Friday, July 08, 2011

Crapping on paradise

I went canoe camping last weekend on Hiidenvesi, a biggish lake in southern Finland, not too far west of Helsinki. It was a sort of last minute thing - the weather was so hot it seemed being in/on/near a lake seemed like a good idea. Anyway, if you need a canoe at short notice and for a very reasonable rate, along with a totally relaxed - "oh just leave it over there somewhere whenever you get back" - attitude to returns, visit the nice people at Welhonpesä in Klaukkala.

We didn't have any real info in advance (although it turns out there is loads at including maps) so just took the standard 1:50,000 map and figured we would find somewhere to camp. There are lots of summer cottages around the lake so headed for some islands in the middle that the map marked as uninhabited.

One was hilly with little flat ground on it, but it's smaller neighbour was perfect with a great little beach and a nice flat spot for a camping.

Unsurprisingly some other families were already there by motorboat and it was clearly a regular stopping point, with a number of fire rings already built including one big one with logs laid around as benches and the like.

The Everyman's Right in Finland gives you legal right to travel through or camp just about anywhere that isn't land under cultivation or a someones garden (although there is no right to have a fire without the landowners permission). So there is no reason why this little island shouldn't be well visited, it is a beautiful spot after all, even if the fireplaces aren't technically permitted. But what I wasn't prepared for was the huge amounts of litter that was lying around - including maybe two metres squared of piled up rubbish mainly in plastic bags - and then used toilet paper stuffed down every little crevice or into bushes all over the island.  I actually watched a fat bloke (he was in pale blue Speedos just to complete the delightful image) down the last of his cans of beer from a box of cans, and carefully collapse the cardboard box before leaving it propped up against all the other rubbish as he and his family got back onto their speed boat and buggered off.

I then spent maybe 20 minutes with two sharp sticks going around the island collecting up toilet paper and burning it in one of the fire rings. I've cleaned other people's shit up before, but in a professional capacity where I was at least getting paid to be shining toilets. It's not something I would choose to do as hobby.

Who do people think is going to go to some little island in the middle of lake and clean up the crap (literal and metaphorical) that they have left behind? Some sort of magic, floating dustbin truck? And if we, in a canoe, can pack our small amount of rubbish into a plastic bag and take it back to the dustbins at our starting point, why can't the fat bastards in their motorboats do exactly the same? Take a look at the any Finnish tourist information website or brochure and you can bet it will be going on about the unspoilt wilderness and beautiful lakes. Plus guidebook writers or other myth makers tend to go on about how Finns are still close to nature and the environment yadda, yadda, yadda... The guidebook writers clearly never go cycling around the outskirts of Helsinki where there is significant and continuing fly-tipping going on, or indeed visit the idyllic little lake islands and spend a quarter of an hour picking up other people's used bog-roll. Finland seems to have exactly the same proportion of selfish shits as anywhere else in the world and folk should stop being so smug about their supposed love for nature.

And of course eventually one of my kids needed to, ummm, use the facilities for a number twosie. We canoed over to the other island where no one seems to camp, found a spot where I could scrape a hole in the dirt, burnt the toilet paper and buried the business. It's so NOT complicated (although if you really need instructions...). Why does anyone think that leaving shit covered toilet paper flapping around in the breeze could possible be a decent way to behave?

Right, glad I got that off my chest.


Yeti said...

It really is a shame about the littering, but I've never had any illusion about Finns being better than anyone else in this matter. I cannot even understand the attitude of people leaving trash in the woods. It should be perfectly natural for any civilized being not to leave any trash behind.

There is one single rule about this, though. The more accessible a place is, the more trash there is. Paradoxally enough, people who get to a place mainly by a motorized vehicle tend to leave more trash behind than people who struggle to places using their own muscles.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Yeti - I think you're right, perhaps thinking an island wouldn't get rubbish left on it is naive when it is obviously such a popular spot with people in motorboats. I do hope you are right about 'self propelled' people (be that hikers, bikers or canoeists) care a bit more, although I've seen some litter left by lazy climbers that makes me mad as well.

ed said...

Here here!

THC said...

I think going around in motorboaths can be compared to going around in motorized homes / caravans. It's no suprise then that people leave their trash around, even in Finland (there are as many --tards as anywhere).

PS. Just back from Lofoten where the germies where doing exactly the same...

Anna said...

Well stated!

Toni said...

But you know what Toby, it gets even better. Here in Paimio people leave trash even though garbage can is one meter from you.

Ten years ago I was in Mariehamn, Åland, and it was striking how clean the city was, compared to for example Turku, which is simply awful.

Seems to me that a lot of people here in Finland is simply stupidly careless.

Anonymous said...

My number one pet hate of all time, it's nuts how people that vote green and rant about nature one minute, can just leave shitty toilet paper lying beside an exposed turd on the ground in a nature reserve the next. Bad enough that many people can't grasp the idea of burying their shit, but at least they could try walking a little bit away from paths or streams?!

Good on you for burning it, I've taken to bringing dog-poop bags with me on trips to better be able to clean up the inevitable spoor. This is also really apparent around the Stockholm crags! Climbers must have delicate bowels :)