Reflections After Overshoot Day

The average Finnish person currently uses over three times more resources than what is sustainable in the long run. Our “overshoot day” has already passed for this year, just last week. In general, I attempt to make better choices in everyday life, but I think being an average Finn, my overall lifestyle is very likely to be very unsustainable. I travel a lot, for example, mostly by a plane, I keep buying new clothes, I sometimes eat meat nowadays, and more often than not, I do not buy organic food.

But I think the main issue here is that making sustainable choices is not made too feasible. Our culture is based on consumerism, in fact, our whole economic system is.

So how to make an impact for a more sustainable future?

This week, I got to visit a very exciting think tank company called Demos Helsinki. As researcher Mikael Sokero demonstrated in his presentation to a group of students, the overuse and fast-paced deterioration of natural resources challenges companies and organizations to address and adapt to new trends and a more sustainable future.

Demos Helsinki calls for a “resource-wise economy”, and helps various organizations to create more sustainable products and services and to change their policies. Another area of expertise of Demos Helsinki is increasing democracy by creating and providing a co-operative platform that connects various participants to pursue common interests. As Sokero explains, Demos Helsinki “has two customers”, one of which is the original paying customer, the other one being the people whose well-being is increased.

Currently, over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. According to Demos Helsinki’s blog, cities now contribute to 70% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Many Nordic cities have now taken upon themselves the task of becoming forerunners in sustainability, in particular in reducing their climate impact. As Demos Helsinki is effectively combining in-depth foresight analysis with co-creation methodology and co-operation in various projects, their projects may have a significant impact on the society in the long run.

I finally visited Ernesto Neto’s fabulous exhibition in Kiasma yesterday, coinciding with Choi Jeong Hwa’s exhibition’s opening party. Whereas Neto, in his work, attempts to offer a moment of tranquillity in the middle of everyday life, and is fascinated by the culture of his homeland Brazil’s indigenous tribes, Choi Jeong Hwa’s work takes the viewer into a colourful plastic jungle, while calling our attention to our materialist lifestyle and the overabundance of goods surrounding us.

I can’t think of a better way to make people face sustainability issues in an art museum than these two exhibitions combined. Ernesto Neto’s works are creating a space for a meditative experience, independent of any material concerns, while Choi Jeong Hwa points out and makes us face our consumerism in a playful way.

Art certainly wields the power of making us reconsider our lifestyle.

A few years back, the Juxtapoz magazine featured a series of photographs by Gregg Segal. In a series entitled “7 Days of Garbage”, people are being portrayed in the middle of seven days’ worth of their thrash. “Obviously, the series is guiding people toward a confrontation with the excess that’s part of their lives”, says Segal. “I’m hoping they recognize a lot of the garbage they produce is unnecessary”, he states.

Much like the current exhibitions in Kiasma, Segal’s photographs certainly put our consumerist habits in perspective in a striking manner.

I enjoyed the current exhibitions in Kiasma, and I really wish contemporary art museums would run this kind of shows more often.

Watch Ernesto Neto’s interview on the Jibóia / Boa exhibition of Kiasma:

See Gregg Segal’s photographs of the series “7 Days of Garbage”: