Kalle has more than enough work, with trees being planted all around the Baltic City. Kalle is leading a happy family life, but a call from the bank sets his nerves on edge.
"A house with a seaside view…” Kalle rhymes a scrap of poetry he picked up somewhere, as he bites into his lunch sandwich. He waits on a park bench for Heiskanen, who is coming over to tell him about a new project. Salmonstream flows in front of him, with Westwind Point barely visible in the distance, thrusting out into the sea.
No longer carefree youths, Kalle and his wife Laura are living through the busiest years of their lives. They are expecting a new addition to their family, and intend to build a house on a plot by the seaside. They can afford to build, as the firm is doing well. Kalle’s Landscaping Co turns green city planning into reality, for the benefit of both people and the environment.
When Heiskanen and Mertanen arrive, Kalle digs out the coffee cups from his bag and pours for both of them from the thermos. The men slurp their coffee, chuckling at the antics of the flock of barnacle geese circling overhead.
– We need to plant more trees over there, Heiskonen motions. – Combine these little groves into diverse green corridors.
– Why not! Shall we plant birch, goat willow, aspen, rowan... and some black alder by the shore?
– That’s the plan. When you plant different kinds of local species, you increase the diversity of the city’s environment, and also fight back tree diseases.
– They’re great carbon sinks, growing trees, comments Mertanen, the younger man. – By the way, will this project provide summer jobs for local youths?
– I’m sure it will, Kalle answers, sounding calm. But after the meeting ends, he feels a twist in his heart. The baby is due next month. The mortgage still hasn’t been sorted out. It’s getting on my nerves! he thinks, as he rushes out to meet Laura.
The mobile rings just as Kalle and Laura are about to step inside the maternity centre. The bank teller explains something, but Kalle is too impatient to listen.
– Huh? Loan application rejected? A wooden house, solar panels, composting toilet... And accessible by public transport. If this plan isn’t eco-friendly, then what is, he almost shouts into the phone.
Laura holds her big belly, looking concerned. – Let’s not give up yet. We need to go to the bank to properly sort things out. But first yoga, so we’ll be able to tackle this with a clear head.
Kalle has another short conversation with the bank teller, and they manage to arrange a meeting in the next few hours. He has some difficulty breathing steadily, but still tries his best at the yoga for mums class, to please Laura.
– What’s the problem with the mortgage?
Sara Greene, loan officer, helpfully explains. She is the nephew of Hope Greene, the famous city planner, and is well acquainted with the peculiarities of the holistic development system.
– The city won’t give you a building permit this close to the shore. That’s mostly because of precautions the city is taking due to climate change. Global warming might raise sea level during storms by up to four metres!
– I thought that only affected some south sea islands, says Laura, while Kalle just stares down at the table.
– There are also other issues, Sara continues. – These days, the city wants to preserve coastal areas as recreational zones open to everyone. And of course building new houses always affects the environment more than renovating old ones.
– But… have a look at these pictures. She turns the monitor of her computer towards Kalle and Laura. – Did you know that the city supports eco-renovations? You could get a very reasonable loan to buy and renovate an old house like this. There’s no seaside view, but the plot is by the estuary of the river, and there are footpaths going all the way up to Westwind Point and the seaside.
– Ah, look at the grounds and the vegetable garden! shouts Laura.
– You would be able to get seasonal greens and fruit from your own plot, Sara says with a smile.
– I think I’m putting mine and the baby’s name down for an urban farming course, Laura says, smiling too as she shoots Kalle a questioning look.
After a few incredibly busy months, it’s Saturday and Kalle and Laura are sitting in the sauna. The baby is asleep on the porch. They still have a lot to do for the eco-renovation, and things at the firm are busier than ever, but in the warmth of the wood-burning sauna, values and meanings slot into their proper places.
– Listen Laura, I think our lives are incredibly precious. It would be great if we had more moments like this. To just sit together and relax.
– I’ve also thought about downshifting. If it’s okay with you, I’m going to try and find part time work once my maternity leave is over. I mean, they actually recommend it these days.
– Absolutely, then you can pack lunches for me before I leave for work and serve your hard-working husband after he gets home, heh.
– Listen, how about you shorten your workweek as well?
In a flash of insight, Kalle sees his life from a new perspective. – A tempting idea. But how would we manage?
– Well, we did get the mortage with a really low interest. And we don’t need to get this whole house renovated in a year, you know? We could take it easy. We’ll really save on food, if we plant potatoes and carrots in the garden.
Kalle uses the ladle to throw some water onto the rocks with a hiss. – Laura, I promise to seriously consider it. But now I could use a cool beer.
Illustrations by Mari von Boehm
Translation by Arttu Ahava