In March 2020 the Committee for the Future commissioned experts in various fields to provide reports on the positive and negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having lived with the pandemic for more than a year, it is now a good time to look at some of the main findings and ideas of the reports.
Many of the authors pointed out that the pandemic allows us to reconsider the functions of society. It would give us "a time-out" and a possibility to implement major structural reforms. Time to think.
We might have to fight the virus for yet some time, but it is important to already now start choosing different paths for the future. Remote studies and remote work can quite seamlessly be combined with family life. At the same time, a narrowed social network and unequal opportunities to work from home are risks that must be taken into account. When recovering from the pandemic in Finland it is important and good to remember that our strength comes from resources we had already before the pandemic: high-quality education, promotion of gender equality, support of livelihood opportunities and entrepreneurship, peacekeeping work and respect for human dignity.
If we really take some time to think, latest by now it should be clear for everyone that public resources should be used in crisis management in a way that also helps solving other key global issues, as for example fighting and controlling climate change. In the above mentioned reports experts point out that Finland needs both an export and import strategy that is based on sustainable development. This is perfectly in line with our activities in Vaasa – The Nordic Energy Capital – that I have described in my previous columns in Helsinki Times. As huge efforts are made around the world to boost R&D spending in new innovative energy technologies, the Nordics have a unique possibility to lead the way.
Last time I also specifically described Vaasa as an excellent location for battery manufacturing – and it is therefore a great pleasure to remind us all, and update those who might have missed, that the battery value chain operator Johnson Matthey chose Vaasa for sustainable battery materials plant. The Letter of Intent with the City of Vaasa was signed on April 2, and the plant is planned to be in operation in 2024. I am very confident that our cluster of dedicated world leading companies will attract many more new players and operators to the Vaasa region. By focusing together on system level energy solutions we will help the world reach the Paris Climate targets in advance.
Before wishing you a great summer, let us look at one last very interesting finding from the COVID-19 pandemic reports ordered by the Committee for the Future: culture and art should be better integrated in the innovation system and used to find responses to global sustainability challenges. We have to create favorable conditions for co-development that will help operators utilize art to examine phenomena and find positive and innovative changes. Just as an example that came to my mind from an earlier hearing we had, we would probably have saved a lot of time and resources if the engineers developing windmills decades ago would have studied old paintings of birds, and had a close look on how nature itself had formed the wings.
Hopefully the “time-out” caused by the pandemic will soon be over. But, hopefully we will find more time to really think again in future. I wish all readers good health and a great summer.
Joakim Strand is a Finnish politician currently serving in the Parliament of Finland for the Swedish People's Party of Finland representing the Vaasa constituency.
This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of The Finnish Parliament contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times.
The articles will be published in order of arrival.