CELEBRATING FUTURES MEANS CELEBRATING LIFE

Sirkka Heinonen:

Futures thinking has finally become an academic discipline (in a few universities) while its pragmatic and light version – called foresight – has emerged as a critical strategic field for governments, cities, organisations and companies. Futures education is entering schools at all levels, even if only with the first baby steps. Futures communication could be described as an area and empowering approach through which you can highlight the essence and need for futures thinking and creation i.e. futures literacy. The awareness and visibility of futures literacy can be strengthened through various campaigns and celebrations.

World Future Day

For several consecutive years now, the Millennium Project has organized the World Future Day on March 1st, now hosted by The Millennium Project in collaboration with:

  • Association of Professional Futurists
  • Humanity+
  • UNESCO’s Global Futures Literacy Network
  • World Academy of Art and Science
  • World Futures Studies Federation

Again this year anyone can celebrate futures and attend the World Future Day via the Zoom. This celebratory event consists of volunteers, mostly from the Millennium Project network, facilitating futures discussions at 12 noon in their own time zone. You can come join the conversation whenever you want. Updates will be available online. This is a very globally inclusive, participatory, discussant, inter-cultural and inter-generational celebration of futures which can engage new actors in the field of futures studies, foresight and anticipation.

world-future-day

Finnish Futures Day Extended to Futures Week

Since the International Futures Day falls on a Sunday this year, celebrations are moved to the 6th of March in several locations, such as here in Finland. The goal of Futures Day is to alert the large masses of Finns for one day to discuss what kind of futures we want to create. The Futures Day concept works like the originally Finnish grassroot innovation Restaurant Day i.e. anyone in their community can organise their own Futures Day with the materials provided on the website  (the Finnish site). You can even post your own event on the Future Day website.

The Finnish Futures Day is actually extended for the whole Futures Week through events that inspire people to conversations about dreams and fears of the future they face. This is in order to strengthen futures awareness and make futures thinking visible. The Finnish National Foresight network also organises a Foresight Friday event on “Shaping the Future: Between Continuities and Disruptions”.

tulevaisuuspaiva2020-small

40 years of Finnish Society for Futures Studies – celebrating futures the whole year of 2020

The Finnish Society of Futures Studies (FSFS) is actively involved in organising and attending Futures Day events, extending futures celebrations for the whole year. This is because the Society, established in 1980 with Professor Pentti Malaska as its first President, is now celebrating its 40 years anniversary. These events will make futures thinking, its forms, means and goals, visible to the public, not only to the society’s 700 members.

Examples of futures events in 2020 – besides regular annual seminars, are TOP TEN seminar on Future and Power, seminar on theoretical and philosophical foundations of futures studies, summer seminar on our joint futures and actors making them, as well as a special issue of FUTURA journal (4/2019) on the past 40 years with interviews of 25 acknowledged futures researchers active within the FSFS.

Celebrating the history of futures activities and communicating it to younger generations is quintessential – both in learning about the very diverse paths that can lead to systematic futures work and in encouraging younger actors to enrichen the field and boldly open up new avenues and angles. A call for videos of visualising futures, especially scenarios, will also be opened soon.

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100 years of University of Turku

Futures celebrations are intensified with the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the University of Turku. With the Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC) as its department and with the new futures basics course TULEVA that is obligatory for all master’s programme students at its School of Economics the University of Turku can be metaphorically called “Futures University”.

In June the 21st international FFRC conference will be organised on ‘Learning Futures – Futures of Learning’ in Helsinki in co-operation with the Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI). The conference includes a special session “Millennium Forum”, organised by FEN (Foresight European Network) and the Helsinki Node of the Millennium Project, the latter one celebrating its twenty years of activity. There you can simultaneously celebrate learning and learn to celebrate – both are equally educational.

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Futures Studies as Life Supporting System

The above mentioned examples of campaigns and celebrations aim at enhancing the awareness and visibility of futures thinking and futures studies. Such futures communication is needed not only for making wider circles in society conscious of the potential and benefits of futures work, but also for nudging more stakeholders to concretely use futures and foresight material and results in their strategic processes.

Serious futures work becomes a synonym for survival strategies. My claim is that every organisation, government, company, NGO etc needs a futures strategy to cope and succeed. In a nutshell, futures strategy means traditional strategy enhanced by longer time-frame, systemic view, holistic approach, out-of-the-box thinking, aided with peripheral vision (Day & Shoemaker 2006) and other futures methodology (Glenn & Gordon 2009; Heinonen, Kuusi & Salminen eds 2017). Accordingly, futures literacy and foresight skills become a necessary prerequisite for survival – they embody a life-supporting system if their results are harnessed to tackle the mega-challenges hovering above humankind’s head like Damocles’ sword. This allegory highlights that with great fortune and power comes also great danger. Humankind thinks of itself sitting in the king’s throne, in power over nature, in control of technology. This no longer applies – there are existential risks looming above us by a hair’s strength such as climate change, cyberterrorism, pandemics, artificial super intelligence. In the Millennium project Future of Work/Technology 2050 scenarios (Glenn 2019), a key distinguishing feature of different assumptions about how artificial intelligence evolves from the current specific or niche applications-competent artificial intelligence (Artificial Narrow Intelligence ANI) towards that of capable of solving a wide range of tasks similar to humans competence (Artificial General Intelligence AGI) and still further towards artificial intelligence that becomes superior to humans’ performance in most tasks (Artificial Super Intelligence ASI). What if ASI then realises and decides that humans are detrimental to life on earth and draws certain conclusions?

From the point of view of biology, the purpose of life is to produce as many offspring as possible i.e. to reproduce and maintain the population. From the point of view of many religions, the purpose of life is to live in contact with Higher Being and to use his or her own special skills for the benefit of others. The purpose of Futures Studies has already been crystallised by Ossip K. Flechtheim (1966) to combat great global problems such as poverty, war, inequality. Wendel Bell (1997, 111) saw as the overriding purpose of futures studies “to maintain or improve human well-being and the life-sustaining capacities of the Earth” with nine sub-purposes all tightly bundled together under this umbrella. Therefore, a relevant question for all participants of the Futures Day, Week or Year is to also address such mega-questions as purpose of life and how futures studies could concentrate on them more efficiently – how to use the special foresight skills to benefit fellow humans, other species, and the planet? The mega-challenge of climate change is deeply intertwined with this endeavour. Electricity production based on even 100% renewable energy is already technically possible (Breyer et al. 2016). However, because of institutional obstacles, fossil industry lobbying, and political indecision, the transition is slow. However, when there’s a will, there’s a way. The Club of Rome published its Climate Emergency Plan (2019), there are scenarios for pathways to emission-free futures (e.g. Heinonen & Karjalainen 2019), and there are pioneers such as Greta Thunberg.

Both the speed and scale for action in face of global challenges matter. In futures field, we can adopt 100% futures consciousness, if we only choose so. Every step, event, campaign and working/learning process celebrating futures thinking and futures literacy is noteworthy. In memory of Bell’s line of integrative prospective thinking: we have to reason, choose and act, correspondingly. Everybody is invited to these empowering futures celebrations.

