“Finns have the ability to convert wealth into well-being” – researcher Seona Candy wants to find the secret behind Finland’s success

YIT Corporation News October 22, 2019 at 7 a.m. 

Seona Candy
Seona Candy

Seona Candy, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Helsinki, is giving a presentation in the Sustainable Urban Environments seminar taking place on November 12, 2019. We asked Candy what she will be discussing and what are her own expectations concerning the event.  

You will participate in the Sustainable Urban Environments seminar in November. Welcome!
This year’s seminar theme is “What are sustainable cities made of?” How would you answer that question?

The development of sustainable cities is a complex problem, which we have only had to ponder for a short time. Cities are in the intersection of two mega trends: climate change and urbanisation. This results in considerable social, ecological and technological challenges, which extend far beyond the city limits. Improving the sustainability of cities requires that we consider these challenges in relation to each other.

When seeking solutions, we need an interdisciplinary approach: diverse information which combines the knowledge of governments, researchers, business and civic society. In addition, it is important for us to be willing to step out of our comfort zone. To quote Greta Thunberg, we must adopt “cathedral thinking”, in which we create the foundation for a more sustainable future without knowing how to paint the roof. In other words, we must experiment with various solutions to see what works.

The rate of urbanisation in the world is definitely accelerating. In your opinion, what are the benefits and challenges of urban dwelling or urbanisation?

The benefits of urbanisation are related to a large number of people living close to each other. This enables the development of art and culture as well as innovations. Urban dwelling and meeting different types of people also reduce fears stemming from prejudice.

But, on the other hand, the biggest challenges also stem from dense urban dwelling. City residents are used to complex but unreliable service systems that enable their urban lifestyle. However, cities have not been built to be sufficiently resilient and flexible, and that is why the climate changes that are taking place have a considerable effect on them.

What will you be discussing in the seminar?

In my presentation, I will discuss the food systems in cities from the perspective of sustainability and flexibility and the socioecology of food distribution in cities. I will discuss the effects that this system has on the environment and humans.

In addition, I will talk about the challenges that cities are facing concerning their food supply, and I will present my views on how I think we should approach these challenges. For example, seeing food only as an economic consumer good is too narrow a mindset. Food is a human right, and when we start seeing it as such it will stop shaping the world in a manner that is unsustainable.

What is the key claim or conclusion in your presentation?

My central idea is that cities are increasingly more vulnerable to delivery disturbances in food systems and that is why we need diversity in our existing systems. This will help us have more flexibility and act more sustainably. We also have to keep in mind that cities are considerable centres for financial power and cultural influence. This means that they are essential in the transformation of society as a whole.

How is the above implemented in Finland and especially in the Helsinki metropolitan area?

Finland and Helsinki are very dependent on imported food and therefore extremely vulnerable to any disruptions in food supply that are caused by climate change. In addition to disruptions in the delivery chain, Finland is affected by disturbances in food production in other countries, which may be caused, for example, by extreme weather conditions or political unrest. I think that it is necessary that food supply systems are diversified so that we can improve our ability to deal with disruptions. It is also important to re-evaluate the objectives of the food system.

Growing local food in cities like Helsinki is increasingly important, but all depends on demand, of course. If people are not interested in buying local food, there will naturally be no one providing it.

What is the message that you want the participants to remember from your presentation?

That people would understand their part in the larger system and their ability to change the system.

Whose presentation are you looking forward to in the seminar and why?

I am interested to hear Oras Tynkkynen’s views on decision making, as I work with decision-makers and hope that his presentation will help me better understand the decision-making process.

I am also excited about Minna Huotilainen’s presentation on neurosciences and the brain. Having a better understanding of our brain allows us to respond to future challenges more efficiently.

Which topics would you like to discuss with the seminar participants and other speakers during the day?

It would be very interesting to discuss with city planners. I would like to have a better understanding of the planning of land use in Finnish cities. I would also like to meet participants especially from SME companies having operations related to sustainability, food and cities. I think that the possibilities for cooperation between researchers and SME companies have not yet been sufficiently explored.

What would you like to research or what are you going to research in the future, and what is the key question to which you would like to find an answer? 

I would like to research how we can change the objectives of our system. I think that if we can influence the objectives, it will be easier to change the entire system. Our current objective is economic growth. Lately, however, it has become abundantly clear that there are limits to this.

In my opinion, Finland is a fascinating example of an alternative objective. I remember an article

published in The Guardian, which said that Finns excel at transforming wealth into well-being. I would like to know how we could change the objectives of the system so that this could be done in a larger scale.

Info: Seona Candy

Title: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Environmental Science

Employer: Helsinki Institute of Urban and regional studies (Urbaria), University of Helsinki

Main research area: Sustainable Food and Urban Systems and Land Use in Cities

Home town: Helsinki (originally from Melbourne)

YIT’s Sustainable Urban Environments seminar will be organised for the seventh time this year on November 12, 2019. This year’s theme is “What are sustainable cities made of?”
The seminar will also feature the publication of the results of the 
Sustainable Urban Environments barometer.
Now organised for the second time, the barometer aims at revealing the types of urban environments people in Finland value and wish to see developed.
Urban development is at the heart of YIT’s strategy and business operations. 

For further information, please contact:
Johanna Savolainen, Communications Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)44 305 4594,

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