ENGINEERING EDUCATION MUST RESPOND TO NATURE'S CRY FOR HELP


THE EDUCATIONAL POLICY MANIFEST OF ENGINEERS FOR CLIMATE ACTION

The advance of climate change and other environmental crises define the lives of the young generation more than any other phenomena. In the following decades, large numbers of people will have to leave their homes as climate refugees and we will face extreme weather phenomena, crop failures and problems with the availability of clean water. Ecological problems will reshape our entire world.

Environmental issues have grown into an existential threat. Education in the field of technology still mostly treats these issues as side notes. This must change because humans are part of nature and dependent on it. If the collapse of insect populations continues, human food production will also collapse. Continued ocean acidification will put a stop to fishing. We cannot keep on destroying nature and assume that it would not destroy us too. If the environmental crises are not solved, all other questions lose their relevance.

The technological industry must also respond to nature’s cry for help. Ecological perspectives must be included in all higher education in the field. At the same time, interdisciplinary cooperation must be increased, and we must listen to experts in other fields, such as humanities. Engineers must learn to conceptualise different world views and think critically because we alone cannot solve the ecological problems.

Engineers must understand the world in which technology is applied. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to widen engineers’ world views. We must bear the responsibility not only of the technical solutions we design, but also of the consequences of the solutions being applied. Technological development is partly to blame for nature’s current cry for help. We cannot afford to make the situation any worse with new technologies.

WE DEMAND

In Finland, universities are highly respected – and for a reason. Finland is internationally renowned for a high level of competency, which is largely obtained in formal studies. However, respect must be earned over and over again. Finnish universities have managed to renew our society both through teaching and research. However, higher education has yet to respond to the demands of the current ecological crisis, and education still does not recognize human actions’ ecological boundaries. We do not demand the following changes out of a desire to demand, but in order to point out shortcomings and to support universities in moving to a sustainable path.

  1. 1

    SUSTAINABILITY EXPERTISE FOR ENGINEERS

    The competency goals of higher education degrees in technology must include skills required for building a sustainable world including, but not limited to, the following themes.

    ⚬  Climate change, biodiversity loss and over-consumption of natural resources;

    ⚬  Social responsibility, human rights and dignified life; and

    ⚬  History and philosophy, especially from a technology ethics point of view.

    Higher education in technology must prepare students to face uncertainty, imperfection and compromise. Current engineering education treats the world in black and white: natural sciences see everything as either right or wrong. The impacts of different alternative solutions must be understood better than currently.

  2. 2

    LET’S MAKE STUDENTS EXPERTS IN CIRCULAR ECONOMY

    Traditionally, engineering education has also included strong integrations of economic perspectives. But as our society shifts to circular economy, linear economy models are quickly becoming outdated know-how. Circular economy is a new economic system that requires comprehensive change in thinking. It is more complicated than the current system and assimilating it requires a considerable amount of time. Studies are the best time to shape new ways of thinking.

    Circular economy awareness will be emphasised further in a society battered by COVID-19. The availability of raw materials is declining in the current economic system. Crises in production can be avoided by moving to circular economy with closed loop material circulation as far as feasible. At the same time, circular economy strengthens society’s resilience against shocks that can be caused by changes in weather caused by climate change, pandemics and global financial crises, among other things. Circular economic model’s greater complexity further emphasises the role of the field of technology: we cannot deploy circular economy without the help of digitalization, such as design supported by artificial intelligence and platforms for circular economy markets.

    Recommended frameworks for approaching the subject: circular economy value chains, the role of digitalisation in circular economy, Circular Design Guide

  3. 3

    THE ROLE OF ENGINEERS IN BUILDING SOCIETY

    In addition to the ambitious goals of the Finnish Government, the European Union has made many successful choices focusing in sustainable development as a central strategy for the region. Especially when it comes to circular economy and carbon neutrality, the goals set by the EU are unmatched globally. The decisions for developing our shared continent have already been made. The higher education sector must support this trend by providing relevant education because it is the most significant way to have an impact.

    In addition to the basis presented previously, our demands have a solid financial foundation. As the delicate environmental ecosystem experiences worsening symptoms due to the climate crisis, it is obvious that sooner or later all countries will strive for sustainability. Being a pioneer and a leader in sustainable technology solutions also serves financial goals. This is strongly agreed upon among political parties, labour unions as well as economic life.