Sirkka Heinonen
Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Special Advisor, Adjunct Professor
Finland Futures Research Centre
University of Turku

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References

Bell, Wendell (1997). Foundations of Futures Studies. Human Science for a New Era. Volume I: History, Purposes and Knowledge. Transaction Publishers, New Jersey.

Breyer, Christian; Heinonen, Sirkka & Ruotsalainen, Juho (2016). New consciousness: A societal and energetic vision for rebalancing humankind within the limits of planet Earth. Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Club of Rome Climate Emergency Plan. A Collaborative Call for Action. By members of the Club of Rome: Sandrine Dickson-Déclève, Ian Dunlop, Andres Wijkman with support from Martin Hedberk & Till Kellerhof, 16 p.

Day, George & Schoemaker, Paul (2006). Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company. Harvard Business School Press.

Flechtheim, Ossip K.  (1996). History and Futurology. Meisenheim-am-Glan, Germany. Verlag Anton Hain.

Glenn, Jerome (2019) Work/Technology 2050 – scenarios and actions. Orders.

Glenn, Jerome & Gordon, Theodore (eds) (2009). Millennium Project Futures Research Methodology Version 3.0. 

Heinonen, Sirkka & Karjalainen, Joni (2019). Electrification in Peer-to-Peer Society – New Narrative for Sustainable Futures. FFRC eBook 1/2019.  Order print copies.

Heinonen, Sirkka & Karjalainen, Joni (2019b) Pioneer Analysis as a Futures Research Method for Analysing Transformations. In: Poli R., Valerio M. (eds) Anticipation, Agency and Complexity. Anticipation Science, vol 4. Springer, Cham.

Heinonen, Sirkka, Kuusi, Osmo & Salminen, Hazel (eds) (2017).  How Do We Explore Our Futures? Methods of Futures Research. Acta Futura Fennica 10, Finnish Society for Futures Studies. Helsinki.

Nurmela, Juha & Viherä, Marja-Liisa (2019). Miten minusta tuli tulevaisuudentutkija? – 25 aktiivia tutkijaa kertoo (How I became a futures researcher – stories by 25 active futures researchers). FUTURA 4/2019, 5-34.

 

Article photo by Sirkka Heinonen.

Wikipedia – alihyödynnetty tiedeviestinnän resurssi

Minna Santaoja:

Tutkimusrahoituksessa painotetaan yhä enemmän tiedon popularisointia ja jalkauttamista, vaikuttavuutta, avoimuutta ja yhdessä luomista. Tutkijoista onkin kehkeytynyt taitavia viestijöitä eri foorumeilla. Yksi luonteva kanava – Wikipedia – on toistaiseksi tiedeviestinnässä alihyödynnetty, vaikka Wikipedia on Suomessakin käytetyimpien verkkosivustojen joukossa. Onkin tärkeää, että Wikipediasta löytyisi monipuolisesti ja kattavasti ajankohtaista tutkimustietoa. Tätä puutetta paikkaamaan järjestimme Tieteiden yössä 16. tammikuuta Ympäristötiede Wikipediaan -editointitapahtuman.

Tieteiden yössä Lauttasaaren kartanolle Helsinkiin kokoontui 40-päinen joukko tutkijoita perehtymään Wikipedian muokkaamiseen. Yhteiskuntatieteellisen ympäristötutkimuksen seuran kautta alkuun lähtenyt tapahtuma houkutteli järjestäjiksi myös Ympäristötiedon foorumin, Koneen säätiön sekä Maj ja Tor Nesslingin säätiön. Hakkerihenkiset eväät osallistujille sponsoroi Kotipizza, jonka vastuullisuustyöstä kuulimme lyhyen alustuksen tilaisuuden aluksi. Tapahtuma kasvoi niin että Helsingin lisäksi editointitapahtumat järjestettiin samanaikaisesti Jyväskylässä, Joensuussa, Turussa ja Kuopiossa.

Tilaisuuden aluksi Kaskas Median Kira Keini johdatti ja innosti osallistujia Wikipedian muokkaamiseen. Editointitapahtumaan osallistuminen ei edellyttänyt aikaisempaa kokemusta Wikipedian tekemisestä, vaan saimme kullekin paikkakunnalle Wikimedia Suomen kautta kokeneet wikipedistit neuvomaan artikkeleiden muokkauksessa. Wikipedian muokkaaminen onnistuu helpoiten visuaalisessa muokkaimessa, jonka käyttö onnistuu mainiosti oma-aloitteisestikin, Wikipediasta löytyvien ohjeiden avulla, sivun ylälaidassa olevaa Muokkaa-valikkoa klikkaamalla. Ryhtyessämme järjestämään tapahtumaa minulla ei ollut kokemusta Wikipedian teosta. Opettelin päivittämistä luomalla tapahtumalle Wikiprojekti-sivun, olemassa olevia sivuja jäljitellen. Huomasin myös, että Yhteiskuntatieteellisen ympäristötutkimuksen seuralla ei ollut vielä Wikipedia-sivua, joten otin varaslähdön editointitapahtumaan junassa Tampereelta Helsinkiin ja loin sivun. Nälkä kasvoi syödessä ja listasin itselleni aiheita, joita voisin tapahtumassa työstää.

Ennen editointitapahtumaa teimme järjestäjien kesken hakuja Wikipediasta ja listasimme Wikiprojektisivulle ympäristötutkimuksen aiheita, joista joko puuttui kokonaan Wikipedia-artikkeli tai olemassa oleva artikkeli kaipasi päivitystä. Jo muutamilla hauilla tuli selväksi, että suomenkielisessä Wikipediassa on merkittäviä puutteita ympäristötutkimuksen osalta. Editointitapahtuman ideana ei ollut, että osallistujat valitsevat välttämättä aiheensa etukäteen laaditulta listalta, vaan katsovat itse mitä omista tutkimusteemoista Wikipediasta löytyy ja miltä osin on puutteita. Tapahtumasta muodostui ilahduttavan monitieteinen, sillä osallistujien joukossa oli niin luonnontieteilijöitä kuin yhteiskuntatieteilijöitä. Illan aikana Wikipediaan luotiin artikkelit muun muassa ekologisesta kompensaatiosta, ilmastoviestinnästä, luontopaneelista, metsäsuhteesta ja uhanalaisuusindeksistä, ja päivitettiin esimerkiksi kansalaistiedettä, paljakkakilpiäistä ja planetaarista ruokavaliota koskevia artikkeleita.

