About – Me

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(Disclaimer I: If you want to know the “technical details” (the boring stuff) about me, just look to the bottom. The text in between is more of a short introduction of the thought path that led me to start this blog and try write this book)

(Disclaimer II: I will be updating this section in the future so it is not yet complete)

We do not inherit this world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – A Native American proverb

It is unlikely that future generations would thank us if we simply unilaterally proclaim that growth should cease at this entirely arbitrary juncture of human history.“ – Colin McInness

When I first came across the former quote I was deeply moved. A beautiful and poetic anecdote that epitomized everything that was missing from the seemingly careless attitudes of my contemporaries. Who were we to call ourselves intelligent, when “primitive” hunter-gatherers could achieve much higher levels of sustainability (and be eloquent about it)? To say the least I was deeply disappointed with the perceived development of my inherited Western culture.

This development-pessimism is a very fashionable strand of liberal intellectual thought today. I often hear that today’s consumerism and techno-centrism has made life somehow ‘void of meaning’. Moreover, it is said that this “development” hasn’t simply sucked out the meaning of life but is threatening life’s very existence.

It wasn’t long ago when I read the latter quote and started thinking what the former one truly meant. Nothing had changed in terms of the proverb of course – we should aim to provide future generations with the best possible opportunities. The big question is then how to best provide that future?

This issue, and its multiple-shades-of-grey-nature, came up during a time when I was going through some fundamental internal discussions about the nature of sustainability. For instance, I had started wondering about the seeming paradox of complaining about the perils of economic growth amid unprecedented standards of living combined with clean air, water and mostly growing forests. (Yes, that’s right, mostly at least. I will return to the issue of forests in my posts).

The more I looked into this the more astounded I was. Most indicators of development ranging from levels of malnutrition and child mortality to the stabilization of population growth and pollution are in fact all pointing to a rather positive direction. Of course I do not mean to say that there are no problems in the world. There are massive challenges but that isn’t a sufficient reason to conclude that the civilization is on the brink of collapse.

I realized that many authors had covered this issue already rather extensively. Bjorn Lomborg for one, illustrated that we are indeed living ever healthier lives and that most indicators of human and environmental wellbeing are more often aggravated by poverty rather than wealth as the typical thinking goes. The positive trends are not limited to environment and health. Steven Pinker has shown how the rate of violence has decreased rather dramatically over time. Matt Ridley painted a contagiously optimistic outlook about the prospects of human development based on teachings for our past successes. Hans Rosling has done some sobering work on dispelling myths about population growth and human development.

Several other thinkers have also deeply influenced my world view recently. People such as Prof. Colin McInness, Graham Strouts and Jan Blomgren, whose speech (I heard last year) finally convinced me (if there was any doubt by then) that my newly acquired positive outlook on the state of the world indeed had rather  solid foundations.

Most of the things I say in this blog have already been said by far more eloquent and respected writers than me but what I hope to add to this discussion is a novel way of looking at the state of the world and human development. I hope to convince at least some of the readers to see things from a fresh perspective and learn something in the process myself.

In the end this project is my attempt to spread the optimism I feel myself when looking at the trends and mechanisms that have led to ever expanding part of humanity being better off than their ancestors.

_____

 

My name is Lauri Muranen.

I am thirty.

A father to a lovely five year old daughter.

I live in Helsinki, Finland.

I work as the Director of World Energy Council Finland, the Finnish Member committee of the World Energy Council, a global energy think tank.

Despite believing only few years ago that a unique fate was reserved for me, I have become more middle class than I can believe. So middle class in fact that it’s not even funny anymore.

I hate lists.

I love stories.

I am Finnish by nationality but decided to do my university studies in the UK. I have now been back in Finland for about five years.

One comment

  1. Hi Lauri,

    I came across this blog via twitter… I’m now following you. I’m a mature PhD student at NUI Maynooth. Very mature. 58 years old at last birthday. My children are older than you, but determined singletons it appears. So despite my urgent question as to “when do I get to buy a hat?” greeted with peals of laughter and derisory grins, there have been no weddings and I remain bereft of grandchildren. Ominously, I’ve lately become very fond of cats.

    My research interests are in environmental politics and the media in Ireland in the period 1997-2011. Like you, I have an optimistic outlook on the environmental challenges of our times. As an approach, ecological modernisation has its problems, not least in the way in which it accords priority to economic and environmental factors in major systems changes over their social implications, but it’s preferable to all the variants of catastrophism from left and right with which we are intellectually drenched.

    I plan to write up my dissertation this coming year. Meanwhile, I developed and, for the past two years, teach a science communications module to undergraduate final year biology students in NUIM. I’m also working with a group of people in the university on a proposal to establish an ‘early intervention’ service to assist in the resolution of environmental disputes, provide a platform for more effective public engagement in environmental policy-making, promote greater democratisation of our planning process etc.

    As for ‘Said Hanrahan’ from which I quoted its most celebrated line on twitter, the original piece – I would hesitate to designate it as ‘poetry’ – has many verses. It’s about the catastrophic consequences of weather, whether hot or cold, of which Hanrahan invariably declaims: ” we’ll all be rooned…before the year is out!” Hilarious to think that people in the 1930s were preoccupied with the same things as they are now, but I think that climate in Ireland has been a hot topic since the first people settled on this damp, soggy island or the Ancient Romans decided to gives its conquest a miss for the same reasons.

    Here’s another few verses to give you the full flavour of our climate millenialism:

    SAID HANRAHAN

    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    In accents most forlorn,
    Outside the church, ere Mass began,
    One frosty Sunday morn.

    The congregation stood about,
    Coat-collars to the ears,
    And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
    As it had done for years.

    “It’s looking crook,” said Daniel Croke;
    “Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad,
    For never since the banks went broke
    Has seasons been so bad.”

    “It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
    With which astute remark
    He squatted down upon his heel
    And chewed a piece of bark.

    And so around the chorus ran
    “It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.”

Convince me I am wrong and I will promise to change my mind!

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