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MuTri’s ecological goals

Why do we need Ecological Goals?

The world is a place of enormous potential for hope and despair, opportunities and lost chances. Universities have a vital role to play in ensuring that hope overcomes cynicism, and the future is better than the past or today. Our task is not merely that of providing knowledge or teaching skills, but to commit ourselves to the activities of securing sustainable life conditions for future generations by “educating students to serve their country and humanity”, as it is stated in University Law (Yliopistolaki 558/2009). In the face of uncertainties, geopolitical turbulence, and the collapse of global ecosystems, this is a high call, indeed.

Formulating Ecological Goals for the MuTri Doctoral School and Research Unit of Music Education, Jazz and Folk Music, has been an attempt to initiate a joint discussion of values and ethics. This is not only a discussion on identity, about who we are as the MuTri community, but specifically a discussion on how we are in the world.

How willing and able are we to face and act on global issues at our local level? How can we strengthen our capacity to envision a different future?

How were the Ecological Goals formed?

MuTri’s Ecological Goals – and the discussions leading to the formation of these goals – have taken place in the wider context of international and national efforts related to the global sustainability crises.

Finland, as one of the EU countries, has an objective of being a carbon-neutral and a fossil-free society by 2035. All sectors of the society (including education and culture) are expected to take their responsibility to reach this goal. For universities, a significant objective is carbon-neutrality (in terms of net emissions) by the year 2030. This gives us less than 8 years to act!

The Uniarts Helsinki’s Strategic Goal 4/6 is an explicit value statement that guides our efforts in the strengthening of ecological sustainability. According to the Strategic Goal 4/6, “Art is part of the solution to the ecological sustainability crisis”, and ecological thinking is assumed to permeate “operations across the entire university” (Uniarts Helsinki Strategy 2021–2030). The Uniarts Strategy Project on Ecological Sustainability was established in 2021, and this work, led by Project manager Teemu Sorsa, seeks to advance the objectives of minimizing environmental impacts, developing the competence of the university community, and strengthening effectiveness. Also, the Uniarts Ethical Code of Conduct instructs every member of the Uniarts community to “…promote sustainable development and the effort to find a solution to the sustainability crisis” (Uniarts Helsinki Ethical Code of Conduct 2021).

These documents and work provided a basis for our discussions when we began to share our thoughts on what does, could, or should it mean in MuTri that our work is “part of the solutions to the ecological sustainability crisis” (Uniarts Helsinki Strategy 2021–2030). The first discussion took place in September 2021 with a wider MuTri community, and the second one in March 2022 among the MuTri board members. My role was to facilitate and take notes on these discussions. I applied a qualitative thematic analysis to identify key themes emerging from the notes I had made and received from small-group discussions. Based on this analysis, I propose the following five goals.

MuTri Ecological Goals and their starting points

  1. We acknowledge the fundamental equality of all people and the interconnectedness of humans as part of the biosphere. Our efforts to advance sustainable futures are therefore driven by ecosocial thinking that aims to safeguard the conditions for all life.

This first goal highlights the importance of understanding the eco-social interconnectedness – a concept that refers to such thinking where we acknowledge that in addition to being interdependent as humans and human communities, we are also connected to – and indeed, dependent on – non-human beings as well as other living and non-living nature.

Although the natural scientific explanation for climate change has to do with greenhouse emissions, global warming and so on, the root cause for ecocrises lies in “faultyinteractions that humans have with each other and with other beings” (Keto & Foster 2021, 35). As Sami Keto and Raisa Foster (2021) along with various other scholars of environmental ethics remind us, environmental problems are problems of relationship.

Embodying this understanding of interconnectedness is therefore crucial for all efforts of addressing the ecological sustainability crisis. This may also be our biggest challenge:

so deeply is an anthropocentric view of life rooted in our thinking, institutions, and ways of conducting science, education, and the arts. 

  1. We recognize our responsibility for urgent and resolute action for alleviating the ecological sustainability crisis. We therefore aim to actively minimize our negative environmental impact in all our research, artistic, and pedagogical endeavors.

The second goal reminds us of the finite Planet. Although the different dimensions of sustainability (social, cultural, ecological, economic) cannot be treated in isolation from each other, they can – and I argue, must – be seen as hierarchical.

Our top priority is to safeguard the conditions for life within the limits of one planet, as everything else – our health, economy, and wellbeing – are entirely dependent on that. The second goal thus encourages us to take practical measures to reduce our carbon footprint and minimize natural hazards, the use of natural resources, and other negative environmental impact in our work, travels, events, purchases, and so on.

