Vegetarian Elite
Going Green with Vegetarian Finnish Parliament Member Oras Tynkkynen (In Finnish)      
Today’s Vegetarian Elite will be presented in Finnish and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, (Nepali,) Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Thai.

Thank you for joining us on this trip to the Parliament of Finland. Today, we will meet a young, enthusiastic, and eco-conscious Finnish vegetarian politician, Mr. Oras Tynkkynen.

My background is in NGO’s, namely environmental groups like Friends of the Earth Finland. But professionally, I’m a journalist. So I used to work as a radio journalist before entering the Parliament. That was 5 years ago already. So I thought it was kind of logical progression for me to first be involved in different civic groups and organizations. And then after trying to convince politicians and decision makers to make the right decisions, to actually try to be there to make the decisions myself.

Mr. Oras Tynkkynen was born in 1977 in central Finland, in the city of Jyväskylä. As a university student, Oras was very interested in social and environmental matters, and worked for various non-governmental organizations (NGO). He ultimately decided to get involved in politics in order to support and promote public policies. In 2004, Oras became the youngest Member of the Finnish Parliament. Oras has participated as the Expert Member of the Finnish government delegation in several United Nations Climate Conferences, including those in Buenos Aires, Bonn, The Hague, Montreal, and Nairobi.

Sometimes combining green lifestyle and being a politician is not easy, and I think the most difficult thing usually is traveling. Because as a Member of Parliament, I’m expected to participate in different international conferences, for instance the UN Climate Conference last year. It was organized in Copenhagen, so that was fairly near Finland. It was easy to take a train there.

Despite his extensive traveling schedule, Oras goes by train every day to work, commuting 200 kilometers morning and evening. In fact, he opts to travels by train whenever possible. Being fully aware of the power of a good example, he is a living model of an eco-conscious politician and his lifestyle has inspired many people to live more sustainable.

Most of my work involves climate protection, energy issues, transport policies and such. And if I can show to people that I’m already doing the things I’m asking other people to do, it’s easier to convince people that it’s possible (Right.); it’s actually good for you. We should use our policies to encourage people to have a greener, more sustainable lifestyles. So I think that it is actually vital to lead by example and have a lifestyle that is compatible with the political measures that you are suggesting. (Right.)

Mr. Oras Tynkkynen tells us about his choice of being a vegetarian since a very young age, and how important our diet choices are to stop climate change.

I’ve been a vegetarian for about 20 years now. Around 13, perhaps 14, when I became a vegetarian. And at the time it seemed like a natural choice for me because I was concerned about environmental issues. I was concerned about animal rights, but also I was very curious about health issues and what kind of effects different diets have on your health. And it has been a good choice from the point of view of climate protection because we know that diet is usually by far one of the biggest contributors to climate change. So if we can adjust our diets, we can really make a big difference in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Becoming the Climate Policy Specialist in the Prime Minister’s Office of Finnish Government since 2007, Mr. Oras Tynkkynen urges for urgent action to avoid a planetary crisis. Many noticeable changes are alerting us that climate change is already taking its toll on the balance of our ecosphere.

One really concrete example is the way seasons are changing. The past or the current winter has been exceptionally cold and we have had a lot of snow. But the previous 2 winters, or actually 3 winters, were in turn remarkably warm. And for many things, it was really shocking to see that we had extensive periods of time in winter when the temperature never fell below zero. (Right.) We didn’t have snow for a really long time and people who have grown up seeing snow and experiencing really cold winters, it was, for many people, it was really shocking to see that change.

These three consecutive fairly warm winters, I think they were an eye-opener for many. Fighting climate change is really urgent because if we don’t make the changes now, then we are not going to be able to avoid the catastrophes (Exactly.) in the future. According to many studies, we only have a couple of years to start reducing global emissions permanently and fairly fast if we are to avoid a climate crisis globally.

Right. And what are actually the immediate steps you would suggest?

If you look at where greenhouse gas emissions from people’s everyday lives come from, there are three big areas. And one is diet, as we already recognized. (Exactly.) And second is housing, especially in a cold country like Finland, houses consume a lot of energy for heating and also lighting and others. And the third is transport. In most industrialized countries we really are reliant on cars. And in many cases, it will be fairly easy to choose biking or walking instead or promoting public transport better. And I think transport is another example of measures with which you can actually at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve people’s health.

Just like a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can get these both benefits at the same time, so it’s really attractive, in my opinion, to make those changes. So addressing all these three key areas is vital if we want to reduce our emissions in our everyday lives.

