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Visions for a better future?


Johanna Kirkinen

Leading Specialist, Ecological sustainability, D.Sc. (Tech.), The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra


We are about to face great challenges. If all the people in the world lived like Finns do, we would need nearly 3.5 planets just like our Earth. Unfortunately, we only have the one. Natural resources are depleting, and we also need to deal with climate change. We should cut our emissions by 80 per cent before 2050 to keep the global average temperature rise below the critical two degrees. To achieve this, we should already be on a decreasing trend. We are not.

Who will bear the brunt of the impact? For government budget deficits and climate change alike, we are living off future generations, with no right to do so. But who wants to hear about the end of the world? Nobody.

Alternative visions, on the other hand, would be nice to hear. What would a truly sustainable life look like in all its aspects – environmental, social and economic? Unfortunately, not many visions like this are in circulation.

A world based on sustainability could be a cradle of well-being. Many elements of the future are already with us. Buildings no longer just consume energy, many also produce it. Any one of us can produce energy instead of merely consuming it. We have electric vehicles that in the future could be charged with electricity produced at home. Improved opportunities for remote working allow us to spend more time with loved ones, with no time wasted travelling. With new and better land cultivation methods, we will be able to produce food regardless of where we live.

Many elements are already in place, but many visions also need further development – visions such as cleaner cities with less noise, where public transportation is a place to chat with fellow travellers and drink a cup of coffee. Or encouraging a more flexible commitment to each other and our work, and allowing slower travel with lower emissions. Instead of filling our lives with unnecessary clutter, we could focus on things that really matter, and engage in business initiatives and jobs that wouldn’t require compromising sustainability. A sustainable future should offer opportunities, not difficulties.

Many challenges will still have to be overcome before visions of sustainability prevail. Once we are able to paint a picture of what a sustainable future looks like, it will be easy to commit to. Many individual elements are already present, but who has the foresight to join them as a whole?

Johanna Kirkinen’s article is available in Finnish in the “Muutos – julkaisu uudesta energia-asenteesta” publication. You can order the printed publication from Sitra, e-mail: For an electronic version, see

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