Text: Matti Itkonen | Images: Petri Hänninen

Hannes Hyvönen is a log builder and artist. He feels that the Finnish forestry politics have forced him into resistance.

The hand carved sculpture along Viikintie has the aroma of peat. There are chips of wood on the ground telling of its re-erecting. One can see the marks of the carving axe on its surface. Log builder Hannes Hyvönen climbs on top of his creation and tells that it took two weeks to make it. 

The sculpture is called ”Juuri ja Juuri” (”Root and root” – can also be read as ”Just and just”). It was revealed, self-funded, at the end of October, and formed a part of the ”Our forests” -event in the Helsinki Senate Square. After the event Hyvönen donated the piece to Helsinki University. It is now standing at Viikki campus. 

The log builder and artist Hannes Hyvönen feels that he became radicalised due to Finland’s commercial forestry policy.

”This radicalisation started from being enormously pissed off: about the Finnpulp pulp factory project near Kallavesi lake in Kuopio; the Metsähallitus (government-owned company managing state forests) terminating its cooperation with the log building company Alppisalvo hence forcing them to move away from Finland; and the way the media was relating to this all. I don’t understand why the wood is rather sold to a pulp company that makes toilet paper for Chinese markets than is allowed to grow and carved into houses. Finnish forest use would need a truth commission and national therapy to be administered to patch the traumas of mismanagement.

“Our forests” -event was organised in October in the Helsinki Cathedral’s crypt. The event made a statement for the forests, against the clearcuttings.

“I was asked to join in as a log builder, since I have seen in practice that how difficult it is to source massive logs from Finland“ tells Hyvönen. 

”There were many researchers, forest owners, artists, MPs and environmental organisations. There were both sadness and joy in the air. One of the participants was Mr. Erkki Lähde, the pioneer researcher and defender of the continuous cover forestry. I think that he would finally deserve a public apology, now when continuous cover forestry is legal and there are citizen initiatives demanding an end to the clearcuttings” reflects Hyvönen.

The final straw for becoming a fierce opponent of clearcuttings was Hyvönen’s own experience.

 ”I bought some forest 16 years ago. Now it is surrounded by clearcuttings. Storms blow through the neighbouring felled forest land, and cause large trees to fall down on my land” accounts Hyvönen.

Our country’s commercial forestry philosophy has led to the situation where for half a century the focus has solely been the quantity of wood. Quality or size have not mattered. So that log building could become the billion turnover industry as it is in Austria, it would require hundreds of new small enterprises and a supply of quality wood for small sawmills, log builders, carpenters and wood carvers.

”We don’t even have occupational training for the log builders”, laments Hyvönen.

There are only few experienced entrepreneurs left in Finland that through their own contacts buy special, massive wood from the forest owners. The Metsähallitus’ stance is that this is not allowed in the state forests, even though large logs could be sold for more money.

”They rather sell the entire stock of wood to the pulp company, which then uses the large logs for making planks and the rest goes for toilet paper for the Chinese” states Hyvönen.

Metsänhoitoyhdistys (a governmental organisation managing forests with private ownership) neither sells logs for the buyers searching quality logs, since the amounts that one small entrepreneur would be buying are still relatively small.

”There isn’t even a delivery service for large logs. If I could receive 35 cm top diameter, 12 metre long logs to the carving field, I would happily pay double price” promises Hyvönen.

Growing the log building industry would solve problems. One can build a plastic-free and well breathing house using carved logs, ideal for people who have fallen ill from mold exposure, as an example.

”We are coming to a point where there is only a memory left of our beautiful forests. Apparently Finnish forestry knowhow is the highest in the world, but when you have a look at those turned over clearcuttings and small, dense fields of saplings, you end up asking that could anything be worse than this? Our children will no more get to see the scenery and forests that were still there in my own childhood. Where I grew up, there were deciduous broadleaf tree forests, and old wooded pastures and fields, with more biodiversity, changing landscapes and a lot of light coming in” recalls Hyvönen.

”Right now the much-advertised, so-called soft forestry only exists in the stories in the media. In the countryside one can only see dense saplings. The people are already feeling desperate. For example, the Pro Kallavesi-movement, opposing the pulp factory, consists of a wide spectrum of worried people from all walks of life, not only of environmentalists” notes Hyvönen.

The forests hold a key role in preventing climate change. Increasing the carbon sink, held in the forests, requires the forests to be grown older. The wood should be used for building houses that are even better insulated and not burned to smoke through the pulp factory or directly. 

Hannes Aleksi

– b.1978 in Oulu, Finland

– Log builder and artist

– Vice-chair of the board in Hirsitaito ry (Log Skill Association of Finland)

– Received the Erik Kråkström-Wood Building Award from the Building Art Society (Rakennustaiteen Seura) in 2017

-Hobbies: percussions/music , horseback archery and drawing