Wikipediassa on joitakin piirteitä, joista on hyvä olla perillä Wikipediaa tiedeviestinnässä hyödynnettäessä. Wikipediaa ylläpitää voittoa tavoittelematon Wikimedia Foundation, jolla on monia muitakin wikiprojekteja, monilla eri kielillä. Esimerkiksi Commons-arkistosta voi etsiä Wikipedia-artikkeleilleen kuvitusta, joka on vapaasti käytettävissä. Tutkimuksesta on mahdollista viestiä eri kielillä eri Wikipedioissa, ja artikkeleita on myös mahdollista kääntää eri kielistä. Wikipedia ei ole uuden tutkimuksen julkaisukanava, vaan tutkimustiedon on oltava julkaistu ensin muualla. Lähteiden merkitseminen on Wikipediassa yhtä tärkeää kuin tieteellisissäkin teksteissä, puutteellisesti viitteistetyt artikkelit voidaan merkitä tyngäksi. Wikipedia on vapaan sisällön tietosanakirja, joka perustuu vapaaehtoisten aktiivisuuteen – kuka tahansa voi siis tehdä Wikipediaa. Wikimedia Suomen Susanna Ånäs mainitsikin alustuksessaan, että Wikipediaan ei välttämättä kannata kirjoittaa aiheesta, joka on kovin lähellä sydäntä, ellei kestä sitä, että muut muokkaavat artikkelia. Mikäli muokkauksista syntyy erimielisyyksiä, nämä selvitetään keskustelemalla. Yhtä artikkelia voi muokata vain yksi henkilö kerrallaan, sillä samanaikaisesti tehdyt muokkaukset eivät tallennu. Tietosanakirjaluonteen vuoksi tieto säilyy Wikipediassa paremmin kuin esimerkiksi sosiaalisen median, blogien tai tiedotteiden jatkuvassa virrassa.

Suomenkielisen Wikipedian muokkaajat kilpailevat leikkimielisesti tehtyjen muokkausten määrästä viikoittain valittavassa aiheessa. Wikipedistit tarttuivat ympäristöaiheeseen ja viikon 3 kilpailun aiheena oli ympäristötiede. Aloittelevana wikipedistinä, luomalla kuusi uutta artikkelia ja täydentämällä kahta olemassa olevaa, sijoituin kilpailussa toiseksi! Pisteiden kertymistä tehtyjen muokkausten perusteella viikon kilpailun sivulla oli hauska seurata. Wikipediassa on mahdollista meritoitua myös järjestettävissä kuvitus- ja viitteistystalkoissa.

Editointitapahtuman tavoitteena oli lisätä ympäristötutkijoiden wikitietoja ja –taitoja. Tapahtuman ole tarkoitus jäädä kertaluontoiseksi, vaan vastaavia muokkaustapahtumia on mahdollista järjestää kevyellä organisoinnilla eri aiheista tai tutkimushankkeiden tiimoilta, eri paikkakunnilla ja yliopistoissa. Ympäristötiede Wikipediaan -projekti jatkaa elämäänsä Wikipediassa, ja editointitapahtuma toimi toivottavasti lähtölaukauksena tutkitun ympäristötiedon lisäämiselle ja Wikipedian hyödyntämiselle tiedeviestinnässä laajemmin.

HT Minna Santaoja
Koneen säätiön tutkija, Tulevaisuuden tutkimuskeskus, Turun yliopisto
Yhteiskuntatieteellisen ympäristötutkimuksen seuran sihteeri

 

Slow futures research – a contradiction?

Minna Santaoja:

The 24th international research colloquium of the Finnish Society for Environmental Social Sciences (YHYS) was held in November in Jyväskylä, with the title “Wisdom in crisis”. The title referred to the situation where, in order to address the pressing environmental crises, humanity has to start using both natural and social resources more wisely. As it was stated in the conference call, the post-truth era calls for the study of the construction of truth-claims and hierarchies between knowledge systems, collaboration between researchers from different disciplines as well as other societal actors, and an increased emphasis on research ethics. While limiting climate change and achieving sustainability transformations require changes in attitudes, values, norms and politics and thus social science research, a recent study found that only 0.12% of all research funding has been spent on the social science of climate mitigation.

In addition to keynote lectures, the conference programme consisted of six thematic working groups. I took part in workshop called “Phronesis in environmental social sciences: where are we and where should we go?”, convened by Dr Teea Kortetmäki. Phronesis is one of three Aristotelian intellectual virtues, alongside techne and episteme. While episteme refers to analytical, scientific knowledge and techne to technical knowledge or know-how, phronesis goes beyond these and is often translated as practical wisdom. Phronesis integrates reflexive analysis and discussion of values and interests with other forms of knowledge, and for Aristoteles it was the most important of intellectual virtues, balancing instrumental rationality and value-rationality – or matters of fact and matters of concern, as formulated e.g. by philosopher Isabelle Stengers.

The workshop kicked off from Bent Flyvbjerg’s (2001, 2012) discussions on phronetic social science. According to Flyvbjerg, social sciences have been misguided in trying to imitate natural scientific method, reducing social science and theory to either episteme or techne. Flyvbjerg aims at “restoring social science to its classical position as a practical, intellectual activity aimed at clarifying the problems, risks and possibilities we face as humans and societies, and at contributing to social and political praxis” (2001, 4). Flyvbjerg aims at returning social science to society, so it could deliver on the promise to speak truth to power, improve decision-making and enhance social life (2012), and emphasizes practical wisdom to address and act on social problems in particular contexts. In Flyvbjerg’s view, phronetic social science is often conducted in collaboration with partners from outside the academy, which highlights power relations. In this way, phronetic social science would be transdisciplinary.

In the workshop call, Teea Kortetmäki brought forth a possible risk in emphasizing the societal relevance of research: if it means letting go of the aims of rigorous universal theorising and generalizability, research may risk increased politicisation and reduced scientific quality and credibility. Research funding is increasingly associated with societal relevance, expected to manifest in popularisation, media appearances, non-reviewed reports and public-academia-interaction, which leave less time for ”truly scientific endeavours”. The concern whether phronesis happens at the cost of top-notch scientific publications and scientific quality resonates with recent discussions on scientific overproduction. As more or less small-scale case studies are clogging the scientific publishing machine, Teea Kortetmäki asked whether new, separate publication channels would be needed for more theoretical, long-term research. A similar two-lane publication strategy has been proposed also by emerita professor Uta Frith, former president of the British Science Association. She was, however, even more radical in suggesting that researchers should be restricted to publishing one scholarly paper a year (Frith 2019) – doing more by doing less.

There is a relentless increase in scientific papers published per year, which unavoidably suggests a trade-off between quality and quantity. This correlates partly with the increased number or researchers, but individual researchers have dramatically increased their output. According to Frith and many others, this ‘publish or perish’ culture has a corrupting effect on both scientists and on science itself. There is little space to cultivate broader interests, and the situation is taking a severe toll on the well-being and mental health of researchers, who feel the publishing pressure under their skin. The free-market academia also leads to many talented people leaving the game, resulting in decreased diversity. French philosopher Isabelle Stengers (2018), for one, has written a manifesto for slow science, offering a path to an alternative science that turns away from destructive collaboration with neoliberal capital and helps to build a better world. In other words, a science that is less navel-gazing and concerned with research careers and competition, and more focused on finding meaning in societal engagement.

This was also the direction the discussion took in the phronesis workshop. If we take the environmental and social crises as starting point, this brings an urgency for research and societal impact. According to the IPCC reports, we have just a few years left to change the functioning logic of the planetary eco-social systems to avoid catastrophic outcomes. What, and how, can social science research do in this situation? I think the participants were unanimous in that phronetic social science is a good thing, but it cannot be expected to bring any immediate solutions. For instance, Bent Flyvbjerg’s own textbook example of phronetic research was his case study on the city planning in Aalborg, Denmark. However, the case study took him some 15 years, so it might not be the ideal model for phronetic science even for the promoters of slow science, in the current situation.

