I have been a part time director of HELSUS since the fall 2018. The emphasis here is on the part time. It has not always been easy to allocate time between all that comes along with this position and with other pre-existing academic duties, in particular, teaching and supervision at all academic levels. Forgetting the struggle with managing time, this unique stance gives me a possibility to reflect from the inside on what has become of HELSUS so far. And also, a bit on what kinds of prospects and challenges I see for HELSUS in coming years. Community expansion and international recognition of HELSUS are the two elements that I would like to address along with the obvious angle – the role that HELSUS has in materializing the new University of Helsinki 2030 strategy in terms of being a frontrunner in sustainability.
A panel discussion held on December 10th gathered together Arctic area experts and students of University of Helsinki. The remote event was organized as a part of “Multidisciplinary environmental research – disciplinary perspectives to environmental questions” -course and the topic and the questions were chosen by its students. The panel discussion was hosted by Hannele Pokka, Professor of Practice at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, and the guests included several Arctic area specialists: Nina Brander (Secretary General of the Arctic Advisory Board, PM’s Office), Timo Koivurova (Research Professor, Director of Arctic Institute, University of Lapland), Atte Korhola (Professor of Environmental Change, University of Helsinki) and Reetta Toivanen (Professor of Sustainability Science, HELSUS). Here are some of the main takeaways of the event.
Climate change will alter the world as we know it, exacerbating already existing threats while also bringing new risks and unforeseen opportunities. The impacts of climate change will materialise differently in different corners of the world. More vulnerable areas in the southern hemisphere will bear the brunt of the adverse impacts, while affluent countries in the North are projected to experience less devastating impacts and be better able to cope. This way of thinking has lured many developed countries into a sense of false security, exacerbated by national climate assessments showing how the effects of climate change are likely to be important but relatively moderate, and well within the adaptive capacity of the country.
Urban nature and nature-based solutions in cities are needed in these times. The urban sustainability research theme brings a needed addition to the University of Helsinki and helps with creating more collaboration between researchers.
The current pandemic might temporarily slow down environmentally destructive economic growth. However, claiming that we are dying for sustainability is dangerous. The global sustainability crisis is not just driven by uneconomic growth but also increasing global inequality and social stratification.