    Recommended frameworks: EU Green Deal, EU Circular Economy Strategy, Marin’s Government Programme, Akava’s climate policies, climate policies of the Confederation of Finnish Industries

  4. 4

    MULTIDISCIPLINARY COOPERATION IS A PREREQUISITE FOR SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS

    Humanity has driven itself and our living environment to the current crisis with the help of technology, and at the same time the solution for these crises lean on technological solutions. We can no longer afford to make the kind of short-sighted technological choices we have made thus far. Engineering education must ensure students are able to assess the suitability of technological solutions in comprehensive multidisciplinary cooperation in order to ensure the simultaneous realisation of financial, social and ecological sustainability.

    We are happy to proudly salute the professional pride of engineers, but we cannot underestimate other scientific disciplines. Cooperation between disciplines is a prerequisite for finding optimal and sustainable results and therefore engineering studies should be conducted in multidisciplinary environments, analysing and solving complex problems. Research and teaching staff must also increase interdisciplinary cooperation and the higher education institutions’ internal fund distribution models must encourage this.

    Versatility within the field of technology also requires improvements in order to ensure that we keep broadening our horizons. We need students with as diverse backgrounds and value bases as possible. At the same time, the study culture of the field of technology must enable participation and cohesion for all. This requires action both on part of the universities as well as the student communities.

    Recommended frameworks for approaching the subject: UN Sustainable Development Goals, complexity theory, Cynefin, Double-loop learning

  5. 5

    FURTHER EDUCATION FOR TEACHERS

    We know that teachers in the field of technology are currently not entirely prepared for the changes we propose: if the teaching staff had already fully grasped the attention required by the environmental crises the themes would already be present in current curricula. Teachers must be provided further education to provide them with the required skills. The optimal solution would be further education tailored to the needs of each individual university. However, we recognise the scarcity of resources and as such this manifesto aims to also support teachers’ independent self-study via the provided frameworks and contents. Nevertheless, our objective is improving the resources allocated for sustainable teaching.

    Domestic online courses for self-study: Climate University’s offerings, Sitra’s circular economy and sustainability studies (e.g. climate.now, circular.now, leadership for sustainable change)

    Some services that offer foreign online courses include: edX, coursera, Udemy

    Recommended frameworks for approaching the subject: Planetary Boundaries, Doughnut Economics, UN Sustainable Development Goals, Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare ISEW, Genuine Progress Indicator GPI, UNEP Environmental and Social Sustainability Framework

  6. 6

    FROM UNIVERSITIES’ SUSTAINABILITY TALK TO ACTIONS

    Listening to speeches, it is easy to imagine that universities are already systematically working for sustainable development. However, the sustainability focus of universities’ strategies is not visible in daily life on campuses. All universities must take sustainability challenges as a genuine strategic focus.

    In the field of technology, there is robust cooperation with companies even in teaching, but often attitudes in relation to the enterprise partners are entirely uncritical. Providing concrete examples of the studied subjects via business cases is valuable, but it must be balanced by giving a voice to civil society, such as environmental organizations. Including organizations with different perspectives ensures a more equal approach and enables creating a highly comprehensive general view.

WE WANT TO SUPPORT UNIVERSITIES IN THE CHANGE

With this manifesto, we appeal to the universities in the field of technology to make the necessary and inevitable changes. Our society is taking steps towards sustainable development and so will higher education in the field of technology – sooner or later. We cannot afford to wait any longer for the change to happen at some point, because the crisis is already real. That is why we want to participate in spurring on all parties involved.

This manifesto is an invitation to continuous dialogue. We know that universities have scarce resources and pressures from many different directions. We will not leave the institutions alone with this work but are ready to support them in their transition. Cooperation is the key!

Kind regards,
Engineers for Climate Action

SIGNATORIES

ORGANIZATIONS

Karelia-ammattikorkeakoulu

Tekniikan akateemiset TEK

Insinööriliitto

Suomen ylioppilaskuntien liitto ry (SYL)

Viite - Tieteen ja teknologian vihreät

Eksergia.fi - Avoin verkkokoulu energiatehokkaasta rakentamisesta

Aalto-yliopiston ylioppilaskunta

Centria-ammattikorkeakoulun opiskelijakunta COPSA

Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulun opiskelijakunta HAMKO

Karelia-ammattikorkeakoulun opiskelijakunta POKA

Lappeenrannan teknillisen yliopiston ylioppilaskunta

Metropolia Ammattikorkeakoulun opiskelijakunta METKA

Oulun yliopiston ylioppilaskunta (OYY)