Thinking of what and how to do phronetic social research, I read the book ‘Taisteleva tutkimus’ by Suoranta and Ryynänen (2014). In English this line of research is called activist, militant or radical research and engaged scholarship, drawing e.g. on the Freirean pedagogy of the oppressed. Suoranta and Ryynänen write, in reference to Santos (1999) that especially in wealthy Western countries social sciences are not anymore the source of creative thinking renewing the society, but the ideas come from elsewhere: from global South and outside universities. This is hard to hear for a researcher whose motivation in becoming an academic was to make the world a better place. Becoming an activist-researcher is one way to go, one way to find meaning in research and try to combine the academic and societal demands.

In my short talk in the workshop I asked, however, somewhat provocatively, whether climate change (and climate anxiety), and perceived need for more or less direct impact, is colonizing our thinking already too much. Does all research have to have something to say to environmental crises? This seems also a perilous path, since in the end we cannot know in advance the applicability of different research innovations and how they might eventually contribute to finding solutions to pressing problems. Focusing all research efforts and funding too straightforwardly to tackling climate change might sideline other valuable areas of research contributing to understanding the human condition. Like arts, sciences have also value in providing aesthetic experiences, understanding and material for reflection. As it was formulated by one of the workshop participants – what are we trying to save?

What about phronesis and futures research then? In futures studies we play the funding and publishing game as well, and often the intrinsic logic of academic universe seems to demand too much attention away from the research itself. At a first glance, the demand for slow science would seem ill suited to futures research. Shouldn’t futurists be always one, or preferably several steps ahead, hurrying into the future rather than slowing down? Time is of essence in futures studies, understanding the past and present to look into the future. Futurists are interested in both the emerging, the new that is just over the horizon, and the longue dureé, the long-term developments in societies. The idea of phronetic social science would actually seem to fit quite naturally with much of futures research and the underlying sustainability ethos. Futures research is often co-created with various societal groups and actors, thinking together the possible, probable and desirable futures and generating capabilities for active participation in those futures. At the same time there is rigorous theorizing going on. For the wellbeing of researchers and research itself, perhaps we could entertain more the idea of slow futures research and keep the entrepreneurial university at an arm’s length – easier said than done.

Dr Minna Santaoja

Postdoctoral Researcher
Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku

References

Flyvbjerg, Bent (2001) Making social science matter. Why social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again. Cambridge University Press, UK, 204 p.

Flyvbjerg, Bent – Landman Todd & Schram, Sanford (2012) Introduction: New Directions in Social Science, in Flyvbjerg, Landman, and Schram (eds.) Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, p. 1–14.

Frith, Uta (2019) Fast Lane to Slow Science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 24:1, 1–2.

Overland, Indra & Sovacool, Benjamin K. (2020) The misallocation of climate research funding, Energy Research & Social Science, 62, 101349, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2019.101349

Stengers, Isabelle (2018) Another science is possible. A manifesto for slow science. Polity Press.

Suoranta, Juha & Ryynänen, Sanna (2014) Taisteleva tutkimus. Into kustannus.

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Picture: University of Jyväskylä, YHYS colloquium 2019.

University of Turku helps to map global Research Infrastructures to foster international research collaboration

Mikkel Stein Knudsen & Jari Kaivo-oja:

Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku, has mapped global Research Infrastructures in the Energy sector for the large international Horizon 2020 project RISCAPE. The final report of the project provides a global landscape analysis of RIs. The report was launched with the European Commission in Brussels 9th of December 2019.

Research Infrastructures forms an important part of European research policy

Research Infrastructures has become a key term for European research policy, as demands for modern research increases. In many scientific disciplines, scientists, research groups and even institutions today struggle to individually provide world-class research tools, and instead a pooling of resources is needed, either for large ‘Big Science’ facilities or for distributed networks of facilities creating a shared base for excellent research.

In Europe, this type of single or shared organisation forms important parts of the current research Horizon 2020 programme as well as the upcoming research framework programme Horizon Europe. A number of initiatives exists to streamline and integrate Research Infrastructures within the European Research Area, most importantly the so-called European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).

Until now, however, there has been little attention on how these European institutions compare themselves to similar institutions outside the European Union. This is what the RISCAPE project, supported by the European Commission, has aimed at tackling, as the project has provided the first global mapping of international research infrastructures across eight scientific research fields. Among the multinational and multidisciplinary consortium, the University of Turku has mapped important global research facilities within the energy field.

Southwest Finland important for European Research Infrastructures

The spearheads of RIs in Europe are the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), which is a particular and full legal entity in Europe. In November 2019, Euro-BioImaging became the 21st official ERIC in Europe, and the first ERIC based in Southwest Finland. Euro-BioImaging has 15 founding member countries, and the Statutory Seat of the ERIC is located in Turku. Åbo Akademi University and the University of Turku in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Academy of Finland have supported the preparatory phase since 2014.

For the RISCAPE-project, Finland Futures Research Centre at the University of Turku has worked in close collaboration with other European Research Infrastructure Consortiums, and the coordinating partner University of Helsinki. The other existing ERIC in Finland, Helsinki-based ICOS ERIC, also partners in the project.

With the recent developments and the on-going work, universities in Southwest Finland in close cooperation with other Finnish institutions play pivotal roles in shaping high-level European and global research infrastructure policy. The strong national and regional involvement in this matter is likely to provide increased visibility and strong new opportunities for both researchers and businesses in the region.

At the Finland Futures Research Centre, we believe the current moment offers strong momentum for developments in this field in order to put University of Turku and Southwest Finland right at the square of the global map for Research Infrastructures. It is the duty of FFRC, UTU and other associated parties to follow through on this unique opportunity in the coming years.

RISCAPE-report available with more information

The results of the RISCAPE-project is available at the project website: www.riscape.eu.

For more specific information on energy research infrastructures, global research infrastructure developments, and information concerning UTU’s participation, please contact Mikkel Stein Knudsen (mikkel.knudsen@utu.fi) or Dr. Jari Kaivo-oja (jari.kaivo-oja@utu.fi).

Mikkel Stein Knudsen
Project Researcher (M.Sc., Pol. Science), Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku    

Jari Kaivo-oja
Research Director, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku.

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Picture: Launch event of final report, Maison Grand-Place, Brussels, 9.12.2019

Out of the cages: Here comes the cobots

Mikkel Stein Knudsen and Jari Kaivo-oja:

Forbes, The Guardian, and Financial Times have written about them. The US Department of Commerce lists it as one of 5 Manufacturing Technology Trends to Watch in 2019. Cobots – short for ‘collaborative robots’ – are increasingly entering into industrial manufacturing, profoundly changing the ways in which humans and robots interact.

As one research article puts it, “robots have long left the cages of industrial settings: They work together with humans – collaboratively” (Korn et al., 2018). Smart Cobots are a key technology informing the futures of manufacturing; our research topic in the large Strategic Research Council-project Manufacturing 4.0.

