Paula Kivimaa and Eeva Primmer: Finland needs positive security

2023-12-01 Paula Kivimaa and Eeva Primmer

The feeling of security can be shaken easily. For example, during last few weeks, the rapid flow of refugees and the management of the Eastern border of Finland have increased uncertainty. On the eve of Finland´s 106th Independence Day on 6 December 2023, it is a good time to consider ways for us Finns to maintain and strengthen our feeling of security, an ability to function and our resilience during both crises and good times. Connecting to sustainability, resilience means the ability of people, societies and ecosystems to recover in and adapt to changing situations.

Finland applies a comprehensive security model, which covers and maintains a broad range of important societal functions. In addition to defense and internal security, these functions include psychological resilience, population-level services and ability to function, as well as economy, infrastructure, security of supply, and collaboration at EU and international levels. The functions are looked after to keep up a capacity to act also in situations of crisis.

Finnish comprehensive security model should address the mitigation of climate change and biodiversity loss more than it currently does. Climate change and loss of nature are gradually accumulating risks. Seemingly short crises, such as droughts or yield losses, can be eased with long-term solutions. Climate security is essentially about maintaining a livable planet and a peaceful coexistence. By investing in the sustainability of ecosystems, we prevent crises arising from the shortages of food and other ecosystem services. Adapting to climate change helps improve social-ecological justice and resilience.

The Finnish society has a high level of understanding of what resilience requires. We recognize the importance of both common sense and research-based knowledge, and mutual trust and collaboration, as well as the importance of functioning institutions when managing and preparing for crises.

A recent citizen pulse survey shows that three out of four Finns still feel trust and consider their life to be safe. Despite a small dint, three quarters keep on trusting other people. While collective trust is at a good level, trust in institutions has fallen notably during this year. This autumn only half of Finnish people trust the government. Also, education and healthcare are trusted less than before. According to a Sitra futures barometer survey, more than half of Finns see that the carrying capacity of nature is eroding, and only a quarter consider they can do something about it.

Hope and action go hand in hand

In times of increasing threats, maintaining hope helps take action toward improved security and resilience. In addition to preparing for threats and crises, it is important to pay attention to positive security, which can be improved by investing in the wellbeing and mental resources of people. The concept has been developed e.g., by scientists Kenneth Booth and Gulhild Hoogesen Gjorv. Positive security draws attention to emancipation and individuals’ and communities’ ability to act.

For example, an energy renovation of your housing cooperative or a collective sourcing of solar panels in your home municipality will help you prepare for an energy crisis and improve the collective spirit. Food circles, car-pooling, recycling children’s clothes and working bees of sports clubs contribute to an active team-spirit while responding to the sustainability crises, by cutting the need for energy and resources.

Positive security can be advanced also through investing in the collective good. An important way to improve our collective and public good is looking after our natural environment. Finns have a strong connection to nature, and they are willing to care for it. The Covid pandemic highlighted the importance of nearby nature for mental wellbeing.

In addition to improving mental wellbeing, restoring nature in densely inhabited areas improves also water and nutrient retention, air filtration, carbon sequestration and pollination. Urban trees provide shade in the heat and a habitat for birds and numerous other species.

Restoring agricultural and forest habitats improves the resilience of these production ecosystems in the changing climate, and restoring watersheds reduces nutrient runoffs and eutrophication in the Baltic Sea.

Taking action to manage environmental crises adds to our mental health. Collective action integrates ecological resilience into security.

Finland would do well to invest in positive security and resilience. We can build them by acting together for the collective good.

Paula Kivimaa is a Research Professor and a Member of Finland’s Climate Panel. She studies the connections between climate policy and security policy in the context of energy transition. For her, important ways of maintaining personal resilience include walks in the nature, up-to-date information as well as chats with friends and colleagues.

Eeva Primmer is Research Director and Bureau Member of IPBES. She has done research on environmental policy and ecosystem services governance. In her international work, she is motivated by advancing a knowledge-driven equal society, like that of Finland, as well as the planet whose functioning ecosystems condition our life.

Opinions of blog contributors do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the Finnish Environment Institute.

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