Author Archives: aaltosustainability

Hey all,

Hope your exam preparations are going well (and I’m sure they are, the diligent students that you all are). As Angelina and I mentioned, we’d share some of our final thoughts concerning the course here in the blog. So here I go.

First of all, I’m not sure how many of you knew, but this was the first time ever this course was held at Aalto. When planning the course over the course of the year (no pun intended), I had pretty much no idea how things were going to pan out once things kicked off. For instance, for a while we had no idea Frank was going to join our team too, and what a great things his presence turned out to be. But more importantly, I had no idea what kind of a group of students I was supposed to expect. I wasn’t too familiar with the CS program, and had mainly instructed Bachelor’s and basic level courses before. However, after the first lecture and having taken a look at the first round of blog entries, I had a pretty good picture what kind of a group of people I was dealing with: intelligent, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. If I had to somehow summarize the three things that I liked the most, I’d have to go with the lecture atmosphere, blog entries, and of course the videos.

The lectures were always a lot of fun, whether I was on the center stage or just spectating. I like a fairly relaxed, informal atmosphere where everyone is fairly comfortable, and I got the feeling that was the case most of the time. I was very, very happy with the interaction in class, which, to me, seemed to get better and better as the course went on. It makes the lectures so much better in my opinion to have as people discussing as possible. Many intelligent comments, and many funny ones too. And good practical examples of the stuff we were dealing with too. There’s not much more you can ask from a lecturer’s point of view.

The blog entries were something I was very positively surprised with. I had literally no idea how the whole blog things was going to work. I’ve never been too happy with the traditional lecture diary assignment as people tend to finish it in one evening without putting much thought to it. In a blog, there are elements of visibility and interaction and so on, which in my view are a strength, but at the same time not everyone likes those elements. Having said that, the stuff you guys wrote was really, really good. I mean, we’ve had entry topics ranging from the special theory of relativity to dealing with consumer guilt to “trustainability” to even pubs in Tallinn. At least I got the impression that time and effort were put in most of the entries there (despite the relative frequency of writing), and that many of you were reading each others’ entries too. I’ve heard many positive comments from colleagues as well concerning the content in the blog, and I’m sure we’ll be using some of the material there on our future lectures – with proper references, of course 😛

Last, the videos. Just as with the blogs, this was the first time I’ve had a video assignment on my course (the idea for the video was Frank’s), and at least in terms of the final output it worked much better than I thought it would. Really well done videos in many ways. Lots of creativity in them, and lots of content too. Though like I said at the end of the video session, if nazi’s and douches get the most votes, what does that tell of us?

So wrapping up, as is evident looking at the text above, I’m quite happy about the outcomes of this course, and looking at some of your final blog entries, it seems many of you were too. I always want people to have things to take away from the course, and that’s what we were trying to achieve here. I know I have many things to take away from this. Just as a final remark, we mentioned in the video session that if any of you are planning on doing your Master’s thesis on issues related to this course, we’ll be happy to give advice. My areas of expertise lie in corporate social responsibility (especially in the critique of voluntary CSR) and business/society issues. I’m also somewhat familiar with traditional organization theory, degrowth, and as a curiosity, a method called qualitative comparative analysis, if someone happens to come across it. Also, don’t hesitate to contact me with other sustainability issues either, I’ll likely at least know someone who knows something 🙂

Thanks everyone and all the best,



One of the observations of today’s (Monday, March 25) lecture must have been how tightly our everyday lives are coupled with the consumption of energy. A lot of energy, despite all the attempts at eco-efficiency et cetera. The issue prompted some discussion particularly today, and I thought to just provide a few links to couple of stories, again in National Geographic, for those interested in energy issues (which are at the heart of sustainability).

Here’s an article on household energy consumption; a story where a family runs an experiment of measuring their CO2 emission levels of their ordinary living. It’s a good story and worth reading, though like most NGM stories, it’s not newspaper length.

There was also an feature on solar power, which had this pretty illuminating diagram on clean energy potential: followed by a diagram of shares of types of renewable energy of all energy production.

Finally, here’s National Geographic’s info page related to their energy special a few years back. Has some links to carbon footprint tests, green guides, and a number of essays concerning issues such as Canadian tar sands, oil demand, biofuels and so on.

Just a few words concerning both posting in the blog and my own comments on sustainability during the first lecture. Someone asked how to post articles on the blog; once you’re on the blog home page and logged in, just move your pointer to the upper left corner, on the wordpress logo, and a menu should open up. Just click on “New Post” and start writing!

I also thought to elaborate just a bit on the sustainability diagrams I hastily drew during the second part of Monday’s lecture. The two diagrams are sometimes called, respectively, weak sustainability and strong sustainability. Weak sustainability basically refers to an idea that manufactured capital can replace natural capital of equal value (there are some assumptions here, for example that some vital or otherwise important forms of natural capital shouldn’t be touched). I’m not sure if I entirely agree with equating the traditional sustainability diagram to the concept of weak sustainability as it can be interpreted differently. What I consider somewhat problematic, however, is that the traditional depiction allows for the natural environment and economic environment to be treated as equal, because they’re not. In order to be sustainable by definition, we need to operate within the boundaries allowed by the natural environment’s capability to support our activity in the long term – currently we do not, as is generally acknowledged. This is why I presented the alternative version.

Strong sustainability maintains that natural capital’s capabilities cannot be replaced or duplicated by manufactured capital, and it should thus ultimately take precedence over manufactured capital. I would say the alternative way of depicting sustainability is in line with this claim, as it places the natural environment as the basis on which social activity is built (the lines between social and economic activity can be blurry, depending on the perspective; as much was briefly mentioned in class, too). The notion of strong sustainability, along with the depiction, aims to ensure the line of thinking that follows the concept is actually sustainable, which is why I introduced it. Make what you will of this.