|Mika Vanhanen (enoprogramme.org)|
Mika Vanhanen hails from the Nordic country of Finland. He is
a dreamer, an innovator, family man, educator, musician, change maker and the
founder of ENO, Environment Online, the global virtual school and network for
sustainable development. Since 2000, according to ENO, there are now 10,000
schools in 152 countries taking part in this international push for a
sustainable planet. ENO cooperates with various bodies within the United
Nations to implement it's interactive curricula and activities to resolve environmental
issues through community engagement.
ENO was recently recognized at the RIO+20 summit in Brazil, the UN
Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar and Tbilis+35 for it's efforts to
plant 100 million trees by 2017. Lucky for us they are well on there way!
I recently spoke with Mika via social media and was able to
get this interview.
Where does Mika Vanhanen come from? When
did you realize your interest in Peace and the Environment?
I come from Joensuu. It is a town in
Eastern Finland, about 100 km from the border of Finland and Russia. I was
inspired by Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement and had an idea to
start the new school year with tree planting in ENO. This was in September
nine years ago. Later that same year Wangari received the Nobel Peace Prize.
|Tree Planting (enoprogramme.org)|
How do Peace and Sustainable development
go hand in hand?
You cannot build a sustainable future if
there is no peace. On the other hand, peace must be built on sustainable
For someone who has never heard of ENO
and the work you do.what is ENO?
ENO is a global virtual school network
for sustainable development where thousands of schools in about 150 countries
study the same environmental topics together and make concrete deeds for the
environment. ENO comes from Environment Online, it is also the name of the village
where I launched it 13 years ago, in a small primary school.
What inspired you to start ENO?
ENO is a spinoff from the GLOBE program
(www.globe.gov), an initiative by Al Gore in Rio 1992.
It was first a web-based program in the 1990's where schools and scientists
shared their measurements to benefit the environment. My school was amongst the
most active ones. GLOBE was mostly focused on a scientific approach, lacking
interaction between schools and more comprehensive approach in learning for
sustainable development. As that kind of project did not exist, I decided to create
Who runs ENO?
ENO is a voluntary network. It is run by
ENO Programme Association in Finland and based on voluntary work. We have
country coordinators in 142 countries who share information about ENO
activities, translate material into their mother languages and inform schools
Why an online Virtual School for
To connect schools around the world to
study and work together for the environment. Without ICT it would not be
possible. Sustainable development is a concept always mentioned in curricula
but only words. This makes the concept live at schools.
How do teachers, students and others get
involved with you?
We interact mostly through email and
What are you doing for the International
Day of Peace, 2013 and can anyone join you?
We will celebrate our 10th tree planting
day for peace 20
And plant trees for peace, naturally! This time it is open to anyone
interested. We ask participants to plant 10 trees in a circle. It is a shape of
international peace symbol. As tree planting started in 2004, we will put signs
for each tree with the names of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates 2004-2012. One tree
with a sign of 10th ENO Tree Planting For Peace.
What does peace mean to you?
I want to promote peace in everyday
life. Not by speaking about it but acting. Finland is one of the most peaceful
countries in the world. But it wasn't 70 years ago. My parents and their family
had to leave their homes, were evacuated then. It was because of war between
Finland and Russia. It is not only people who die and suffer from wars, many
have to leave their homes and live in uncertain and poor situations. Therefore,
we need more peace in the world.
How can we see an online copy of the
PEACE FOREST book by ENO students?
We only have a few stories online as we
did not have resources to publish more. But you can find those stories here.
You recently quit being a teacher to run
ENO full time. Was that a hard decision and what does your day look like now?
Yes it was even though I had unofficially
run ENO full time for many years. The city of Joensuu promised to support our
association and we try to get the rest of funding from our ministries. It is
like walking on the ice. Now it seems thick enough but hoping it won't get
thin. As I have my family to support as well. One can call me a lifestyle
You are also an accomplished musician. What
is happening with your music now?
For ENO, I have composed songs to spread
the message, like tree planting song for environment and peace. I started to
compose music 20 years ago. Now I finally will publish my first album called
The Red Box (Punainen Lipas). Lyrics are based on different stories and music
blues, jazz and stage music, from New Orleans Second life mood to Berlin in
30's, from bossa nova to lyric songs. Mika Vanhanen Ensemble also has a page
also in Facebook.
You have met some awesome people on the
planet, do you have a hero and if so, why?
People inspire me, public persons
and men on the street. I admire environmentalists, philosophers, scientists
etc. Yesterday I had a lunch with Dr Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC. He is a very
inspiring person, not only because of his knowledge but his passion for the
environment. Or like Jane Goodall. I am also inspired by teachers and students
around the world when seeing their dedication to environmental matters and
What advice do you have for children who
are facing a questionable future due to climate change and so much conflict in
Instead of demonizing climate change or
conflicts, we need to encourage children to act for their environment together,
organize campaigns and activities, while having fun at the same time. We need
to raise children towards active citizenship, while giving them Objective
information and positive actions.
If you had the attention of the world
for 5 minutes what would you do or say?
Think also with your heart. Is the
meaning of life to live only for your own benefit or for us all? When making
decisions, think about your real values, humanity and equality. We only have
one planet. Show your good thoughts in action, not only in your mind.
What gives you hope?
People around me, offline and online.
Thank you Mika for doing what you do for your family, community, country and planet. I'd like to end on a Mika quote:
"Wherever you find a spot, at least plant a seed of peace in your heart!"