The main speaker of the Carbon Smart Urban Green festival in August 2023 was Sirpa Pietikäinen, a long-time member of the European parliament. She gave a speech under the title Urban green from blocks to the EU level. Pietikäinen’s core message was to wake us up to see how we can’t put the responsibility for urban green only on the laps of certain actors or outsource nature somewhere far away. Urban green is the responsibility of each of us in our own local everyday life.
The themes of the speech are at the center of Pietikäinen’s work, as she currently works in the European Parliament, e.g. in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI). Last year, Pietkäinen’s work for sustainable development received the IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) Europe Award. In addition, she has been the chairman of the The Finnish Association of Landscape Industries in 2010–2017, e.g. promoting the values of green areas and supporting new innovations. At the moment, the EU’s Nature Restoration law, aiming to stop the loss of nature, is especially on her work desk. Pietikäinen also strongly supports the initiative of the European theme year of Greener Cities.
One third of the city to be reserved for nature
In her speech, Pietikäinen emphasized the principle according to which one third of the space should be reserved for nature and greenery. She woke up the audience by asking, is a third of your plot left for nature and green? What about in the neighborhood or the city? On a European scale or globally? Thinking about the rule of thirds in different scales is very illustrative. In practice, the implementation of the rule in the city creates a very accessible green environment with pocket parks, green yards and green networks, spiced up with green roofs and even vertical plantations. This is of great importance also for people’s well-being.
Pietikäinen highlighted the natural diversity that is characteristic of each place and the local values of nature, as well as the local benefits produced by nature. Thus, we cannot compensate, for example, for the lack of urban nature in the inner city of Helsinki by buying a forest to protect from somewhere else. Diversity should actually be looked at very locally, because there are already differences in the urban nature of Vuosaari and Kallio. If there is not enough urban nature, it should be restored. Therefore, the restoration regulation aims to support biodiversity locally and at the same time also at all scales.
Towards more diverse and carbon-wise yards with the advises of “Lazy Martta”
In addition to changing legislation and developing zoning that supports urban green, everyone can do things for the green environment in their everyday life. To this Pietikäinen offered the so-called Lazy Martta’s recipe, i.e. gardening that leaves many things we are used to do as undone, and thus supports biodiversity, which in many aspects also coincides with carbon-wise gardening. Pietikäinen spoke vividly about her own yard and gardening: “In Lazy Martta’s yard, you can let different species of many sizes grow rampant in harmony. Some are self-sown, some are spread over the site. You don’t have to take care of everything carefully, the natural variation pleases the eye. You can mow a couple of times a year and you can also leave the nettles to feed the nettle butterflies. You can then have enthusiastic discussions with your neighbor about what is beautiful and what is untidy, and how to leave, for example, more natural environments for the children of the neighborhood where you can freely frolic, climb and let creativity bloom. Also plants spread naturally from such transitional zones.”
In the photo: Sirpa Pietikäinen