You gotta rake it till you make it.
After President Donald Trump suggested Finland has few wildfires because the nation spends a lot of time “raking and cleaning” forest floors, many were confused. Not least of all the Finns themselves — or the Californians Trump was visiting, whose state has been devastated by fires that have killed at least 76 and burned hundreds of thousands of acres in the past two weeks.
But confused or not, Finns took to social media — vacuum at hand — to prove their dedication to their newfound civic duty.
Under the hashtag #haravointi (“raking”), some Finns spent this weekend grabbing their gardening tools — with the more creative types picking up their vacuums and Roomba devices — and visiting the woods to document their public service.
“Just this afternoon I was busy meeting my raking quota,” one tweet reads.
“Taking pride in a good day’s work maintaining the forest,” says another.
The Finns might not have been serious, but the US president seemed to be. During his visit to Northern California Saturday, Trump told reporters that America should follow the lead of Scandinavian nations like Finland, which “spend a lot of time” on forest preservation.
“I was with the President of Finland and he said, … ‘we are a forest nation’ — he called it a forest nation,” Trump said. “And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem. So I know everybody’s looking at that to that end.”
Trump briefly met with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on November 11, when they were both in Paris for Armistice Day events. After Trump made his remarks in California, Niinisto told Finnish media that he briefly chatted with the president about forest management — but needless to say, raking did not come up.
“We take care of our forests” is all Niinisto recalled telling Trump.
Only you can prevent forest fires, Trump keeps telling California
Many have condemned Trump’s rhetoric around the California wildfires, as he has repeatedly attributed the deadly blazes to poor forest management. Last Saturday, Trump warned against the “gross mismanagement of the forests” on Twitter, threatening to cut Federal Reserve System payments if the so-called mishandling was not resolved.
Trump is correct that wildfires are a byproduct of human activity. As Vox’s Umair Irfan explained, humans make the natural phenomenon “worse at every step,” by starting fires, building in their way, and exacerbating their effects through climate change.
But in recent years, Trump appears to have pointedly shifted the blame toward California and its environmental policies, as Vox’s Rachel Withers recounted:
During an October cabinet meeting, Trump said that “California’s a mess. We’re giving billions and billions of dollars for forest fires in California,” after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue briefed him on efforts to prevent the fires, according to the Hill.
And in a now-deleted August tweet, Trump blamed “bad environmental laws” for the increase in damages, writing that “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”