University of Helsinki: Old struc­tures must be torn down – Sustainability Science Days, a ma­jor sustainability conference, high­lights the need for rad­ical change

Is interfering in economic growth actually allowed? What about people’s purchases, eating habits and movement? What does a good life look like in a sustainable future?
The Sustainability Science Days conference, Finland’s largest sustainability science event, will be held on 18 and 19 May 2021. The theme of the conference is ‘Destruction and Creativity?’, stemming from the notion that sustainability challenges will not be solved without radical change to human behaviour and societal structures. The entire conference will be held online, and it can be followed via live video meetings on Zoom. Participation is free of charge, and registration is open until 13 May.

The conference focuses on goals 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities) of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“While all of the goals for sustainable development are topical and interconnected, we wanted to put these two in the forefront. From the perspective of sustainable urban development, a fair transition is needed, and in this the role of various communities is highlighted. The sustainability transition also requires support from innovative solutions and experiments,” says Professor Anne Toppinen, director of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science.

“Through this theme, we also wish to emphasise the necessity of radical change in solving sustainability challenges. Fine-tuning the current system is no longer enough. Instead, we have to destroy old structures to make room for novel solutions. This effort requires contribution from all parties active in society,” says Professor Minna Halme from Aalto University, one of the two academic heads of the conference.

World-class speak­ers
One of the conference’s keynote speakers is Professor of Ecology and Evolution Luis M. Bettencourt from the University of Chicago, who will discuss the ways in which cities can lead the way in the sustainability transition. The session will be opened by Rector Jari Niemelä of the University of Helsinki. In a related panel discussion, the other participants are Alpo Tani and Ville Taajamaa, representing the cities of Helsinki and Espoo, respectively.

Professor in Sustainable Business Nancy Bocken from Maastricht University will give a talk on boosting the circular economy with sustainable business models and innovations. The other keynote speeches of the session will be given by Professor Marc Wolfram from Technische Universität Dresden, Professor and Director of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science Anne Toppinen, and Professor Minna Halme.

In addition to the keynote sessions, the programme includes 12 sessions on, among other topics, themes associated with the circular economy, the rights of indigenous peoples and a fair sustainability transition, opportunities of the ecowelfare state, wood construction, the reconfiguration of consumption and production, as well as the transformation of private consumption, including the reduction of private motoring and meat consumption.

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