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Blog: Wellbeing on a Warming Planet

August 15, 2022

As Europe heats up alarmingly, countries and companies must take the green transition much more seriously.

It’s summer in Helsinki. The temperature is 30 degrees. After a long, dark winter, the sunshine is certainly boosting my sense of wellbeing.

But I am also worried. The fact that summers like this have become commonplace in my Arctic country means that we can clearly see the impacts of climate change. But we are not yet anywhere near the levels of global warming that the world is projected to reach in the coming decades.

Yes, it is quite nice to have some warm days in Finland, not exactly known for good weather. But I am sad to think that soon the cold winters of my childhood will probably only be a rare occurrence. I am sad to think about how different childhood will be for those who aren’t even born yet – such as my possible future children.

Climate change means that the whole world is becoming more unpredictable and chaotic. This for sure applies to the weather, but also the movements of people around the world, and the systems on which we rely for food and other necessities. In such a world, every action counts. We need to do our best to slow down and stop the changes that are destroying our world as we know it.

Thankfully, the green transition is becoming a mainstream topic. We know about energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the circular economy. All these are commendable developments, which I am excited to see societies and industries quickly taking on board.

At the same time, I can’t help feeling like something is missing.

Climate change, alongside the other urgent ecological crises such as biodiversity loss, is driven by consumption. We, the people of the world, use too much fossil fuel energy, too many resources, too much “stuff”, for the planet to be able to handle. Some of us consume more than others – for example, people living in my two homes, Finland and the United Kingdom, consume much more than the average global citizen. Unless we can bring down the total consumption, it is difficult to see how we could ever stop or even slow down the scary changes happening to the world.

What does wellbeing mean in this kind of a world? The basic pillars of wellbeing are the abilities to be healthy and happy. These are not elements that anyone wants to give up, even as we try our best to transition to a greener society.

In the green transition, what is important is enabling wellbeing in a way that makes the most of what we have. This means using as little energy as possible. Constructing buildings that are built to last. Running our existing spaces in ways that are safe and comfortable but also make the most of the potential that is already there.

For example, when new buildings are designed to be adaptable in terms of use, and the technical systems are designed to be demand-based and flexible, the buildings have a longer life. The systems can be updated and maintained with small upgrades rather than rebuilding the entire structure every few decades. In the long run, this has a smaller environmental impact and generates less waste. I am happy that Halton contributes by applying these principles to our solutions. We desperately need a transition to a greener society to avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change. In the current climate, let’s be well – and do it well.