Imagining a sustainable future

Tags: Culture, Events

Notes from our meeting with Siiri Enoranta, writer, awarded with the Junior Finlandia Prize in 2018 - Tatjana Bum (Feb. 2020).

To begin with, I am very glad to have attended this meeting. As I don’t consider myself an artistic person and lack a special connection to art in the sense of painting or sculpturing, I was intrigued to learn about the healing powers of art and how it can bring people together, communicating different perspectives in an empathetic and non-conventional way (if we consider every-day verbal exchange as conventional). Sadly, I cannot read Siiri’s books myself, yet it was good to hear her talk about her stories, the worlds she creates and how writing helps her to deal with her negative feelings about the state of the world and humans’ lack of connection to nature in present-day Western societies. I was amazed at how openly she shared her feelings and motivation for writing e.g. when she admitted how much she struggles with Western Guilt. At the same time, it made me sad to see how someone with such a far-reaching impact as her, i.e. someone whose books are read by and probably inspire many people, is still not free from despair. Ideally, she would feel empowered by the voice she is given through her novels, yet it is only human that she cannot forget about what saddens her in the first place simply because of her success. Therefore, it was good to learn that her art gives her an outlet for the stress she feels and that her troubling thoughts can make other people reconsider our society’s values and relation to nature.
I could also relate to what some of my fellow students mentioned during this session.

One comment on the interconnectedness of things reminded me vividly of the revelation I had during my previous studies about how everything in the world is connected. By this I don’t only mean the connections in the direct, tangible environment between humans, animals and everything in nature but also
structures and events located far away from us. It took me at least a year of studying International Relations to realize that Europe’s colonial history and present-day free trade, imposed on African nations by the industrialized West, are to blame for poor living conditions in many African countries.
After that, I found it increasingly difficult to hear people around me talk derogatively about so-called “economic refugees“ from Africa, when in fact it was European/Western inventions and institutions that caused poverty on this continent. Similarly, I would hear my own friends, who pity the poor the other countries, talk as if they could not see any connection between ourselves and all industrialized societies as main causers of climate change and those pitiable people in the poorest regions of the world who are most affected by the consequences of climate change.

Another point that was brought up and that I could identify with referred to the feeling of being torn between the desire to escape and the sense of duty or the wish to make a sustainable impact on others. This conflict arises from a frustration and rejection of societal values and habits which is contradicted by the desire to encourage people to reconsider these values and make them aware of environmental pollution and climate change. I myself repeatedly face this struggle in the social media world. I am very
critical of Facebook, Instagram and co; not only in terms of lacking data protection and data usage but also in the way it is used by many people to present themselves in a superficial, inauthentic way, i.e. to tell lies about their lives. However, I have the feeling that these online platforms are also the single most effective way of drawing attention to climate change and other sustainability issues. Hence, I am torn between social media abstinence for my own good and the desire to make environmental issues visible by sharing and posting pro-sustainability and (hopefully) eye-opening material which requires me to use these social-media platforms.