Most Estonians can achieve climate policy targets just as successfully as they can avoid the coronavirus. The main thing is to keep hiding whatever it is we are doing from the government, Kaarel Tarand writes in Vikerraadio's daily comment.
While people who grew up and also lived as adults during the occupation no longer make up the majority of the Estonian population, they still number enough for comparisons between society then and now and especially the way it was run to be heard increasingly often.
There was one ironclad rule that applied to the Moscow occupants' civilian henchmen and emissaries: the worst thing that can happen is for the powers that be to take an active interest in you, your work or field of activity. When the leaders, either because they were ordered to or following their own initiative, start to boost quality, improve productivity and generally manufacture happiness.
The backward Soviet system saw efforts to improve things cause them to break even worse. Success in one's field could only be achieved despite of rules and by hiding one's problems and reality from the ideological leaders.
Even though Estonia is in another league entirely in terms of prosperity and freedoms today, compared to the 1980s, these parallels are not completely out of place.
The messages of the government, in other words, the political and official representatives of the people's power, are just as clear and relevant today as they were before the May parade in 1980. People's nerves are frayed from all the uncertainty, with everyday conflicts in shops and public transport sparked more easily.
The more eager the government and its agencies in combating the spread of the coronavirus, the worse measurable indicators become. The more heroic ministers' efforts aimed at delivering the hospital network and keeping the healthcare system going, the faster the triage deadline approaches.
Even the education minister lifting doors of schoolhouses off their hinges couldn't keep them from closing or switching to remote learning. The more effective the government is at urging the police to keep their focus, the more the latter appear as a gang of coronavirus bullies.
When the government occasionally remembers it is running a powerful digital state and sets about developing e-solutions in the crisis, one can be quite sure that the result will be yet another HOIA application or some other useless bell or whistle.
I suppose one should be glad and grateful in this situation that the government's attention is spent on a single topic and it has no time for what is making news in the world and, according to the general consensus, will decide Man's fate on this planet.
The global COP26 climate conference in Glasgow only puts in a modest showing in Estonian news media, including as concerns opinion pieces.
Only the more active among political observers noticed that Prime Minister Kaja Kallas visited the climate conference and met with U.S. President Joe Biden who did not fall asleep once during the meeting as a sign of thanks.
Neither did Duchess Kate Middleton with whom the PM discussed the latest dress fashion and the hard life of coal miners. Social etiquette handbooks from a century ago used to read: "The company's mood will be ruined as soon as the conversation turns to the Bolsheviks." The same can be said of oil shale today.
Estonian premieres have been trying for years to prove to their European colleagues and those from further away that oil shale is Estonia's national treasure. When Jüri Ratas was prime minister, he sometimes took a small piece of it with him to Brussels so he could show it to colleagues.
Kallas did not have a piece of oil shale in her apron pocket, while she did refer to the mineral as the "national fossil fuel," whatever that means. She could have added that if oil shale is currently turned into electricity and heat in Estonia, the Ida-Viru County buried treasure will land on Estonians' tables as food and drink in the future.
If, decades ago, we used to swallow truckloads of potato peels in the name of our freedom, adding oil shale mixed with old tires to our diet shouldn't be that hard!
In truth, it is a good thing the Estonian government does not have a climate policy of its own and is content to be a passive piece in the EU puzzle. The latter, according to the government, means that we can do all kinds of things as long as someone else pays for it. Besides, Estonia has allegedly met all of its climate targets, for example, reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent.
The fact that the change has been largely market-dependent and based on the reference point of 1990 as the absolute peak of Estonia's oil shale pollution is conveniently overlooked.
Most Estonians can achieve real climate policy targets just as successfully as they can avoid the coronavirus. The main thing is to keep hiding whatever it is we are doing from the government. Then, everything will be fine and we will eventually be praised with good reason at international forums.
Editor: Marcus Turovski