Real change rarely comes quickly as we would like – it’s one of the tough lessons of environmental campaigning. But when it eventually does arrive, it can be very, very sweet, like the satisfaction of saving an immense forest in the far north of Europe.
In February 2005, I was in the back of a car in Lapland, Finland, watching an apparently lifeless, monochrome expanse of skinny dark trees and dazzling white snow blur by. “What”, I wondered, “are we doing here, trying to save these young, tiny little trees?” I was part of an international team of Greenpeace activists from all over Europe and beyond who had arrived in Lapland to set up the Forest Rescue Station, a kind of base camp that would put us in a position to help the local Saami reindeer herders protect the forest. If the Finnish government was to have its way, many of these trees were destined to end up as paper pulp for books and magazines across Europe.