When professional mentor Kati Huovinmaa talks with clients about their careers, she encourages them to answer two questions: What can I influence in my work? And what is beyond my influence?
By separating the two, it is easier to concentrate on the former.
Huovinmaa says that the questions also help people reflect on other areas of their lives.
“The climate crisis sometimes makes me feel totally powerless. But that’s when I remind myself of the questions I use in my work. I ask myself what I can influence, no matter how small a thing it is, and what I should simply try to accept,” she says.
While none of us can solve the vast climate crisis on our own, we can all do something to slow down nature loss. Huovinmaa found a new way to make a difference when she came across the poster for the University of Helsinki’s Giving Day campaign two years ago.
The poster used in the autumn 2021 campaign featured a sparrow. Seeing the bird, Huovinmaa began to think more about animals, specifically hedgehogs.
“I realised how much I missed hedgehogs, after not seeing them in the wild for years. I have a nine-year-old daughter who has never seen a live hedgehog.”
Although, like her daughter, Huovinmaa grew up in a city, she occasionally spotted hedgehogs where she lived. The fact that she has not seen one in years is a concrete reminder of the changing environment and climate.
“The decline in hedgehog numbers may be due to several reasons, but I’ve understood it has something to do with nature loss. And that’s something I can help in slowing down.”
Huovinmaa immediately joined the campaign by becoming a donor and would like to encourage others to do the same. The current iteration of the campaign is again raising funds for research on nature loss. Read more about the campaign.
Recycle waste, buy used clothes and commute by bicycle – a sustainable lifestyle involves fairly simple choices. Huovinmaa has discovered how important it is to not just make such small everyday changes, but also retain a sense of optimism. Otherwise you will not have the strength to try and make a difference.
“The difference between action and inaction can be fine. Optimism makes you feel you can accomplish things. And remember that good enough is indeed good enough. Taking action may mean just chatting about climate issues with a child and transmitting the values you hold dear.”
In her own childhood, Huovinmaa spent a great deal of time enjoying the rich diversity of nature on the family farm in the Kanta-Häme region of southern Finland. As a school girl, she spent the majority of her long summer holidays exploring the fields and woods surrounding the farm.
“These experiences of wildlife became a strong part of my identity, and I returned to this ‘core self’ during the pandemic when I again began to spend more time in the woods.”
This is where I’m from, Huovinmaa thought to herself on her long forest walks.
Research is the core
For Huovinmaa, donating money to research is very much consistent with her values.
She graduated from the University of Helsinki with an MA in art history in 2002. After working for years at prestigious art institutes, she resigned in 2018 as the director of Vantaa Art Museum to pursue new paths.
Research is also part of her current work as an expert in professional life, as she writes non-fiction and mentors managers, for instance. Consequently, she is well-read on research in fields such as employment studies.
“Research is the core that provides a safe framework for radical positive change in society. My values are radicalism and interaction. Radicalism is about profound transformation, and interaction is about doing things together.”
Huovinmaa sees research as the source of reliable knowledge and new ideas. She felt exhilarated after donating money to University of Helsinki research on nature loss.
“I felt I had found the area where I can make a difference. And it’s great if by doing that I can inspire others to do the same. Even a small sum is enough.”