The content focuses on social scientific environmental research and environmental art. The online course is open to all, free of charge, and can be completed in Finnish or English.

Scientists’ message concerning the state of the planet has become ever more alarming. Global problems, such as climate change or disappearance of species, are difficult to solve locally. Considerable changes are taking place, and especially in the northern regions, things proceed at an unprecedented rate.

Besides enabling us to grasp the state of the Earth, science also has capacity to engender change. Through science, it is possible to examine intricate problems related to sustainability from various perspectives.

"In the face of global problems, it is important to remember that science and art offer us the tools for transformative learning. This means learning that changes our understanding of being human and our relationship with the world", says Ilkka Ratinen, Professor of Sustainability and Nature Education at the University of Lapland.

So, the keys to change are in our hands. Nature, particularly the forest, on this course functions as an environment enabling you to acquaint yourself with academic and artistic viewpoints advocated by ULapland to promote sustainable development. Although the content focuses on social scientific environmental research and environmental art, you get a chance to listen to experts from all four faculties of the university, the Arctic Centre, and the Multidimensional Tourism Institute.

Northern Perspectives on Sustainability is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses), i.e. an online course that is free and open to all. The course is specifically designed for university students in different disciplines. It can also be used as a supplementary material in upper secondary education, for example in biology and geography or visual arts.

Five Themes Combining Science and Art

In the first module, Professor of Sustainability and Outdoor Education Ilkka Ratinen and University Lecturer of Sámi Language and Culture Erika Sarivaara concentrate on sustainability transition competence. Northern forest issues are considered from the viewpoint of Sámi language and culture: An ancient connection with nature and sustainable consumption of natural resources are strongly present in cultural heritage. Forests are found important in both Finnish and Sámi culture, and their sustainable development requires sustainability competence through which we can reconcile ecological, cultural, economic, and social sustainability targets.

In the second module, Postdoctoral Researcher, University Lecturer of Sociology Veera Kinnunen and Professor of Responsible Arctic Tourism Outi Rantala discuss the multispecies world. We are living in the Anthropocene – a proposed geological epoch during which human activity has had considerable planetary effects. The idea of a multispecies world challenges the human-centredness of research in that humans are regarded as just one species among others. The multispecies perspective affects both the choice of research targets and the ways of conducting research, and it can provide new viewpoints for discussions on the sustainability transition and the green transition, among other things.

In the third module, the Arctic Centre’s Research Professor Monica Tennberg, the Arctic Centre’s University Researcher Jukka Jokimäki, and Senior Lecturer of Tourism Research Minni Haanpää focus on urban nature and on the significance of various urban nature areas to ecological and social sustainability. The researchers will set out to the Arctic Park in Rovaniemi, the regionally valuable birdwatching site Harjulampi, and the nearby forest in Korkalovaara to contemplate on urban nature, urban ecosystems, urban planning, and the convergence of suburbs and tourism.

In the fourth module, Professor of Law Tomi Tuominen discusses the significance of sustainability legislation. Law is often understood as a means to implement political decisions. The societal role of law is, however, more multifaceted, as law also guides political processes. Moreover, law entails values and principles that affect society subconsciously and unexpectedly. Achieving various sustainability goals therefor requires knowledge of the role of law in societal transition processes.

The theme of the fifth module is nature culture, forests, and art. It is discussed in detail by the following researchers of art education: Associate professor Maria Huhmarniemi, University Lecturer Elina Härkönen, and University Lecturer Antti Stöckell. The researchers explain how the experience of the beauty of a landscape is always constructed culturally and how art education can support cultural sustainability. Contemporary art provides artists an opportunity to participate in forest-related and political discussions, to create communality, and to advance dialogue. In addition, there will be discussion on how play can inspire art education and the development of new services.