On a long list of subjects to tackle during a short trip to Alaska, the environment and the economy are at the top. While visiting Sitka, Juneau, and Anchorage this week, Lintu will meet with Governor Sean Parnell and others to discuss a number of subjects of interest to Alaskans and Finns alike.

“What are the important issues here?” Lintu said during an interview with KCAW. “What kind of possibilities there are for economic cooperation? So I’m meeting with the governor the day after tomorrow and I’m going to be in Anchorage. I’m going to speak to a meeting about economic issues and environmental sustainability issues. Partly, I want to make Finland better known here and, at the same time, see whether there would be some ideas I could take back to Washington, D.C., and feed into the U.S.-Finnish cooperation.”

On environmental issues, Lintu says he thinks it would be fairly easy for Finns and Alaskans to understand each other as he can see a lot of similarities between the two places. Finland is much flatter, he says, but its climate is similar to what Southeast Alaskans are used to.

And he says, as both places are located in the far north, they see how that affects each other’s way of life. He says that living in remote and rural locations causes the two communities to be more aware of the wilderness around them. “We are both high up in the north,” Lintu said. “That means we want to take care of the nature, we want to protect the nature.”

But it’s the historic and cultural bonds that tie the two communities together the strongest, he said. Southeast Alaska’s history has been shaped in a large part by immigrants from Finland.

Since this was Lintu’s first visit to the area, he made it a point to tour several historic Finnish sites in Sitka, including the Lutheran Church and Lutheran Cemetery.

Lintu says he has a lot of respect for the Finnish pioneers who left their homes and crossed the oceans more than a century ago to build a new life in this part of Alaska.

Despite the passage of time and the toll that often takes on cultural memory, he says Finnish Americans seem to have a renewed interest in exploring their heritage. However, Lintu says he hopes this visit will put Finland back on the map in the minds of all Alaskans, Finnish or not. He says he thinks both places have complementary strengths that could foster a strong economic bond in the future.

“(As) government officials, we can always try to be on the lookout and but then it is the companies that decide,” he said. “You have a huge energy industry and we don’t have energy industry but we have industry that is building a lot of equipment for energy industries and hopefully many others.”

On Thursday in Juneau, he has planned an open forum for Alaskans with Finnish ancestry to speak with him, followed by his meeting with Gov. Sean Parnell. In Anchorage the next day, Lintu will attend briefings on Alaska trade and natural resources, and marine shipping in the Arctic. He’ll then be speaking on environmental sustainability and the idea of green diplomacy.

Lintu is scheduled to remain in Alaska through Friday.

Copyright 2010, Raven Radio Foundation Inc.