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Harri Lammi

Harri Juhani Lammi
Born December 3, 1971

Master of Arts, University of Helsinki (theoretical philosophy)
Phd student in environmental politics 2001–05, University of Tampere

Senior campaigner (carbon) 2014–, adisor to the Chinese climate and energy campaign 2011–14, manager of the China Office’s carbon campaign team 2011–13, Programme Director of Greenpeace Nordic 2006–11, energy campaign officer 2000–02, Greenpeace
Part time lecturer 2003, researcher 2000, University of Tampere

Founder and board member of the windpower company Lumituuli Oy 1998–2000
Board member 1998–99, Friends of the Earth Finland
Vice-chairman 1997–98, Dodo ry

Photo: Salla Tuomivaara
Written by Harri Lammi (Tiia Niemelä, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

From theory to practice

Theoretical philosophy was my first love; it was where I invested the majority of my time – although in my student days that time was not spent on getting good grades. For my minor subjects I chose cognitive science and cultural anthropology. Although my starting point was entirely theoretical, I strongly believe in combining philosophy with other subjects. At some stage I found myself studying the theory of evolution, molecular biology and genetics. I wrote my master’s thesis on the philosophy of biology, more specifically on the problem of the individual in natural selection. My choice of subjects has permanently shaped my thinking, and I find I am still able to apply it to my work, both in environmental policy and in NGO work.

At some stage after the mid-1990s, regrettably late, I really began to understand what an enormous environmental challenge we were facing, and I began to focus my time on it. I actively worked in numerous environmental organisations, and I continued my studies at the School of Environmental Policy at the University of Tampere. I was already working on my doctoral dissertation, but it was put on hold when I became a campaign manager at Greenpeace.

Environmental work became my profession, although it all began with my interest in understanding the solutions to environmental problems. I still believe in solution-based campaigning and that we have, in theory, large-scale solutions to environmental problems. Nevertheless, society’s attention cycle has changed my view on how those solutions can be offered. Societies are not usually ready to rationally discuss solutions before the problem is on the table in a way that arouses societal interest and even divides people in the debate. Often the problem with this cycle is that when society awakens to a problem, it is already rather late in the day to start searching for solutions. On the other hand, perseverance and collective memory are very short in our societal discussions. Therefore, in these debates more actors are needed who have been able to maintain their focus on the issues and can provide the big picture.

I still believe that the responsibility of every person, particularly thinking people, is to strive to influence the course that we are taking as a society. Much of the thinking and debating capacity of my old university colleagues is taken up by internal disputes, although their voices are more urgently required in the environmental debate. Although academic discussion is also important for environmental matters, societies are making, for example, climate policy decisions that at worst threated to destroy our entire civilisation. Often those fundamental decisions are made without similarly fundamental discussion and without considering the big picture. The obstacle to influencing society, particularly for young researchers, seems to be the fear of being stigmatised, which would affect funding and job opportunities. I consider this mood extremely damaging to the quality of the Finnish debate, and one of the reasons why discussion in this small country is so stifled.

A monk curiously inspects my phone in Pingyao in China’s Shanxi province, 2011. He is particularly interested in the design of the new iPhone.


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