What are cobots?

Collaborative robots differ from traditional industrial robots precisely in the direct interaction with human workers. They are intended to e.g. handle a shared payload without the need for conventional safety cages or separating protective measures. They are generally small, lightweight, mobile and flexible units, and they enable – at least in theory – organisations to leverage the strengths and endurance of robots with the tacit knowledge and agile decision-making skills of humans. Both humans and robots have crucial advantages (Fast-Berglund et al., 2016) – while robots ace repetitive and monotonous tasks, humans remain the most flexible resource in the system. Humans still handling unexpected and unplanned tasks better that their automated co-workers. A human-robotic collaborative approach also proved superior in experimental research settings compared to a similar purely robotic process (Bloss, 2016).

With its focus on flexibility the paradigm of cobots aligns well paradigms of Industry 4.0 – driving at increased automation and increased efficiency in parallel with increasingly flexible production processes, small batch sizes and mass customization.

A sector on the up

Industry forecasts for the near future market for collaborative robots are wildly positive, from global revenues of $7.6 bn in 2027 to the exceptionally optimistic 2019-prediction from the Robotics Industries Association of a $34 billion cobot market by 2026. This will require exponential growth from the current global market of around $600 million in 2018, which in itself was 50% higher than the year before (Sharma, 2019). The academic research output on cobots is also rapidly growing, as the assessment of articles indexed in Web of Science (Figure 1) shows.

Fig 1. Articles indexed in Web of Science with “collaborative robot*” or cobot* as title or keyword (From Knudsen & Kaivo-oja, 2019)

Until now, Finland has not been at the centre of this research. Out of a total of 496 articles in Web of Science published since 2015 (search: 1.1.2019), only 3 are affiliated with Finland. In a ranking of countries based on this data, Finland places 32th. A recent report for the Ministry of Finance in Finland (Rousku et al, 2019) also identified this problem, as well as collaborative robots as a key growth market, asking (p. 46): “Can Finland afford not to take a slice of a market that generates new wealth and new vitality for business and society alike?” A very good question – indeed.

Cobots may provide answers to megatrends

One of the reasons the future could be bright for collaborative robots is that they can answer to a number of different societal megatrends. As the research paradigm on cobots matures and moves away from strictly technological concerns, these links between societal drivers and cobots should be explored in much further detail.

An example, already prominently suggested in the literature, is that cobots may reduce ergonomic challenges and improve occupational safety and health e.g. in factory settings. By reducing the physical workload for workers, cobots can also enable work environments more responsive to older employees – a highly significant advantage given the changing demographics of labour markets across most industrialized nations.

Key global trends to 2030
(from ESPAS, 2015)
Potential role of cobots
A richer and older human race characterised by an expanding global middle class and greater inequalities. Enabling inclusive labour markets more responsive to older employees, employees with disabilities.

Providing a work environment more responsive to human factors, ergonomic and OS&H concerns.

A more vulnerable process of globalisation led by an ’economic G3’. ‘Bringing manufacturing back home’; cobots as enabler of competitive manufacturing in high-cost environments.
A transformative industrial and technological revolution. A ‘gateway into factory automation’, enabler of semi-automated manufacturing choosing select elements of Industry 4.0 for optimized production process.
A growing nexus of climate change, energy and competition for resources. Improved resource efficiency, enabler of circular economy and remanufacturing
(Sarc et al., 2019; Huang et al., 2019).
Changing power, interdependence and fragile multilateralism.

In addition, collaborative robotics will be at the absolute forefront of the development of human-machine interactions, which will help shape important parts of our lives in the coming decades. Unlike most of our everyday interaction with machine learning-algorithms, our interaction with cobots has a distinct physical – see, feel and touch – element to it.

We therefore believe that understanding the topic of cobots, envisioning their deployment, and exploring both preferable and undesirable futures of and with cobots must be prominent future research topics.

Fig 2. Current frontiers of cobot research (based on Knudsen & Kaivo-oja, 2019).

Figure 2 shows some of the current frontiers of cobot research and technology, based on our initial literature review. For each of these pillars many research questions are rapidly arising, and they deserve our attention. Because robots are moving out of the cages and into a space near you.

Industrial robots have traditionally worked separately from humans, behind fences, but this is changing with the emergence of industrial cobots. Industrial robots have traditionally worked separately from humans, behind fences, but this is changing with the emergence of industrial cobots. To sum up, emerging cobot issue requires more attention in the field of Industry 4.0/Manufacturing 4.0. Cobots, or collaborative robots, are robots intended to interact with humans in a shared space or to work safely in close proximity. Service robots can be considered to be cobots as they are intended to work alongside humans. This “cobot approach” is very promising, because it focus on human-robot interaction from the beginning of industrial process planning. Typically, sensors and software are needed to assure good collaborative behaviour.

Summary

It is important to note that cognitive aspects and cognitive ergonomics are highly relevant for new digitalized work life. The IFR (Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance) defines four types of collaborative manufacturing applications: (1) Co-existence Cobots: Human and robot work alongside each other, but with no shared workspace, (2) Sequential Collaboration Cobots: Human and robot share all or part of a workspace but do not work on a part or machine at the same time, (3) Co-operation Cobots: Robot and human work on the same part or machine at the same time, and both are in motion and (4) Responsive Collaboration Cobot: The robot responds in real-time to the worker’s motion.

All these types of cobots provide interesting possibilities and challenges for Industry 4.0/Manufacturing 4.0 activities. Are we ready to face these challenges?

Mikkel Stein Knudsen
Project Researcher (M.Sc., Pol. Science), Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku    

Jari Kaivo-oja
Research Director, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku.

***

The project Manufacturing 4.0 has received funding from the Finnish Strategic Research Council [grant number 313395]. The project “Platforms of Big Data Foresight (PLATBIDAFO)” has received funding from European Regional Development Fund (project No 01.2.2-LMT-K-718-02-0019) under grant agreement with the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT).

***

References

Picture copyright Universal Robots A/S, case Hofmann

Fires in Amazonia: No accident. More fires are coming soon.

Marianna B. Ferreira-Aulu & Gabriela Zuquim

Intense forest fires in Amazonia made the headlines in August 2019. For those who study the region, this environmental crisis came as no surprise. The fires are the result of a long-term obliviousness of national governments towards the environment, intensified by the weakening of Brazilian environmental agencies (IBAMA and ICMBio) and the relaxation of surveillance actions and fines for environmental crimes.

The forest fire dynamics

The blackening of the skies in Sao Paulo in August 2019 was the result of massive slash-and-burn cutting of the Amazon rainforest. The smoke from thousands of man-made fires caught the attention of the world when it reached the mega city. When images of the intense smoke went viral, the news broke everywhere. However, slash-and-burn fires like these happen every dry season in the region and have always been a concern. This year however, the damage is alarming to everyone.

The deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is monitored by two programs of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE): PRODES, which produces an annual report, and DETER, which is a daily deforestation and fire alert system, that is not as precise, but generates almost real time information, aiming to help local officers to act quickly in combating criminal deforestation and fires. It also serves as an indication of deforestation trends.

