Alviina Alametsä is one of the youngest candidates in this election, but by far not the less experienced or the less mature, as you will see with this interview. She has studied politival science, and has clearly an international vision for Finland. She is a member of a new generation which is going to replace the Greens’ founders. Having been one of the survivors of the Jokela shootings, she is also wanting to see more done for children and young people in terms of mental health, in particular in schools.
How did you come into politics
I started in the municipal elections in 2012. Before that, I was not politically active. Well, I was a bit involved with the leftist movement, and at high-school age I was campus farming with them, or urban farming, and stuff like that. But then, it didn’t really seem like my movement. So then, I dropped political things, and just went to work for environmental organizations. I participated into Allianssi, a big youth organization, where I worked as a climate representative, so I was representing the Finnish youth in climate negotiations, and more generally in Finnish environmental discussions.
I was then noticed by the Green Party, and they approached me and asked to become a candidate for the municipal elections. It was quite spontaneous, and quite a small campaign, but now we are doing it bigger, because I have had a few years to think about politics. I now feel very strongly that this is a really good way to promote things that I think Finland needs—for example, sustainability, not only in ecological matters, but also poverty issues and green economy issues. I think we need a different or new approach to economy, and also to the security policy, because of the situation in Russia. So, I think that the Green Party is a good way to address these issues, because we have freedom of a sort, and we are very scientific, and we work on the basis of evidence. And that’s why I came to politics and am in this movement.
But you are studying international affairs, also?
Yes. I started world politics. I’m a Bachelor in the field of Conflict Studies and Peace Studies, and I also studied military strategy in the National Defence Academy of Finland. And that’s why I’m, of course, interested in global issues. I have always been, because I have quite a global family, and I have travelled a lot, from Cuba to Russia and developing countries. I’ve also worked in a peace project in Karabakh. I don’t know if you know the region, but it is a region at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. And if politics doesn’t work out for me immediately, I will probably go for the peace/diplomacy way. But I think that politics is a very good way, also, to address these issues. I would like to help Finland be like a peace-building nation in this world political situation, and to help Finland to solve these crisis around the world, with professionalism and not only manpower or gun power. That’s important!
About the Green Party, how do you see the way the party’s functioning now?—because I feel that there is a change of generation. Some of the founders are going away from politics. How do you see the way things are, the evolution of the party in the last 2 or 3 years?
The party has now a lot of new members and new active politicians coming on board. Of course, it’s an interesting shift, because it seems that some people withdrawing slowly now were the ones from the beginning of the Green movement, from the Koijarvi lake event which is the starting point of the whole Green Party and movement. Many people who are now active on the top of the Greens, Pekka Haavisto, Heidi Hautala, and people like that, were involved in that movement, and the natural conservation initiatives. And new people arrive.
But I don’t know if the ideology has shifted, even if there is an evolution from simply protecting nature to a more proactive attitude, from a conservative movement to a progressive one. I think it’s a sign that Osmo Soininvaara is not a candidate anymore, as he was a bit more of a right-wing ideology. But now, many of the young people have more progressive ideology. So, maybe that is going to shape the party more in the future.
What do you see as the main challenges for Finland for the next 4 or 5 years?
Well, as a Green, I, of course, must say that the environmental issues, energy politics, and climate change, are not only a global issue, but also a great challenge for Finland. You just need to look at the Talvivaara case, and we have many environmentally polluting operations going on. We are purchasing Russian nuclear power with this Rosatom deal, a new nuclear plant from Russia that we do not accept. Personally, I think that’s quite inconsistent also with the military strategy, and it should be on our security agenda.
The question for us is to stay independent by producing our own renewable environmentally friendly energy, which will allow having a good relationship with Russia and at the same time staying strong and show that we condemn the actions in Ukraine. Because, of course, the line where Russia is going now is worrying, of course. It’s not a military threat to Finland or anything like that, but it’s worrying, because their policies of geopolitical expansion have been very aggressive in the last years. These are big challenges.
Another issue is the income differences in Finland, and unemployment matters. Today’s newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, had an article about this new study that found that the poorer people and their children have different kinds of brain structure than the rich families. So, at that early age, for children from 0 to 15 years, there are already very significant differences in certain capabilities of thinking which is frightening. It is a surprising fact, because we are so happy about our welfare state. But that is in fact under threat, because of the economic situation, and also because of the new liberalism, repeating that we have to cut our services that we provide to citizens, and weaken the welfare country. We used to think that if people have shelter and food, then they are going to be just fine. And now, this new research shows that, even beyond that, the income differences affect people’s brains and their capability to learn, toe work, to be creative in the economy. It looks like we are really creating serious inequalities.
When you are elected, what would you like to see as the first law you would vote?
