How did an engineer, a scientist, a choreographer and a student end up producing a climate change study module together?

In October 2014 a meeting was held with university rectors and representatives from the Academy of Finland and businesses at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra to discuss climate change, scarcity of resources and Finland’s capability to respond to these challenges. At the time, the objective of the government was to make Finland a Cleantech super power by 2020. The goal was clear, but at the same time questions arose whether we have a broad enough range of knowledge and expertise on climate change in Finland. Do we have what it takes to be at the frontrow in resolving this global sustainability crisis? What emerged in the discussion was that everyone graduating from a higher education institution in Finland should have basic knowledge about climate change and an understanding of how climate change relates to the graduate’s own field of study. Although the project did not exist at the time, this objective became its mission.

To lay a foundation for the continuing discussion, Sitra commissioned a report of the current state of climate change studies (report in Finnish). According to the report, all Finnish universities offer courses related to climate change, but they do not reach all students. In addition, there are shortcomings in teaching the basics and, consequently, understanding them. How could we deepen and diversify the knowhow to enable, for example, a student of communication to understand the scientific basis of climate change, and on the other hand, to enable a biologist to have an understanding of the role management and art play in finding solutions? It became increasingly clear that we need a high quality basic course on climate change that is open to everyone and contains perspectives from many different fields.

Diversity as the underpinning strength in the -project

The University of Helsinki and Lappeenranta University of Technology were ready to get down to business and, in spring 2015, both universities separately proposed that they could produce study material on the basics of climate change. The two proposals that completed each other were combined, and the universities’ expertise on climate change, mitigation and adaptation became the framework of the study module. We also felt that in order to be able to create a comprehensible and empowering study material, we needed professionals from the fields of education and arts involved in the project. This view was also supported by the report Climate Education as the Basis of Expertise and Responsible Citizenship. When the decision was made to produce the video lectures in collaboration with students from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, the ingredients for our multidisciplinary project were all there.

We started to create the study module in autumn 2015 with the target to have it completed by the following autumn. On the way, we had to find a balance between the emphases and the levels of difficulty between the various themes related to climate change. In addition to defining the scope of the content, we also had to find a common language and way to operate together. There were more than 30 of us involved in the project, and we all brought with us our own expertise, personality, terminology and way to work. Just like overcoming climate change, constructing the module required all of us to look beyond our own points of view, challenges and solutions, and aim at achieving something bigger together.

Finland needs a new generation of climate solvers that can navigate through even the biggest of challenges. is a beginning of a journey that we hope you will join as well.

Publications mentioned:

Emma Liljeström and Suvi Monni. 2015. Ilmasto-alan yliopisto-opetuksen nykytila Suomessa. The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. (Only available in Finnish)

Anna Lehtonen and Hannele Cantell. 2015. Climate Education as the Basis of Expertise and Responsible Citizenship. The Finnish Climate Change Panel. (Full report in Finnish Ilmastokasvatus osaamisen ja vastuullisen kansalaisuuden perustana; Abstract available in English)