In July 2019 DETER detected a 278% increase in deforestation trend in comparison with the same period last year.[i] So this year the fires destroyed a much larger area and hinted that the situation may further escalate in the next few years.

According to Tasso Azevedo, coordinator of the project Mapbiomas, there is more fire and smoke coming even sooner. Based on data from satellite images of INPE, significant deforestation continued during July and August and if the trend continues, the cleared areas will be burned soon after, probably during October.[ii] Azevedo explains the slash-and-burn agriculture technique: first, the large trees are cut down and cleared away, then tractors with chains clear the lower vegetation, which is then left to sundry for a few months. Once the cut vegetation is dry, fires are lit to clear the forest. [iii]

The monitoring of the rainforest is particularly important because all fires in Amazonia are anthropogenic. Because there is abundant water stored in the Amazonian rainforest ecosystem[iv], there are no natural forest fires in the rainforest. Thus, many of the Amazonian species have not evolved to tolerate fire events. In some ecosystems such as savannahs, cycles of fires can be natural and species have developed adaptations to survive under these conditions.

The fires are not only dangerous for the ecosystem, but many of them are also illegal. Investigations by the Brazilian federal police show that many of the August fires in Amazonia were lit by criminal organizations, and environmental crimes were only “the tip of the iceberg”, as several other crimes were also committed, such as slave-work, corruption, violence and land-grabbing.[v]

Deforestation along BR-319, Amazonas State , Brazil. Photo: Gabriela Zuquim
Deforestation along BR-319, Amazonas State , Brazil (c) Gabriela Zuquim

Fire the messenger

For the first time in recent Brazilian history, large-scale degradation of the Amazon is being backed by an official government. When INPE published the deforestation trends data for July 2019, there was an immediate reaction from President Jair Bolsonaro to discredit the data. The president accused INPE to be working for the interest of some NGO, and suggested that the data is therefore biased. Minister of Environment Ricardo Salles also suggested that the methodology used by INPE is incorrect. Such allegations forced INPE’s director Ricardo Galvão to explain the science behind the numbers, and publicly criticize the President and his current government’s policies, which caused him to be ousted.[vi]

Firing the director of a research institute for publishing scientific data that displeases the current government is deeply concerning; freedom of speech is intrinsic for democracy. The monitoring system used by INPE in Amazonia is scientifically recognized around the world, and the methodology is internationally reviewed. According to Dr. Douglas Morton, Chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory in NASA, although INPE’s data is inconvenient to the current government, the data is unquestionable, and Dr. Galvão’s dismissal is alarming[vii].

This particular dismissal is not the only policy to “kill the messenger” currently in action in Brazil. Since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, the State has not only cut funding for science and education, but also publicly discredited researchers. In April, Bolsonaro announced an annual budget cut of 30% for all federal universities[viii]. Thus far, 11,811 study grants for masters and doctoral students have been cut since January, and no new grants will be awarded for the remainder of the year through Capes, the federal study grant system, culminating to the cancellation of several research projects due to the lack of funding[ix].

Scenarios for the future of Amazonia

In 2017, Ferreira-Aulu (the 1st author of this text) published – in her Master’s thesis – alternative future scenarios for Volta Grande do Xingu[x], a region on the East of the Brazilian Amazonia, where the Belo Monte Dam is being built. The paper was published in the midst of a political turmoil in Brazil, soon after former president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and before Bolsonaro announced his candidature to president. Four scenarios for 2020 were presented:

  1. Continuation was a scenario not much different from the then-present in 2017, where Brazil would continue being governed democratically, but governmental policies would be driven by economic growth heedless of socio-environmental impacts.
  2. The Black Swan scenario played with the idea of an unlikely future where the Belo Monte Dam is stopped and the Xingu River revitalised. Brazil’s administration’s main goals would be to fight corruption at all levels, working towards a more transparent and just society. Following this line of thought, major infrastructure projects implicated in the money-laundering scheme would be revised, and their security suspension annulled, Belo Monte included.
  3. The Perfect Storm scenario envisioned a disastrous situation rising from a set of failed circumstances. A future where many potential hazards come to be. The scenario depicted an authoritarian government with no concern for environmental issues. A future where state officials omit themselves from regular inspections, where censorship towards the civil society -mainly NGOs and the academic community- would be applied, and where armed forces violently terminate protests. In this scenario, investigations on corruption and money laundering would be shut down due to lack of funding to the federal police. The perfect Storm described a future where deforestation rises at an unprecedented rate, illegal logging instigate acts of violence and several plant species completely disappear. Soil desertification intensifies and the Amazon biome gets closer to reaching its tipping point with an unlikely return.
  4. And last, as a ccounterpoint the Perfect Storm, the Lucidity scenario, pictured a preferred future where decision-making would be evidence-based, and facts would prevail over political power. In this utopian-like scenario, the Brazilian administration would be strongly engaged to sustainable development and democratic participation. There would be a large investment in science and education, and empowered environmental organs. A new agenda of sustainability would be produced democratically, including proposals from specialists and participation of the civil society. Even the most preferred scenario is not perfect. In the lucidity scenario, Brazil suffers from a decline in economic growth. The scenario played with the idea that Brazil would be ran by a progressive government, and that conservative parties would constantly attack the administration arguing that the private sector is being weakened by public bureaucratic processes. The administration’s counterargument in this scenario would be that sustainable development has a long-term approach, and that electorates should take into consideration the long-term benefits that the current administration is providing not only for this trimester, but for a lifetime, and for future generations.

It is 2019 and it seems Brazilian conservation policy is moving towards the Perfect Storm. Although the thesis published in 2017 did not discuss forest fires per se, it did discuss the future of the Amazonian forest. It was and is clear that the future of the forest is strongly determined by the environmental agenda of the government. Today, the country is ruled by a president that disregards scientific facts and tries to silence scientists. The Minister of Environment is a climate change denier, who also claims that Brazil is not far from “zero illegal deforestation”[xi].

Is the disregard of environmental issues due to being oblivious, or deceptive politics? One thing is for sure. The Lucidity scenario seems even more farfetched today than it did in 2017.