I think basic income would be very interesting. I would not necessarily push for it immediately for all Finland, but I would definitely vote for experiments in that area. So, in a specific part of the country, we would try it to see how it works, because I think that would be a really great way to make this a more equal country. It would provide an income for those people who do not know how to seek it, and it would lessen the bureaucracy and leave more resources to other kinds of important work, such as healthcare and mental care and other useful things. That would be, definitely, something to do.
What would be your recommendation for the next government about the attitude towards Russia and Ukraine and the situations there?
I think Finland should be really active in that question, in the sense that we should not be afraid to stand up with our opinion and our help to Ukraine. But at the same time, we should be a non-violent country. And I think, strategically thinking, it is a common strategy to pose as a threatening and strong country, a credible enemy with powerful weapons and a lot of military resources. But I don’t think that’s really the way it’s going to work for Finland, because we are a small country. We don’t have so much that we would actually be a very, very credible threat for Russia for example.
And I think that the best way to handle this situation is not to be too provocative. That’s why I don’t personally support the NATO membership, because I think that at this moment, seeking to be a member would only provoke certain negative feelings in Russia, and we would still not get the security from NATO that we would want right now, because the process of applying takes 2 years, maybe even more. So, I think this is probably the hardest hour, because I believe that at some point, the power will shift in Russia, there are signs that it goes that way already. People are on the streets even more and more, and Putin has all these crisis going on, one after another. And I believe that, at some point, they will hopefully have some kind of more democratic process and maybe have a more nonviolent line. Even if at this point it doesn’t seem like that.
But in what you are saying, I understand, if the circumstances were different, you would not be opposed to a NATO membership?
NATO membership—basically, I’m morally a bit opposed to it. At this point, I don’t see that it, strategically, is the right option here. But also, in the longer time period, I think NATO would have to change a lot for me to be able to accept that organization as something that would suit the Finnish value system. I see the European Union as a lot closer framework, when talking about security issues. Of course, many European countries are NATO members, but then, on the other hand, when Angela Merkel was in Finland recently, she made some critical comments about NATO and quite positive ones about European cooperation. And many countries have been opposing NATO a little bit lately, not only because some operations may have hurt a lot of people without real results, and it may be seen sometimes as non-efficient, but also because NATO seems sometimes to be controlled maybe by the US. Or, to be more precise, even if NATO may not do everything that the U.S. wants, they still will not do anything that the U.S. wouldn’t want. So, there is a strong control there.
And then, many countries, of course, like Germany, have many times had a very different view on certain security issues, and have also a different analysis of the situation, and which kind of operations, or which kind of functions, we should have. And of course, there is a lot of mistrust to NATO, as well, because there has been this kind of spying and listening to Angela Merkel’s phone calls and communications. So, those are the things that make me believe that, in a long time frame, the European Union will be tied together more, also, in the military and security sense.
In the domain of environment policy, what are the main things that you personally would like to see happening fast in Finland?
In climate change issues, we have just passed a climate law, as you know, which is actually quite ambitious. And really, we want to decrease the Finnish gas emissions quite a lot, and I think that’s a very good strategy line here. I have been lobbying for such a law for many years in environmental organizations. Right now, in climate politics, we are at that stage when we have a framework law on what goals we will have for international negotiations, and also for ourselves. But of course, it’s not really that specific yet.
So, for example, if you think about some very specific line of action such as taxation, some people say that, for example, businesses that are not environmentally friendly should be taxed more, and that the businesses that are carbon-neutral, should be taxed less, and that this would somehow not only steer the businesses’ behaviour in Finland in the right direction, but also give more money to the government to spend on environmental projects.
But the climate law doesn’t really go in these details. So, the practical changes that we would possibly make will only come to the point of law-making in the next four years.
Are you agreeing with the Centre Party, which seems to envisage to eliminate the use of coal in Finland quite fast?
Yes, of course, we really want to eliminate coal. For example, here in Helsinki, I have this friend who runs a business here. And he says that, when he has clients coming from other countries, or from other cities, and they come to Helsinki from the airport with a taxi or whatever, the first thing that they see is the huge piles of coal, because that’s lying there. And that’s embarrassing, he says, because when you want to bring, for example, renewable businesses in Finland, and ecologically sustainable alternatives, we have that kind of landmark. In all cities, we should get rid of coal, beginning with Helsinki, the faster the better.
