The opera titled All the Truths We Cannot See – A Chernobyl Story deals with a topic that is widely connected to environmental questions. According to Policy Officer Hanna Aho from the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, many things in our current coronavirus pandemic resemble the situation after the explosion at the Chernobyl power plant, but even though both of these disasters have changed people’s everyday lives, their effects are also different from each other. We met up with Hanna and got to hear her thoughts on the connections between art and environmental issues.
Every environmental activist knows that the desire to make a difference results from the union of knowledge and emotion. Opera, in particular, is a form of art that evokes emotions.
What kinds of similarities can you see in the state of the world due to coronavirus and the effects of the reactor explosion in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster?
Emotionally, of course, when it comes to the feeling of threat, there are many similarities. In some respects, the way we protect ourselves is also very similar. This can be seen in the way we avoid certain places and wear certain gear. As a physical threat, however, these events are largely different. Wind or water aren’t significant factors in the spreading of coronavirus, while in the case of radioactive particles, they’re the main cause of spreading. The spreading of coronavirus can be practically completely stopped if a vaccine can be developed, whereas there is virtually no way of getting rid of radioactive contamination – the waste can only be encapsulated, which is very expensive.
How have both of these revolutionary events affected the nature? Coronavirus is essentially harmless to the nature. It forces people into their bubbles and decreases the consumption of natural resources, which benefits the nature. On the other hand, our extremely valuable nature locations attract a lot visitors at the moment, which puts a lot of pressure on them and highlights the importance of our everyday nature spots and the protection of our most valuable nature locations from people. Radioactive radiation, too, gives nature more space to grow, but on the other hand, it is also detrimental to the health of other living organisms. In the Chernobyl area, the microbial and micro-organism activity in the soil has suffered from the radiation, although wolves and other wild animals are still active in the area.
In what ways do you think that music can be helpful in the event of a natural disaster or a climate crisis? Can music have an impact on society?
Music can help in many ways – it’s definitely one of the great inventions of humanity. Music can lift up people’s spirits and bring people together even in difficult times, which has been apparent in balcony serenades and virtual concerts all over the world.
The most efficient way of agitating through music is to have the agitation happen in the lyrics, in the form of speeches or poems. The political singing culture has been historically prominent also in Finland, and the entire National Romantic movement from Sibelius to Merikanto has played an important role in the shaping of the Finnish identity. That was, without a doubt, an example of making an impact on society.
Music is also something that can heighten our emotions. In the right situation, it can be used to influence us. I might not remember the exact quote, but there used to be a commercial that was shown in the Finnkino movie theatres that made an apt observation: “Have you noticed that usually in the most touching scene of the movie they’re playing art music in the background?”
Opera productions use a lot of material, which constitutes a burden for the climate. With the production of All the Truths We Cannot See, our goal is to use recycled props and costumes. Is it acceptable to carry out a project that is tough for the environment if its message can promote a discussion on the environmental crisis and give people a better understanding of climate change?
When it comes to climate action, we’re often faced with the question of whether the harm caused is small enough compared to the benefits gained. When art is being made to a big audience, the opportunity to make an impression on large crowds of people and to touch them emotionally is a significant one. It’s important that the entire production takes the environment into consideration and does what it can to minimise negative impact. That’s also a way of showing an example. Personally, I believe that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. What kinds of thoughts do you have about the All The Truths We Cannot See opera? It’s important that environmental disasters and the emotions that they cause are discussed through the means of art. Every environmental activist knows that the desire to make a difference results from the union of knowledge and emotion. Opera, in particular, is a form of art that evokes emotions. Hopefully, the opera will make both the production team and the audience feel that our shared environment is valuable and worth fighting for in this time.
30 years of doctorates in music at the Sibelius Academy
In 2020, it will be 30 years since the first Doctors of Music graduated from the Sibelius Academy. So far, over 200 graduates have completed a doctorate in music. In this blog you can read about our expert’s experiences on the journey.