Mika Vanhanen

by Wendy Jewell from The My Hero Project

ENO Tree Planting Day for Peace

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." (Mika''s favourite motto comes from St Francis of Assisi)

Mika Vanhanen (
Mika Vanhanen (

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 (
Tree Planting (

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 development.

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 (, 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 ENO.

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 to join.

Why an online Virtual School for Sustainable Development?

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 social media.

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 September. 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 entrepreneur.

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 humanity.

What advice do you have for children who are facing a questionable future due to climate change and so much conflict in the world?

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!"


Page created on 3/23/2015 11:28:25 PM

Last edited 1/7/2020 9:00:35 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

ENO Environment Online - A global virtual school and network for Sustainable Development.
Planting Seeds of ACTION - The environmental learning process of ENO schools since 2000.
You Control the Climate Change - This song is a part of climate change campaign in the ENO Programme. The band comes from Joensuu Conservatory and singers from Niinivaara school, Joensuu, Finland. And naturally FRANK THE FROG comes from Eno! This live performance was recorded in the ENO Conference /Act Now 15th of September 2011. The venue was Joensuu Areena. Presenter was Ms Nicole Faria, Miss Earth 2010.
International Education and Resource Network - IEARN. Learning with the world, not just about it...
The Globe Program - The Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program.

Extra Info

Achievements for MIKA and ENO


- Mika launched ENO Tree Planting Days in 2004, since then almost 12 million trees have been planted for environment and peace by about 10 000 schools in 152 countries

- Act Now! A forest conference in September 2011

- Music composed for tree planting play "The Drops Of Life"

- Tree planting songs composed for ENO Tree Planting Day since 2004, performed by schools around the world


1997: Microsof Roadahead Prize, Helsinki,Finland

2000: OKKA Awards, Finnish Education Foundation EcoG@llery Europe 2000, Barcelona, Spain

2001: Childnet Awards 2001, Washington DC, USA

2002 The Innovator of Province, Regional Council of North Karelia

2003 Quality Prize in eLearning, Ministry of Education

2003 Rose For Environmental Education, Turku, Finland

2003 Winner in GKP Youth Awards, UN Summit , Geneve, Switzerland

2004: WWF Panda Prize, Joensuu, Finland

2006: A special mention in the Stockholm Challenge Awards

2007: Winner of Global Junior Challenge Awards, Rome, Italy

2008 Award by Karelian Culture Foundation

2009: Energy Globe Awards, Prague, Czech Republic

2009: Forestry Achievement, Society of Finnish Professional Foresters

2010: Joensuu Prize

2011: State Award For Public Information, Ministry of Education

2011: A Finalist in Forest Heroes Awards by United Nations


Marathon record 2:53:47 (1993, Stockholm)

100 km run 9:20:50 (2006, Helsinki)


Author Info