• Vuorikatu 3



  • Yliopistonkatu 3

    00014 Helsingin yliopisto



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Personlig profil


Dr. Panu Pihkala (b. 1979) is an adjuct professor (title of docent) of environmental theology in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki. His interdisciplinary research deals with the psychological and spiritual dimensions related to environmental issues and especially climate change. Pihkala has become known as an expert in eco-anxiety. He is also affiliated with HELSUS Sustainability Science Center.

After publishing several academic articles on the theme, Pihkala’s first book on eco-anxiety was published in Finnish in October 2017 (“Päin helvettiä? Ympäristöahdistus ja toivo”) and it raised much public discussion in Finland. Pihkala was awarded the National Prize for Adult Education (Sivistyspalkinto) in 2018 by The Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation (Kansanvalistusseura). Pihkala's second book on the topic, "Mieli maassa? Ympäristötunteet" ("Environmental emotions"), was published in October 2019. 

In summer 2019, the Finnish Mental Health Society MIELI published a 20-page report on climate anxiety, written by Pihkala and freely available online. Pihkala serves as an expert for the Finnish national project on Eco-anxiety (2020-2022) by mental health organizations and has written several articles for the website of the project (www.ymparistoahdistus.fi).

Pihkala's key academic articles about eco-anxiety are "Anxiety and the Ecological Crisis: An Analysis of Eco-anxiety and Climate anxiety", Sustainability 12:19, 7836 (2020); and “Eco-anxiety and Environmental Education”, Sustainability 12:23, 10149. See also "Eco-anxiety, tragedy, and hope: psychological and spiritual dimensions of climate change”, Zygon 53:2 (2018), and “Environmental Education After Sustainability: Hope in the Midst of Tragedy”, Global Discourse 7:1 (2017).

Pihkala’s interdisciplinary studies on the environment deal also with theories of recognition. He was a member of the Center of Excellence on Reason and Religious Recognition at the University of Helsinki (2016-2019). Before joining the Center, he worked in the Academy of Finland project on “Ecumenical Recognition and Toleration of Otherness” between 2012 and 2016. Pihkala is the author of many peer-reviewed articles and books in environment-related studies. He has participated actively in practical environmental work, especially environmental education, and has served as an expert in various positions of trust.

Pihkala wrote his dissertation on Joseph Sittler and Ecumenical Ecotheology in the University of Helsinki with Prof. Risto Saarinen as the main adviser. A revised version, Early Ecotheology and Joseph Sittler, was published in winter 2017 by LIT Verlag in its series Studies in Religion and Environment, with a new foreword by Prof. Martin E. Marty.

Pihkala has served as an expert in many committees and organizations. Pihkala has been a member of the executive committee of the research organization European Forum for the Study of Religion and Environment. His international positions have included also the membership of the Thematic Advisory Group on Ecological and Environmental Justice for the Council of European Churches.

Besides research and teaching at the University, he works as a writer and trainer in environmental work. Pihkala is a well-known public speaker in Finland and participates actively in public discussion. He has a wide experience of leading workshops about eco-anxiety and ecological emotions. Some of his practical materials can be found in English in his blog, www.ecoanxietyandhope.blogspot.com.

Pihkala has conducted significant parts of his research abroad and in connection with international scholars. He spent the Spring 2011 in Chicago, researching the Sittler archives at LSTC and University of Chicago collections. In 2018 and 2019, he was selected to be a member of the research group Being Human in the Age of Humans. In 2018, he was awarded the Shapley-Booth Fellowship of IRAS, The Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.

Pihkala is still an ordained pastor in the Lutheran Church of Finland and he has published several books on the practical dimensions of ecotheology. In the 2010s, Pihkala was the chairperson of the Finnish section of the international Christian conservation organization A Rocha. He has participated actively in the development of the environmental work of Christian churches in Finland.

Pihkala is married with Anna-Maija Viljanen-Pihkala, a pastor and researcher also. They live in Helsinki with two young sons. His favorite hobbies, besides reading and writing, include orienteering, music and games. He has been a member of the governing bodies of nature preservation and traditional sailing organizations in Kirkkonummi, and spends much time in the woods. He works occasionally as a pilgrimage and nature trek guide.

Information om forskning och undervisning

Multi-disciplinary environmental studies
Pihkala researches also environmental education and he participates in the multi-disciplinary environmental studies in the University of Helsinki. Psychosocial studies, communication, environmental history, ethics and philosophy are especially close to his studies.



Pihkala teaches courses on eco-anxiety, ecotheology, and interdisciplinary environmental studies. He has designed a 12-lecture course about eco-anxiety, first conducted in Spring 2020 (in Finnish). He has contributed in designing courses for the ClimateUniversity project, which are freely available online at www.climateuniversity.fi


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