Monday May 17, 2021

We must not leave future generations behind: Niemelä

Published : 22 Mar 2021, 21:29

  DF Report

Helsinki University pat-time Rector Jari Niemelä. Photo: University of Helsinki.

Helsinki University pat-time Rector Jari Niemelä on Monday emphasised the urgency of finding solutions to problems caused by climate change and biodiversity loss, a wicked pair of problems.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the anniversary week of the university he said inclusivity can be promoted by directing the question “How are you doing?” not only to other people but also to nature and other species.

“We must not leave future generations behind. Human children, Javan rhinoceroses, freshwater trout, Saimaa ringed seals, yellow wagtails, right whales and white-tailed eagles must be able to inhabit our planet also in the future,” said Niemelä.

This week, the University of Helsinki is celebrating its 381st founding anniversary.

The University of Helsinki, at the ripe age of 381, will celebrate its anniversary for a whole week from 22 March, Monday to 26 March, Friday. The week features remote events and speeches both on the university’s YouTube channel and on the Think Corner website. All those interested are warmly welcome to follow the anniversary programme, available here.

“The current coronavirus crisis can serve to spur the social sustainability transformation forward, as stated by the University’s post-coronavirus task force in its report published in the autumn. The pandemic is a catalyst after which there is no returning to how things were before. In other words, this is a time of transition,” said Niemelä, who for the time being is working part-time and attending to special duties as rector (while Sari Lindblom is attending to the overall duties of the rector).

The release said addressing the problems of climate change and biodiversity loss requires action. The University of Helsinki intends to do its share in achieving that.

“Action for the climate and environment concerns each and every one of us. It is a responsibility that young climate activists should not be burdened with on their own,” said Niemelä.

The University of Helsinki has selected the building of a sustainable future as a strategic choice that it promotes through various concrete actions.

Efforts for a better future are being made not only at the University of Helsinki but also across the whole higher education sector.

“Together with other Finnish universities, last autumn we published the sustainability theses of Universities Finland UNIFI. Among other goals, the entire Finnish university sector intends to become carbon neutral by the year 2030," said Niemelä.

The University of Helsinki demands that the climate and biodiversity objectives included in the programme of the Finnish government are implemented. Besides willingness, science is needed to identify solutions.

“Finland has made a pledge to transform itself into a sustainable society by 2030. That objective is less than 10 years in the future. The challenge is great, but success is our only option,” he said.

The university promises to offer all available research-based knowledge and expertise needed to save the world.