Marianna B. Ferreira-Aulu
Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku

Gabriela Zuquim
Ecology and Evolution Biology, Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku

– – –
Article photo: Fire in Tapajós region, Pará State, Brazil. Photo: Hanna Tuomisto

– – –

[i] G1 (2019) Areas with deforestation alerts in Amazonia has a 278% increase compared to previous year. 7 August 2019
https://g1.globo.com/natureza/noticia/2019/08/07/area-com-alertas-de-desmatamento-na-amazonia-sobem-278percent-em-julho-comparado-ao-mesmo-mes-de-2018.ghtml

[ii] Azevedo, Tasso (2019) The worst fire is yet to come. 30 August 2019
https://www.socioambiental.org/pt-br/blog/blog-do-isa/o-pior-do-fogo-pode-ainda-estar-por-vir

[iii] Azevedo, Tasso, The worst fire is yet to come. 30 August 2019
https://www.socioambiental.org/pt-br/blog/blog-do-isa/o-pior-do-fogo-pode-ainda-estar-por-vir

[iv] Artaxo, Paulo in Matheus Pimentel (2019) Forest fires in Amazonia are not natural. 8 September 2019 https://www.nexojornal.com.br/entrevista/2019/09/08/%E2%80%98Nenhum-inc%C3%AAndio-florestal-na-Amaz%C3%B4nia-%C3%A9-natural%E2%80%99

[v] Girardi, Giovana (2019) Investigations reveal organized crime and millionaire gains behind deforestation. O Estado de S.Paulo. 31 August 2019 https://sustentabilidade.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,investigacoes-revelam-quadrilhas-e-ganho-milionario-por-tras-do-desmate,70002990544

[vi] G1 (2019) Exoneration of INPE’s director is officially published. 7 August 2019

[vii] Barrucho, Luis (2019) Exoneration of Inpe’s director ir alarming – says chief of laboratory from NASA. 7 August 2019, BBC News Brasil in London https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-49256294

[viii] Saldaña, Paulo (2019) Ministry of Education extend budged cut to all federal universities. 30 April 2019, Jornal Folha de São Paulo. https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/educacao/2019/04/mec-estende-corte-de-30-de-verbas-a-todas-universidades-federais.shtml

[ix] Pimental, Metheus (2019) Short- and Long-term efects of the study grants for science. 9 September 2019, Nexo Jornal https://www.nexojornal.com.br/entrevista/2019/09/09/Os-efeitos-de-curto-e-longo-prazo-do-corte-de-bolsas-na-ci%C3%AAncia

[x] Ferreira-Aulu, Marianna (2017) Is There A Future After The Belo Monte Dam? Building Futures Scenarios For The Volta Grande Do Xingu In Amazonia, Brazil https://www.utupub.fi/handle/10024/143908

[xi] Phillips, Dom. (2019) Brazil environment minister to meet US climate denier group before UN summit. 13 September 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/13/brazil-environment-minister-climate-denier-group-ricardo-salles

Ilmastoahdistus ja toivo – vai sittenkin rohkea epätoivo?

Minna Santaoja:

Savonlinnassa kymmenettä kertaa järjestetyillä luontoelokuvafestivaaleilla oli tänä vuonna yhtenä teemana ilmastoahdistus. Sain kutsun keskustelemaan aiheesta yhdessä ohjaaja Carmen Baltzarin, Greenpeace Suomen ilmasto- ja energiavastaava Kaisa Kososen sekä ilmastoaktivisti Aino Faleniuksen kanssa. Keskustelua johdatteli Outi Silfverberg Ympäristötiedon foorumilta.

Ilmastoahdistuksesta on keskusteltu Suomessa monilla tahoilla parin vuoden ajan. Keskustelun käynnistymiseen on vaikuttanut keskeisesti tutkija Panu Pihkalan 2017 ilmestynyt teos ”Päin helvettiä? Ympäristöahdistus ja toivo”. Pihkalan mukaan ilmastonmuutoksen kaltaisen eksistentiaalisen kriisin herättämistä tunteista keskustellaan liian vähän. Ympäristöahdistus on tunteena ja terminä vielä jokseenkin hahmoton ja pitää sisällään monenlaisia kokemuksia. Pihkala onkin tehnyt pioneerityötä luodessaan käsitteistöä ympäristötunteille. Syksyllä 2019 häneltä ilmestyy toinen kirja otsikolla ”Mieli maassa? Ympäristötunteet”, jossa pohditaan muun muassa ympäristösurua ja ympäristöraivoa.

Muutama viikko sitten ahdistusta lisäsivät Brasilian Amazonin sademetsän ennennäkemättömän laajat metsäpalot, jotka tuntuivat tekevän kaikki muut ilmastonmuutoksen hillitsemiseksi tehtävät toimet merkityksettömiksi. Palojen mittakaava tuntui hetkeksi ravistelevan monet ihmiset toimintaan. Toiminta onkin monella taholla todettu ympäristöahdistuksen parhaaksi lääkkeeksi. Sosiaalisen median keskusteluissa toiminnan mahdollisuuksia löytyy monia. Kuluttajana voimme boikotoida brasilialaisia tuotteita ja tuotteita, joiden tuotannossa on käytetty Brasiliasta peräisin olevaa soijarehua. Ympäristöjärjestöt kokoavat nimiä vetoomuksiin, ottavat vastaan lahjoituksia ympäristösuojelutyön tekemiseksi ja kannustavat ottamaan yhteyttä ministereihin ja europarlamentaarikkoihin. Poliitikot julistavat tilanteen kestämättömyyttä ja lupaavat ottaa asian esille kansainvälisissä huippukokouksissa. Helsingin Brasilian suurlähetystön edessä osoitetaan mieltä. Ilmastonmuutoksen hillitseminen ei ole yksin kuluttaja-kansalaisen vastuulla, mutta kaikkia tahoja tarvitaan – myös yksittäisten ihmisten toimia. Mutta entä jos toimet eivät tunnu riittävän? Amazon oli hetken otsikoissa ja katosi sitten, mutta ongelma ei ole kadonnut.

Savonlinnassa keskustelun pohjaksi nähtiin Carmen Baltzarin ohjaama elokuva Maailman onnellisin maa. Elokuvassa kolme milleniaalia istuu ilmastoterapeutin vastaanotolla ja pohtii globaaleja ongelmia, jotka kietoutuvat monin tavoin oman elämän valintoihin. Miten esimerkiksi lasten hankintaa voi perustella tässä maailman tilassa? Greenpeacen Kaisa Kosonen on pohtinut kysymystä kolme vuotta sitten ilmestyneessä Vihreän Langan haastattelussa. Kosonen näki ilmastonmuutoksen vastaisessa kamppailussa sellaisia toivonpilkahduksia, jotka loivat luottamusta tulevaisuuteen. Lapsen saaminen kasvattaa perheen ympäristökuormaa, mutta olen ajatellut että ilmastonmuutoksen vastainen kamppailu on merkityksetöntä, ellemme usko hyvän elämän mahdollisuuteen myös lapsillemme. Savonlinnan keskustelussa Kaisa Kosonen sanoi lasten tuovan elämään valtavasti iloa.

Ilmastoahdistus näyttää olevan nuorille sukupolvikokemus, joka luo ilmastoterapeutin kaltaisia uusia ammattikuntia. Kirjoitin Yliopistopedagogiikka-lehdessä siitä, kuinka korkeakouluissa ohjausta tekevillä tulisi olla valmiuksia ympäristökysymysten käsittelyyn opiskelijoiden kanssa. Nuori ilmastoaktivisti Aino Falenius kuvasi kyynelsilmin kokemustaan ympäristöliikkeessä: kuinka toivoa ensin näytti olevan, mutta ehkä ei sitten ollutkaan. Hän oli kietonut harteilleen supersankarin tapaan mielenosoituksissa käyttämänsä banderollin, jonka teksti sanoi: ”If you don’t act like adults, we will.”

