In this way, we take part in the effort of mitigating, solving or even preventing sustainability challenges. It is also important to enhance understanding of the relationship between comprehensive thinking and differentiative thinking. The need for more comprehensive sustainability thinking is widely recognized e.g. in research, education, politics, governance and economy. Life cycle assessment (LCA) of products, environmental impact assessment (EIA) for large scale construction projects and environmental management systems (EMS) for organisations are examples of present day sustainability procedures emphasizing comprehensivity.
The background of Kudelma is in the environmental sciences in the University of Helsinki since the 70’s. The name of the discipline hosting the development has seen many changes over the years: Environmental protection → The Science of Environmental protection → Environmental Science and -Policy (all of them Finnish majors). Now the home disciplines are Bachelor’s Programme in Environmental Science (a Finnish programme) and Master's programme in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability. Since 1.1.2018 our administrative home has been the Ecosystems and Environment research programme. Nevertheless, Kudelma welcomes everyone regardless of their discipline/s, as we see interdisciplinarity as a significant element in comprehensive sustainability thinking.
Kudelma’s activity is focused on two main themes: research on comprehensive approach and providing and developing opportunities for co-learning the comprehensive approach.
Comprehensive approach and its synonyms comprehensivity and comprehensive thinking are broad umbrella terms by which we indicate e.g. trans- and interdisciplinarity, large-scale perspectives, combining different factors, understanding complexity and chaos, dialectic analysis of polarities and appreciating the multi-layered structure of any abstract or real-world system. These kind of approaches are increasingly needed in examining complex and often chaotic sustainability challenges.
As an antonym we use the terms differentiative thinking and differentiative approach. This indicates e.g. procedures that emphasize restricting the work within the realm of one discipline or scientific tradition at a time, strictly defined research questions, analytical and reductionist thinking, cutting bigger issues in to parts and analysing each part one at a time.
Comprehensive and differentiative approaches are equally important dimensions of thinking, but the latter has dominated Western science for the last several centuries, and it is consequently more widely understood and applied. To balance this domination of differentiative thinking, more emphasis on comprehensive thinking is needed. It is important to find a fruitful balance between comprehensive and differentiative approaches.
Overstating comprehensivity may lead to blurred and too broad perspectives, where it is impossible to state anything explicit about the object of the analysis. On the other hand, differentiative approach at its worst results in losing the big picture and perceiving the world as black-or-white. With differentiative approaches complex questions can get oversimplified and contradictions addressed in an exclusive manner.
Sustainable man-made structures, ways of thinking, lifestyles and procedures enhance the possibilities for future generations, whether human or non-human, to live a good life in this planet. Several dimensions are associated with sustainability: in addition to the most often referred aspects ecological, cultural, social and economic sustainability, also chemical, geological, political, psychological, aesthetical and other dimensions can be discussed as well. The latter ones can also be thought to be included in the first four aspects.
Sustainability challenges are attached to the human ways of living and being, which is why it is necessary to consider sustainability in all human actions. At Kudelma, we emphasize the ecological sustainability above all the other aspects of sustainability. By ecological sustainability we mean the sufficient stability of ecosystems’ fundamental structures and the continuity of the ecological functions. We consider ecological sustainability to be the most crucial form of sustainability from which all the other aspects of sustainable development are dependent on. For that reason, we put environmental issues at the center of our work.
Sustainability science is a research field characterized by systemic and interdisciplinary research approaches that aim at promoting sustainable transformations and their research. It seeks to study and solve complex problems comprehensively and aims at recognizing value-boundedness and uncertainty.
Another important concept to us as a parallel concept to sustainability science is sustainability education and the related sustainability training in educational institutions or in vocational training.
Recommended reference: Willamo, R. (2018): "Comprehensive Sustainability." Kudelma – a network for comprehensive and sustainable systemic change. University of Helsinki. www.helsinki.fi/kudelma
The principles that most crucially steer our action in Kudelma can be summarized as follows:
The high level of complexity in environmental and sustainability issues stems partly from the fact that they are inseparably merged with elements that require