalism in Finland. Finnish environmental history literature has emphasised the assumption that Rachel Carson's Silent Spring transformed environmental ideas and policy in Finland, as it allegedly did in some other countries. Basing the argument on the scientific research on toxic pollution in Finland and Sweden in the 1960s and early 1970s, I argue that the decisive and transforming influence originated instead from Swedish science. It was only after Swedish scientists had presented evidence that the Swedish environment was severely contaminated by toxic chemicals that Finns launched their own research projects verifying these findings in Finland too. This caused a sense of anxiety among the Finnish public and galvanised not only the Finnish environmental movement but also Finnish society as a whole. The article concludes by sketching a preliminary model for further research on the birth of modern environmentalism.

KEYWORDS: Environmentalism, environmental policy, pollution, Finland


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