Ilmastonmuutoksesta ja ympäristöahdistuksesta puhuttaessa esiin nousee poikkeuksetta kysymys toivosta – onko meillä enää toivoa? Ahdistuksen tavoin toivokin on epämääräinen käsite ja kaipaa tarkennusta. Mikäli toivolla ajatellaan jonkinlaista perusteetonta toiveikkuutta siitä että kaikki voisi jatkua ennallaan ja ihmiskunnan suuri kertomus rakentua edelleen talouskasvun ja yhä kiihtyvän kulutuksen varaan, toivoa ei ole. Panu Pihkala on muotoillut toivon tarkoittavan elämän merkityksellisyyttä. Merkityksellisyyskin elämän tavoitteena tuntuu jotenkin juhlalliselta ja korkealentoiselta. Olen itse ajatellut toivon tarkoittavan jonkinlaisen ihmisarvoisen elämän mahdollisuutta myös tulevaisuudessa; että pahimmat dystopiat eivät toteutuisi.

Kirjoitin keväällä blogissa tulevaisuuden tutkimuksesta ”toivon tieteenä”. Luettuani dramaturgi Ilja Lehtisen kesällä ilmestyneen kirjoituksen Toivottomuuden puolesta jäin pohtimaan tulevaisuuden tutkimuksen eetosta. Lehtinen käy kirjoituksessaan läpi muun muassa toivon ja tulevaisuuden käsitteiden historiaa ja etymologiaa päätyen siihen, että pakonomainen toivosta kiinni pitämisemme on yhdenlainen kristillisen pelastususkon ilmentymä. Lehtinen kirjoittaa toivosta luopumisesta mahdollisuutena uuteen alkuun. Toivottomuus ei merkitse nihilismiä ja toimettomuutta. Lehtinen tekee monia oivaltavia huomioita suhteestamme tulevaisuuteen ja suosittelen kirjoitusta kaikille tulevaisuuden tutkimuksen perusteiden kriittisestä pohdinnasta kiinnostuneille. Lukemiseen kannattaa varata aikaa, sillä Lehtisen teksti ei ole nopeasti nielaistava. Teksti herättää kysymyksen siitä, osallistuuko tulevaisuuden tutkimus perusteettoman tulevaisuususkon ylläpitämiseen vieden huomiota elettävältä elämältä tässä ja nyt, sijoittaen toivon paremmasta aina johonkin muualle, ulottumattomiin.

Toivo kaipaa joka tapauksessa tarkempaa erittelyä. Joidenkin asioiden suhteen toivoa on, toisten suhteen ei. Toivoa ei Kaisa Kososen mukaan esimerkiksi ole enää korallien pelastamisesta, vaikka monenlaiset teknologiset kehityskulut esimerkiksi luovat toivoa siirtymästä uusiutuvaan energiaan. Toivon erittely auttaa konkretisoimaan elämää ilmastonmuutoksen kanssa. Fossiiliseen energiaan perustuvan talousjärjestelmän väistämättä romahtaessa ennen pitkää, enemmän tai vähemmän hallitusti, on toivoa pienissä mittakaavoissa, uudessa paikallisuudessa. Ympäristökriisissä on paljolti kyse mielikuvituksen ja kulttuurin kriisistä. Jotta on motivaatiota toimia ponnekkaasti tulevaisuuden puolesta, on kyettävä näkemään jonkinlainen positiivinen tulevaisuus. Ja se ei ole kaikille sama. Introverttinä minua esimerkiksi ahdistaa se että elämä ilmastonmuutoksen värittämässä todellisuudessa näyttää välttämättä yhteisölliseltä. En ole varma ahdistaako ajatus yhteisöllisyydestä sinänsä, vaan se että se tuntuu olevan niin kaukana pispalalaisen rivitaloyhtiömme nykyarjesta, jossa yhteinen päätöksenteko uudesta lipputangon nupistakin tuntuu vaativalta.

Samanaikaisesti Savonlinnan luontoelokuvafestivaalin kanssa ilmestyi suomeksi ilmastoaktivisti Greta Thunbergin perheen kirja ”Sydämen asioita – perhe ja planeetta kriisissä”. Hankin kirjan käsiini Savonlinnan kirjakaupasta ja luin sitä viikonlopun kaikkina vapaahetkinä. Kirja vaikutti minuun syvästi ja tulen sen vuoksi muistamaan Savonlinnan festivaalin erityisen merkityksellisenä. Oli huikeaa lukea, minkälaisten vaikeuksien kautta Greta on noussut globaalin ilmastoliikkeen keulakuvaksi. Kirja punoo oivaltavalla tavalla länsimaissa yleistyneen henkisen pahoinvoinnin, mielenterveysongelmat ja ympäristöahdistuksen yhteen globaalin ympäristökriisin kanssa. Gretan perheen kokemukset osoittavat, ettei mikään ole sen tervehdyttävämpää kuin toimiminen merkityksellisten asioiden puolesta, ja se että ympärillä on ihmisiä jotka tämän ymmärtävät. Greta ei puhu toivosta; sen sijaan hän on peräänkuuluttanut paniikkia ilmastonmuutostoimien kiireellisyyden ymmärtämiseksi. Sen sijaan että riipumme ahdistuneessa toivossa, on hedelmällisempää heittäytyä Ilja Lehtisenkin kaipaamalla tavalla rohkeaan epätoivoon, joka saattaa kirkastaa elämän merkityksen, kauneuden ja haurauden.

Kirjoitus tuntuu kaipaavan vielä loppukohotusta. Otan sellaisena esiin Yle Areenan Ilmastouutiset. Ohjelmassa toimittaja pyrkii kutistamaan vuosipäästönsä kestävälle kahden tonnin tasolle ja pohtii mustan huumorin sävyttämänä minkälaisia esteitä tämän saavuttamisessa on. Katsoin ohjelman jaksot potiessani akuuttia ahdistusta lentämisestä, ja mieleeni jäivät erityisesti ohjelman matkustamiseen liittyvät oivallukset. Eräässä ohjelman jaksossa toimittaja päättää matkustaa mahdollisimman kauas lähtemisen sijaan mahdollisimman lähelle – oman itsensä sisään. Hän istuu viikon yksin pahvilaatikossa hiljaa meditoiden ja summaa kokemustaan kertoen saavuttaneensa sen mitä viikon lomamatkalta parhaimmillaan on odotettavissa: eksoottisia elämyksiä, rauhaa ja oivalluksia omasta arjesta. Sen sijaan että ahdistumme lentämisen vähentämisestä, voi ilmastonmuutos tehdä matkustamisesta uudelleen eeppistä. Maata pitkin maailman ääriin matkustaminen vaatii valmistautumista ja suunnittelua ihan eri tavalla kuin ”pikaruokamatkustaminen” lentäen.

Ilmastonmuutoksen on annettava tuntua. Se voi tuntua ahdistuksena, raivona, pohjattomana suruna, neuvottomuutena, vahingonilona, toiveikkuutena. Se voi ilmetä itkuna ja nauruna, vetäytymisenä ja tarmokkuutena. Etäännyttäminen ei toimi.

HT, tutkijatohtori Minna Santaoja
Turku Institute of Advanced Studies (TIAS), Tulevaisuuden tutkimuskeskus (Tampere)

 

Kuvituskuva: pixabay.com

Finland Futures Research Centre's Blog