Were you aware of the environmental crisis before having children?

Jussi Nikula
Sep 19, 2018 · 3 min read
“silhouette of children” by Ban Yido on Unsplash

One person asked me the other day if I was aware of the serious environmental crisis before having children. I replied: “Yes, and the latest science is making me increasingly nervous”. This person told me that he came to realize the state of affairs only afterwards, which made him think if one day his children would need to consider whether they wanted to have children if environmental crises are unfolding in an uncontrollable way. This thought brings tears into his eyes, I heard. We had only met a couple of hours earlier for the first time and there we found each other in a rather emotional exchange.

Discussions of this kind are not that rare these days among scientists and environmentalists. But it is also quite personal to confess that one is seriously worried, even fearful, about the future. At the same time, many of these people are cool-headed enough to research the data and arrive to the conclusion: with current systematic lock-ins and inertia of change we’re soon running out of time for halting the dangerous climate change, avoiding mass extinction of wild species and securing functionality of ecosystems that we depend on. Humanity may have already committed to instability of living conditions that are beyond what we have experienced since the invention of agriculture. Of course, everyone would like to be wrong about this gloomy outlook but betting on the small probabilities that business as usual will be OK doesn’t seem like a good enough plan.

Am I a pessimist? I think we need to accept the absolute urgency of the need for fast transformation of our societies. It will be very difficult and it needs to happen in larger scale and much faster than any non-violent change has happened before. Still, I have faith in people’s capacity to create change. I guess I am an optimistic pessimist. If only there was a way on the system level to guide the bright minds of finance, engineering and businesses (and any other field) to create regenerative models of operation, to move away from the extractive mindset. Incremental improvements and co-opting sustainable development talk have been there for a couple of decades already. This must be something different. I’m astonished by the recent advancements of artificial intelligence and digitalization. Can we unleash this power of minds to the benefit of people and the planet?

I will spend nearly four months in New York and USA to study the transition pathways from ecological overshoot to sustainable economies. I am exploring the latest thinking of sustainable societies and systems change in the USA and will share my experiences from the Finnish, Nordic and European contexts with my American colleagues. Thank you Fulbright Finland Foundation for making this possible! I’m also extremely grateful to my host organization, Capital Institute. As I’m starting the second full week of my grant period, I’m glad to see the opportunities around me. I have arrived at an organization with very progressive thinking and action that is surrounded by great networks of similarly interesting people and organizations.

There will be numerous interesting lessons that I will learn, and I will do my best to share them on this blog. In this piece of text I took quite a personal approach. Following updates will provide perspectives and interpretations of different manifestations of regenerative economy and similar approaches. Many of the texts will probably address the question of how to create and accelerate transformational change.

One reason to choose the personal approach in this text is that I am tempted to dive deeper into people’s behavior in the context of transformational change. Take an average influential professional in New York or anywhere in the world, for example. Is she/he motivated to promote this uncomfortable transition? Does she/he have the opportunity and capability to act? How can she/he negotiate the situations where current structures resist the change? Or maybe there are too many good excuses for not doing anything?

Jussi Nikula

Written by

@NikulaJussi System perspective on societal transitions to desirable futures. Independent opinions, home institution @WWFSuomi.

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