Creative Sustainability has existed as a study option for more than ten years at Aalto University. It has catered to different needs and evolved over in course of time. Yet fundamental commitments remain the same. The reasons to get involved in sustainability through creativity also remain the same. Here is my list of ten good reasons to join.
Aalto University balances between societal impact and the traditional virtues of academic institutions. This means that there are study tracks that ask what knowledge is and how might it matter in society. Creative sustainability fosters by this environment. It is an academic pursuit of reading and writing coupled with a demand not to stop there, but to promote knowledge-driven societal impact.
Sustainability is a systemic challenge. The patterns of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, exhaustion of natural resources, and the uneven distribution of the human benefits of economic activities evolve over time. They have a history and a trajectory in the current time. Systemic perspectives on sustainability help to understand that there are no easy solutions to these problems but also call all students of sustainability to think about and develop leverage points. How could one effectively intervene and tilt the development towards sustainability?
Systems perspectives are relational. This simply means that answers to sustainability problems, and the responsibility and accountability over them, are context specific. Agency and responsibility are distributed, and hence neither blame nor the credits for change can be directed at single actors. Creative sustainability is inclusive and appreciative as it calls for daring and responsible action on multiple levels and across society.
Sustainability is a societal, shared concern. As we work to find solutions to alter the taxing relations humans have towards nature and more respectful ways of coexisting in a finite world, we also rework our own identities and social relations. Creative sustainability is a community of change-oriented togetherness. It is also a humble position in which designers need to acknowledge their own limits and submit to collaboration and co-design between and outside of professional fields.
Technology is neither simply good nor bad. With all fairness, technology stands as the means by which humans took control over nature and started to impact it in an essential way. Anthropocene is a making of technology, but the same technology makes for the very fundamental aspects of daily life. More than ever, there is a need to critically alter the direction of technology towards sustainability. This is a task for engineers but also a call for a dialogue with engineering on what can technology deliver and how it should be governed.
Similar to technology, business is invested in both current unsustainability and the change efforts towards sustainability. Profit-making may seem to be at odds with sustainability. When businesses act for sustainability, they do so with a limited scope and on a conditional mandate. It is hence important to the extend the study from management in business to the management of a business in society. The profit motive of business also makes them apt for change. Example and leadership in sustainability management replicates and spreads in business. Hence, Creative Sustainability seeks to cultivate change-makers who challenge existing business practices.
Systems thinking, as it draws together the historical making and current trajectories of sustainability issues, highlights new emerging realities. It is a creative task to try to solve the sustainability puzzle, so rooted and frozen and so complex to reorganize. Creative Sustainability is the task of thinking and making alternative futures in which nature can flourish, human-needed materials circulate, and societal reproduction is kept in motion by the meaningful practice of engaged humans.