The sustainability of cities is not a problem of one field - at the SSD conference, answers were sought across subject boundaries

At the Sustainable Science Days conference (May 23–26), the tough sustainability issues of our time were tackled. Urbaria participated for the first time in the conference that was held in the central campus of University of Helsinki.

This year's Sustainable Science Days conference was opened by a strong keynote speech from Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex. According to Stirling, today's colonial modernity is a huge structural problem for all sustainable development. In fact, the obstacle to sustainable development is the modernity: "If the challenge is to Transform our world, this means decolonizing business, governance, culture and modernity itself".

The main theme of the conference's keynote speeches seemed to be emphasizing the responsibility of the scientific community and challenging its ways of acting; the change should extend to all areas of society. The main speakers of the conference were not afraid to approach the whole idea of sustainable development very critically. The conference program sought a balance between broad perspectives, major structural changes, and concrete action.

Urban research was widely discussed at the event

Urban research was also prominently featured in the program, which will give a lot of opportunities for establishing the visibility of Urbaria and urban research in the program of the SSD conference. In the parallel sessions of the conference, urban researchers from all over Finland, as well as many researchers from foreign universities, were able to present their research. The themes of urban sustainability were approached in the speeches through, for example, ecology, architecture, sociology, and social sciences. From urban topics biodiversity, energy use and production, transportation and housing policy were highlighted.

On Friday by the Sustainable cities discussion forum was held at the Helsinki City Hall, which was organized by the city of Helsinki and UNU-WIDER in collaboration with the conference organizers. The mayor of the city of Helsinki, Juhana Vartiainen, opened the event by assuring that achieving sustainability goals is not just blather for Helsinki. This message was confirmed by the just published sustainable development evaluation of the city of Helsinki presented by Mia Malin. Aditya Bahadur, Tuuli Kaskinen, Edwin Moses Sitati and Iina Oilinki took part in the event's panel discussion. The discussion in the panel was enlivened by the challenge of guaranteeing good, financially secure living conditions for people in cities, but within the environment’s resilience. The differences in viewpoints arose from whether the sustainability of cities is achieved through economic growth and innovations, or whether consideration of environmental sustainability ultimately leads to economic sustainability through innovation development and investments.

Next year’s sustainability event will be bigger than ever

SSD 2023 was organized this year by the University of Helsinki, Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS and Aalto University. Urban research institute Urbaria collaborated with the conference for the first time this year in the form of a sponsored coffee break and social media visibility. In the coming years, collaboration between Urbaria and HELSUS in organizing the SSD conference.

Next year, Finland's largest sustainability conference will be organized in Helsinki and Espoo in collaboration between SSD and the international SRI conference. Next year, Urbaria will have even more visibility at the event. See you at the 2024 Sustainability Conference!