Aili Pyhälä

Project Info

Role GESA 2015 participant
Nationality Finnish
Region of Specialisations Europe

Project Description

I am a socio-environmental scientist, holding a BSc in Environmental Sciences, and PhD in Development Studies, with over 15 years experience working internationally on issues related to sustainability and rights. I hold extensive grassroots-level fieldwork experience (mostly in South America, Africa and Asia) researching and working with local and indigenous communities. I have also worked with various government institutions and inter-ministerial working groups in Finland, Australia and the Andean Community. In 2005-6, I helped develop Finland’s National Sustainable Development Strategy, responsible for developing the country’s Sustainable Development Indicators. In 2008, I led a project for the United Nations Environmental Programme which involved assessing the extent to which national sustainable development strategies of developed nations have addressed the issue of global responsibility. I have been a consultant on several short-term missions, bridging my scientific work with policy and development, and am also a trained permaculture and eco-village designer and teacher.

My research has focused largely on biodiversity conservation, protected areas, local environmental knowledge, cross-cultural perceptions of wellbeing, indigenous peoples’ rights, and ecological footprinting. I have long been researching the challenges and potentials of community-based conservation, looking at trade-offs between livelihoods and strict protection, local community perceptions, and inter-stakeholder power dynamics. I am currently working on this question with partners in Madagascar as well as the Congo Basin. In the latter, I am finalizing a study (for Rainforest Foundation UK) on the impacts of protected areas on local and indigenous communities in five Central African nations.

I am also working on a cross-cultural empirical study on cross-cultural perceptions of health, wellbeing, and happiness in three indigenous hunter-gatherer societies in Amazonia, Borneo and the Congo Basin, as well as on an extensive global literature review and meta-analysis of local communities’ perceptions of global environmental change, capturing also adaptive strategies to coping with change.

I am very interested in promoting stronger ethics and bottom-up approaches to research, especially in cross-cultural contexts involving different knowledge systems, values and epistemologies, and bridging the gaps between knowledge and science on the one hand, and policy and action on the other. I serve my purpose the best I can in exchanging knowledge and ideas, establishing connections, mediating between cultures and levels, and inspiring change for a healthier and more equitable planet.


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