Student Union of Tampere University, TREY

Turun yliopiston ylioppilaskunta

Vaasan yliopiston ylioppilaskunta

Lappeenrannan Insinööriopiskelijat LapIO ry

Aalto-yliopiston Arkkitehtikilta ry

Aalto-yliopiston Sähköinsinöörikilta ry

Automaatio- ja systeemitekniikan kilta ry

Bioteekkarikilta Bioner ry

Fyysikkokilta ry

Informaatioverkostojen kilta Athene ry

Inkubio ry

Koneenrakentajakilta ry

Materiaali-insinöörikilta ry

Rakennusinsinöörikilta ry

Sähkökilta ry (Skilta)

Teekkarikomissioyhdistys ry

Teknis-luonnontieteellinen kilta Hiukkanen ry

Teknologföreningen

Tampereen TietoTeekkarikilta ry

Tutti ry

Ympäristöteekkarikilta ry (YKI)

Edustajistoryhmä Vihreämpi Aalto

PERSONAL SIGNATORIES

Satu Hassi, TkL, kansanedustaja (vihr)

Risto Linturi, DI, tulevaisuudentutkija

Reijo Karhinen, työelämäprofessori, vuorineuvos

Peter Lund, professori, Aalto-yliopisto, Suomen ilmastopaneelin jäsen

Lassi Linnanen, professori, LUT-yliopisto, Suomen kestävyyspaneelin jäsen

Atte Harjanne, DI, kansanedustaja (vihr)

Merja Strengell, DI

Hannele Pokka, OTT, ympäristövastuun työelämäprofessori, Helsingin yliopisto

Janne M. Korhonen, DI, tutkijatohtori, LUT ja Turun kauppakorkeakoulu

Vesa Silfver, DI, toimitusjohtaja

Pia Björkbacka, SAK, VNK:n kestävän kehityksen neuvottelukunnan jäsen

Mariko Landström, DI, asiantuntija, Sitra

Jenni Pitko, arkkitehti, kansanedustaja, Vihreän eduskuntaryhmän puheenjohtaja (vihr)

Mari-Leena Talvitie, DI, kansanedustaja (kok), Tekniikan akateemiset TEKin hallituksen puheenjohtaja

Markku Markkula, Vice-President, European Committee of the Regions

Aino-Kaisa Manninen, DI, opiskelija

Jaakko Stenhäll, DI, apulaispormestari, Tampereen kaupunki

Maria Kultanen, DI

Paavo Kosonen, TkL, KTM, kehityspäällikkö, Turun yliopisto

Tero Kauppinen, DI

Jarmo Heimo, arkkitehti

Janne Ollenberg, ME, IoT tiimin vetäjä, Suomen partiolaiset ry, ICT arkkitehti

Sanna-Liisa Sihto-Nissilä, DI, FT, tutkijatohtori, Aalto-yliopisto, Climate.now-opettaja

Heikki Sorasahi, DI, erityisasiantuntija, Ympäristöministeriö

Emma Sairanen, Nuorten Ilmastodelegaatti, Nuorisoalan kattojärjestö Allianssi ry

Jari Hämäläinen, professori, LUT-yliopisto

Aino Tuominen, DI

Leila Kurki, VTL, STTK, Kestävän kehityksen toimikunta jäsen

Ella Lahtinen, DI, hallituksen jäsen ja kiertotalousryhmän puheenjohtaja, RIL

Saara Hyrkkö, DI, kansanedustaja (vihr), vihreän eduskuntaryhmän varapuheenjohtaja

Tuuli Miinalainen, DI, väitöskirjatutkija, Itä-Suomen yliopisto
Peppi Seppälä, Vihreiden nuorten hallituksen jäsen, Aalto-yliopisto
Arto Kyyhkynen, Laivanrakennusinsinööri
Hasse Nylund, DI, yliopisto-opettaja
John Millar, D.Sc., university lecturer, Aalto-yliopisto
Jari Lampinen, Insinööri (AMK)

Veli-Matti Vuori, DI, Senior Adviser, RoboRollo Oy

Mika Järvinen, D.Sc. (Tech.), Associate Professor (Tenured), Aalto University

Hanna Paulomäki, maajohtaja, Greenpeace Suomi

Ulla Aresvuo, Bio- ja elintarviketekniikan insinööri

Aki Suokko, FT, yliopettaja, Centria-ammattikorkeakoulu

Tuomas Riski, DI, KTM, toimitusjohtaja, Norsepower Oy

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SIGN THE MANIFEST?

contact: jussi-pekka.teini(at)tek.fi