We are going to enjoy the sunshine in Helsinki harbor and be right back. You are watching Vegetarian Elite on Supreme Master Television.

I’m Oras Tynkkynen, a Member of Parliament here in Finland.
Be Veg, Go Green 2 Save the Planet!

Welcome back to Vegetarian Elite here on Supreme Master Television. Finnish Parliament Member, government Climate Policy Specialist, and vegetarian, Mr. Oras Tynkkynen tells us how food policies can help bring awareness of our dietary impact on climate change.

One really interesting idea is to have a carbon footprint label on food products in the future saying how many grams of carbon dioxide for production of that particular product has caused. And then, people could make informed choices about what kind of products they choose. I know that there are some forerunner companies that are already experimenting with that idea today.

The government has already decided here in Finland that in all public food services, we should aim to have at least one veggie day per week. (Exactly.) So that not only covers schools and kindergartens, but also let’s say homes for the elderly and hospitals. I think it would introduce many good, attractive healthy veggie options to people who may not be accustomed to that that type of foods. And it would make it easier for people to choose vegetarian food later on in their lives.

I saw an American study about people food choices. They basically had 2 different test cases. In the first one, meat was the preferred choice on the menu for people who attending a conference and not surprisingly most people chose the meat. And then they did a slightly different test with a vegetarian option as the main preferred option on the menu and again most of the people were happy to choose the vegetarian option because it was the first one, it was the preferred option on the menu.

You didn’t really even have to restrict people’s choices. You just made the vegetarian option more attractive and then most people chose the vegetarian option. So that type of things we can do quite a lot with and we don’t even have to start talking about restricting people’s choices. Just making sustainable alternatives more attractive.

Finnish government climate change advisor, Mr. Oras Tynkkynen offers another idea to help consumers make informed and sustainable choices that will immediately reduce our environmental impact.

So if we know, based on robust research, that particular food product causes a lot of emissions, then it would make sense to base a tax on the greenhouse gas emissions of that product. And then people won’t really have to calculate in their heads how much greenhouse gases these products produce, but rather just look at the price. And usually if you choose a cheaper product, and many people would prefer cheaper products for obvious reasons, then you would also make a climate friendly choice.

I think that many products and services today are cheap simply because the prices don’t reflect the true cost of those products and services. If Brazilian beef in a supermarket, if the price of that product would have the price of carbon emissions costs it would be so much more expensive than today if we really paid the price of the climate change we are causing, so that has to change.

I’m a big fan of incentives, financial incentives and also disincentives, it goes both ways. So using taxes, using investment support, using emissions trading, congestion charging in transport and that type of measures, we can make it really economically attractive for people to make sustainable choices and then it’s really easy for individuals. If it’s both attractive for the climate and financially, then I think 95% of people would be really happy to do that.

Climate Policy Specialist and Parliament Member, Mr. Oras Tynkkynen emphasizes the clear need to change our lifestyle, along with new technological measures, if we want our society to make a difference in reducing climate impact.

We need a lot of new technologies, but we also need lifestyle changes. It is unlikely that, at least in the coming decades, we have the technology, or rather let’s put it this way, it is possible to reduce emissions, reduce resource use considerably with technological measures alone. We need the society to recognize that it can have a role in promoting sustainable lifestyles. So it’s not only about people individually making those lifestyle choices, it’s also the society making it more attractive for people to make those sustainable lifestyle choices. And for that you need different policies and measures and you come back to the role of politics. So I think really politics is key in this sense.

From his professional experience on climate policies, Mr. Oras Tynkkynen urges us to get involved, each one of us can make a difference if we all act together with our politicians, and we need to start now.

Having worked on climate policies for quite sometime now, I think that it’s really important people get engaged in the issue. If we look at polls in most countries people are really concerned about climate change but that concern alone is not enough. So I think people need to get engaged. People need to let their decision makers know that they are concerned and they want changes and they want policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and they want them fast. And really say that message strongly and loudly enough, that we need action now and we need politicians to do that.

We thank Mr. Oras Tynkkynen, Member of Parliament in Finland and Climate Policy Specialist in the Prime Minister’s Office, for his precious time and noble ideas shared with all of us. We also join his efforts in promoting a more sustainable and vegan lifestyle, in order to stop climate change.

Please stay with us for Between Master and Disciples, up next on Supreme Master Television. With such a virtuous politicians and compassionate leadership, surely our world will progress towards a brighter future for all to enjoy.

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