Systems Thinking students visiting Longinoja
On a rainy and grey Sunday evening we visited the Longinoja stream in northeastern Helsinki. This stream collects water from around the Malmi area in Helsinki and runs to river Vantaa. It is famous for two things: firstly, despite a very urban catchment area, the stream has a healthy population of sea trout; and secondly, Longinoja is home to volunteering and civic activity that have improved the conditions for and regenerated underwater life in the stream, including the magnificent sea trout. As an outcome of volunteering, a ditch (in Finnish ‘oja’) – a highly altered and poor underwater habitat – has been turned to a stream, in which there is, again, suitable rock and gravel bottom for the sea trout.
Our visit was part of the Systems Thinking course of Creative Sustainability studies. We went to the site with questions such as these:
“How could access to nature sustain respective and even reciprocal relations with humans and other species?”
“What does it mean to care for nature in abstract, and for particular species and for local environments?”
“What are the broader conditions of volunteering?”
So, did we see the sea trout? No, unfortunately not. They return to the stream from the sea during the spawning period in October-November. On November 7th we might have been a bit late already. It had also rained heavily for a few days prior, and Longioja water is not very clear when the storm waters from managed land surfaces enter the stream and bring mud and particles to it. To be very honest, we were not very well prepared – we were missing the powerful torches that help in spotting the fish.
However, what we did see were the human participants of this system. The torches in the darkness were easy to spot and easy to approach. We had several friendly discussions about sea trout, and about the work of volunteering. We encountered people who showed with great excitement video recordings of spawning sea trout. And we encountered people who were proud to live in Malmi – a somewhat stigmatized area in Helsinki – with Longinoja gravel bottoms and the sea trout as the hidden treasures of the area.