Sustainable life should be facilitated through policy measures
Salonen is a well-known advocate of sustainability. His areas of expertise, such as sustainable society and the pursuit of meaningful life, seem tremendously broad. Yet, one can drill into large themes by breaking them down into smaller components.
“Research on sustainable well-being can be approached through societal structures or human lifestyles, in other words, either from the direction of policy measures, or from the direction of citizens’ behaviour and their ways of existence. When it comes to lifestyles, things get very concrete: how we move, what we eat, how we consume, how materials circulate, what is the foundation of our well-being, and can that foundation rely more on sustainable factors of well-being.”
According to Salonen, the key question is how to persistently move from the pursuit of material good towards more immaterial sources of well-being.
“The maximisation of material good runs against the limits of our planet. However, there is no limit to making life richer and more meaningful. Knowledge increases when it is shared, trust grows when trust is shown, and life carries when everyday joys and sorrows are shared,” Salonen explains.
Salonen says that above all, the sustainability transformation requires policy measures. In practice, this can, for example, be a question of imposing heavier taxes on things that are not wanted and, correspondingly, easing taxes on things that are preferred. Salonen is confident that people’s values are already sufficiently in favour of sustainable well-being in order for change to be possible.
“If we want the sustainability transformation is to be implemented quickly, then it is first and foremost a political change that makes a desired type of citizenship feasible. In the end, people are looking for an everyday life that is easy and runs smoothly, and where everyday choices are affordable.”
Creative solutions and an active attitude towards the future
Salonen is a member of the Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, which highlights the perspectives of research in the targeting of policy measures in the transition to a more sustainable society. Research is needed, above all, to find solutions.
“There are already enough of those who can identify problems, but how can we find solutions to them? This is an era of creative problem-solving, and that interests me personally,” Salonen says.
Instead of becoming paralysed, feeling isolated or dealing with dystopian images, Salonen highlights an active attitude towards life and a future that is created together.
“We easily think that the future is a straightforward continuum of the past. Yet, our future can be better than our past would let us assume. The charm is in that the future can be built because it doesn’t yet exist.”
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, people are also longing for the “good old days”. However, many see the pandemic as an opportunity to head in a completely new direction, such as permanently reducing consumption.
“The pandemic has given us an opportunity to look at what makes life worth living. For example, the popularity of camping and cycling has grown a lot. Every kilometre cycled or walked is good not only for people, but also for our society and the planet. Finding solutions where everyone wins is key.”
Arto O. Salonen
- Professor of Social Pedagogy, especially sustainable well-being, University of Eastern Finland, 1 May 2021–
- Doctor of Education, University of Helsinki, 2010
- Awarded titles of Docent: National Defence University, Sustainable Development (2019), University of Eastern Finland, Ecosocial Welfare Research (2018), and University of Helsinki, Education (2013).
- Associate Professor (Tenure Track), University of Eastern Finland, 2018–2021.
- Postdoctoral Researcher, National Defence University, 2016– 2019.
- Research Director, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, 2016–2018.