The Critical Decade of action – Will you be the one to change the world?

As one of the sponsors of this year’s EEAC Annual conference, the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation introduces two inspiring individuals who have shown power to change the world by their actions. The Nessling Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The public debate around climate or environmental issues often ends up blaming individuals: consume less, cut meat, vote for candidates that respect the environment.

Instead of blaming, we should empower individuals to see how they are powerful in their own lives. Although we need a system-level approach to conduct a sustainability transformation, we should not forget the power of the individual. Actions that might seem small at the time, might grow into something unexpected in the future.

We believe that we all have the power to change the world every day. Especially researchers.

Behind the Nessling Foundation, there are two individuals who were brave enough to make unconventional decisions at their time 50 years ago.

Researcher Heikki Sisula came up with the idea of inviting a good friend of his mother, Maj Nessling, to visit the Tvärminne zoological station in 1972. Maj was a widow of Tor Nessling, who had made a good fortune in the auto industry. Sisula knew that many had tried to influence Maj’s testament, as the couple had no kids of their own. He hoped that beautiful Tvärminne would influence the decision, too.

One day Maj arrived in Tvärminne in a big Bentley. Sisula had given instructions to the two professors who hosted Maj: not a word about money, a foundation or a testament. Luckily, Maj was so impressed by Tvärminne and the environmental research that was conducted there that she decided to establish a foundation to support research that is promoting nature conservation. Not everybody thought this was a good idea. In the 70s, the idea of nature conservation was uncommon and also raised disapproval.

But Heikki Sisula and Maj Nessling’s actions had the power to change the world. Thanks to them, we at the Nessling Foundation have been able to support thousands of environmental researchers with over 88 million euros for the past 50 years.

Almost all great Finnish environmental researchers – including many members of the Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, the Finnish Climate Change Panel and the Finnish Nature Panel – have been supported by the Nessling Foundation at some point in their careers.

Today, we face bigger environmental issues than ever before in the Nessling Foundation’s 50-year history.

Still, we continue believing that we all have the power to change the world every day. Especially researchers.

In this mini-documentary (13 minutes), now a 81 year-old Heikki Sisula tells the birth story of the pioneer in environmental funding, the Nessling Foundation. The documentary is unfortunately in Finnish only.

The Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation builds an ecologically sustainable future by offering support for research, possibilities for encounters and scientific knowledge for the use of society. The Foundation supports environmental research and implementation of scientific knowledge into society with approximately 3 million euros annually. The Foundation was established in 1972 and its purpose has from the beginning been to act for the good of air, water and earth. The Nessling Foundation sponsors the EEAC Annual conference in 2022.