Action is a core objective and value of the Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress that attempts to create lasting impact and advance sustainability transformation around the world. To that end, each SRI host delivers an “SRI Message” for the next host of the Congress to capture and guard the spirit of the event and guide the continuation of the SRI series. Hosts have delivered message in all types of formats for this annual tradition, including poetry and artwork.

For SRI/SSD2024, the message was symbolized by a collaboratively woven Finnish rug replicating the “warming lines” visualization of global temperature rises. You can watch the handover in the video below and read more about the message below from University of Helsinki Vice-rector Anne Portaankorva. She handed the SRI Message over to the University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen and Professor Don Wuebbles. The University of Illinois System in Chicago will be the host of SRI2025

Before us lies a unique symbol of our journey together this week: a woven rug. By doing this traditional Finnish craft, we wanted to provide an opportunity for collective participation and create a concrete symbol of our journey together.

Rug weaving is a traditional Finnish handicraft skill, passed from house to house, from the oldest to the youngest in the family. This is also part of my history. When I was a little girl, my grandmother taught me how to weave, as her grandmother taught to her.

Originally, rugs have been made from old fabrics and materials that were no longer in use.

The basic idea behind rugs was reuse: old textiles were carefully cut into strings and woven together into something useful. Worn fabrics, old sheets and clothes that could no longer be used for anything else could be turned into something long-lasting and useful.

Thus, in addition to their beauty and use value, rugs represent intergenerational knowledge as well as reusing the materials that we have.

This creation is also more than a piece of art and Finnish tradition; it is a vivid representation of our planet’s temperature changes from the 19th century to the present day.

As you can see, the red and orange hues illustrate the warming our planet, a direct result of human activities.

Yet, at the end of the rug, there’s a light green hue. It illustrates a future that we have power to shape.

Working together for the good of the planet is strongly linked to the four themes of this year’s SRI Congress and Sustainability Science Days.

The Green Transition theme has shown us that interdisciplinary collaboration is not just beneficial but essential. We have seen that cooperation among governments, businesses, researchers, and individuals is key to developing sustainable solutions. No individual alone has the power to change the future hues of our rug, but together we can foster a healthier planet for all.

Our discussions on Transforming Technologies and the Future of Work highlighted the changes we have to make in order to create socially and ecologically sustainable working life for all.

Living on the Frontlines of Change brought attention to the unique challenges faced by the Arctic and other vulnerable regions.

Powering the World reminded us of the need and challenge of phasing out fossil fuels.

The rug before us is a powerful symbol of both the challenges we face, but also the hope we have. It stands as a testament to what we can achieve when we unite for a common goal.

As University of Helsinki’s Rector Lindblom said in her opening speech:

In order to create solutions for the many, and not for the few, solutions need to be created by the many and not by the few.

The future is determined by the actions of today.

I am honored to hand this collaborative piece of art to President Killeen and Professor Wuebbles.