  1. We perceive critical consciousness and ecosocial thinking to be crucial in efforts to advance sustainability. We systematically offer students and staff opportunities for continued learning and discussions about ecological questions and concerns.

To reduce the room temperature in our buildings or choose alternative transportation for flying is one thing, but to assume an ethical stance that is based on care and responsibility requires us to attend to values, attitudes, mindsets, and competencies – not only as individuals, but as a university community.

The third goal reminds us of the importance of the university to provide opportunities for continued learning and shared expertise. Whether it demands the implementation of new courses or new focus areas to our existing ones, we need to make sure that both students and staff working in MuTri are well-equipped to make responsible choices and work within the framework of planetary boundaries.

  1. We acknowledge our societal responsibility as researchers, teachers, and/or artists. We strive to increase ecological awareness and promote environmental and social justice by means of our scholarly, artistic, and societal efforts.

In light of the ecosocial interconnectedness, ecological problems are also social problems. The ecocrisis both causes and maintains inequalities, especially between the privileged elites of the Global North and the most vulnerable in the Global South. On the other hand, social problems are also ecological problems. As eco-feminists have pointed out, any manifestation of inequality, abuse, or oppression – whether environmental or social violence – stems from the chauvinist and dualistic mindset and oppressive forms of power (esim. Pulkki 2021; Vilkka 1993).

The fourth goal therefore reminds us of the importance of solidarity, fairness, and participation, and urges us – to paraphrase the educational philosopher Gert Biesta (2017) – to examine whether our desires really are desirable. For our own lives and wellbeing as well as that of our co-habitants (human and other species) on Earth.

  1. We consider human flourishing to be an integral part of sustainability. Our endeavors to deal with the ecological sustainability crisis include the strengthening of wellbeing and community engagement.

This final goal reminds us that human resources are also finite. One of the themes discussed during the process of formulating these goals was the “ideal model” of a researcher and/or artist. What kind of a narrative have we assumed and passed on? Does the story of a successful artist/researcher as a cosmopolitan high-flyer stand up to critical scrutiny in an age of the eco-social sustainability crisis? Are there other ways to define excellence and success than those based on the ideology of continuous growth, productivity, and competition? As we have heard today, there are. Particularly our doctoral students have actively challenged the traditional narrative by exploring new and more sustainable ways of being an artist and researcher.

The fifth goal highlights the importance of critical self-reflection of our individual and shared narratives and prompts us to assume and advance a more sustainable orientation to life (Foster, Salonen & Keto, 2019). One that acknowledges the intrinsic value of wellbeing, health, and safety of humans and other life forms.  

How will we use the Ecological Goals

What happens next? How will we use the Ecological Goals?

To me, these goals are akin to guidelines of research ethics. The guidelines are like signposts: they tell us the general direction of our journey. They are normative: they signify what we hold important, valuable, virtuous. But as always with virtues – whether it is courage, fairness, or a sustainable life orientation – they are matured and “perfected” in us through practice; by applying practical wisdom, considering what is needed in each situation, and growing up to be in a certain way.

It is my hope that these goals will serve as a springboard for an ongoing debate on values and ethics in our MuTri community. A living document that helps us to stay alert and inspires us to cultivate ecological creativity and commitment to a more sustainable life orientation as the way of life.


Biesta, G. 2017. Letting Art Teach. Art Education ‘after’ Joseph Beuys. ArtEZ Press.

Foster, R., Salonen, A. & Keto, S. 2019. Kestävyystietoinen elämänorientaatio pedagogisena päämääränä. In T. Autio, L. Hakala & T. Kujala (Eds.), Siirtymiä ja ajan merkkejä koulutuksessa. Opetussuunnitelmatutkimuksen näkökulmia. Tampere: Tampere University Press (121–143).

Keto, S. & Foster, R. 2021. Ecosocialization – an Ecological Turn in the Process of Socialization. International Studies in Sociology of Education 30(1–2), 34–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/09620214.2020.1854826

Pulkki, J. 2021. Ekososiaalinen hyve-etiikka. Aikuiskasvatus 41(2), 102–112. https://doi.org/10.33336/aik.109320

Uniarts Helsinki. 2021. Strategy 2021-2030.  https://www.uniarts.fi/en/strategy-2021-2030/

Uniarts Helsinki. 2021. Ethical Code of Conduct 2021. https://www.uniarts.fi/en/general-info/uniarts-helsinkis-code-of-conduct/

Vilkka, L. 1993. Ympäristöetiikka. Vastuu luonnosta, eläimistä ja tulevista sukupolvista. Helsinki: Yliopistopaino.

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