In addition, as I already explained, renewable energy sources are good for the our country’s global strategy. It’s better for us to have our own energy production, rather than buying it from Russia. And also, it’s important because it can create new businesses. Solar power, for example, in Finland in the winter would not be likely the best choice. But during the other seasons, it’s actually cheaper than oil. When you see that China has really taken that opportunity of solar power, and when you know that we have here a lot of engineering experience, we could definitely make the best of developing and selling techniques in the field of renewable. And also, in the countryside of Finland, when you think about biofuels, for example, of course, it could be a great source of income. We could have 20 000 jobs in that field, as it has been calculated by experts. These are the choices that I push for, and they are brave choices. And I really hope that the Centre Party will have that kind of line as well, when they are elected, and do not forget their plans, as it has sometimes happened in the past…
What is making you different from the other Green candidates?
Well, I think I’m a bit more social liberal than many Green candidates. I also, for example, speak more about gay rights, for example, and also, of course, legalization of marijuana and whatever. Those are maybe themes that come from the young people. But I think the biggest thing that separates me from the other candidates is that I’m a student, as well, and I work in the student movement. And the Parliament has made many changes to the social support system of students: it actually has been changed 20 times in the last 4 years. And that’s crazy. First of all, it’s a lot of bureaucracy to change laws all the time, to change a certain system back and forth, cut the social income for students, or increase it, or whatever. I think it should be made a bit more stable, and we should have a clear realization to have a really good social income, for the students instead of cutting down all the time. And of course, we have to deal with the pressure put on students to graduate earlier and things like that.
So, I think we definitely need someone who is a Green student to actually promote the students’ interests in the Parliament, as well. And we saw that definitely in the big public demonstration a few weeks ago. You might remember. It was held by us in this house. Just in two days, we set up this huge demonstration with thousands of people, thousands of students, involved. And that shows, to me, that there is a strong urge for thinking seriously on this matter, as it is a part of the future of Finland.
But also, one thing that makes me a bit different is that I talk a lot about mental health and preventive healthcare. That’s my special theme, because I’ve been a lot in the papers, not in the English-speaking papers, but in the Finnish papers, about the Jokela school shootings, because I was a survivor of the biggest school shooting in Finland. I was at 14 years at the time. And my friends died, but I survived.
That was also something important, that made me think about politics and society and philosophy and violence. We made a documentary about the issue. Inside the Mind of a School Shooter, it’s called, and it was premiered in the DocPoint Documentary Festival, and also in IDFA, the International Documentary Festival, and FIPA, the Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels, and we have won many prizes with it, because it was made with an excellent Dutch director, Alexander Oey, and it’s a global project, as well, even though it concentrates on Jokela. So, that’s why I’ve been interviewed a lot in the press about violence and mental health and why people seek violence as a solution to their personal problems. And I just thought that, for example, in our case, in Jokela, they spent millions of euros for the aftercare, but before the event, there was really not any mental healthcare or any preventive measures in Jokela for the young people.
And that’s also important, because at a national level, when you think about all the young people who cannot work because of mental health problems, that costs us about 8 billion euros a year. And of course, if we could have more preventive care, I think in the long term it would definitely pay itself off.
How did it go in the Finnish school system after Jokela? Were there some improvements, or no changes?
Well, not really much change, I think. The first thing the government did after those shootings was, of course, that they visited our school, and there was a lot of fancy talk, but no actions. The only action was, of course, that in Jokela, we had a lot of resources after that. In that specific school, we had more nurses and really good services, and things that should have been there before that, actually. But in the other schools, it didn’t happen, of course. Nothing happened, really. And the only thing that the government actually did was that the gun laws were tightened, so the criteria of getting a gun license were tightened. But that’s the only thing, really, because it would have been very expensive in the first place, when there was a recession coming up, and things like that. So, it would have been a politically risky move, at that point, to put a lot of resources to mental health and preventive care, even though in the long term it would save us big bucks.
How is your campaign going?
Really well! We have a team of 100 people helping with the campaign, and we have had a lot of publicity, good publicity. And of course, Yle TV made that series of election videos and my video is in the top of those, it’s very popular. And it was also shown in a TV show, because Yle had an interview with all the political party leaders, and after Ville Niinistö’s interview, they showed the most popular Green videos, and mine was there. Of course, it has been very good press, and it’s been a surprising thing, as well, to see people so active on the move about these issues that I’ve been talking about, and supporting so much. Heidi Hautala, who is very well- known was just in Finland for a shared public debate with Pekka Haavisto and she gave me a lot of support, and promoted me with a quote that says that she will support me to be in the Parliament.
But it is a very active campaign, and we have been going out from 6 a.m. every morning with my campaign team, and handing out flyers, and things like that. And of course, the student events have been active, as well. We have an overalls’ patch, because Finnish students wear overalls, so we made this special design for them, and that is a really funny one, which is very popular thing among the students, to the point that many radio channels have interviewed me or talked about that patch, as well, because it seems to be the funniest thing going on in this election. But I think Greens, overall, are doing pretty well. We have active candidates, and I hope that we will have a definite win in these elections.