What kind of world do you want to live in?

Vanessa Ellingham
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals that countries have agreed on for working towards a better world for us all. As citizens of Planet Earth, we all have a part to play in protecting our environment, ensuring that everyone has enough to eat and that there are equal opportunities for us all, across different genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and religions.

These are the key challenges the goals focus on, and they’re challenges that humans have been grappling with for many years. One place where these ideas are explored is in literature. And the Nordic region has many stories that show the need for us to commit to these goals.

When we see the little Matchstick Girl freezing and alone, we’re reminded that not all children have a warm bed or enough to eat. When Tommy and Annika find Pippi Longstocking living in Villa Villekulla all by herself (aside from her horse and monkey), we see how much fun she is having, but also wonder where her parents are and what happens when they aren’t there to take care of her.

Moomintroll, Snufkin and Lille My reside in Moomin Valley, an environment that offers surprise, adventure and the beauty of four distinct seasons. Every spring, nomadic Snufkin returns from the warmer climate he inhabits during the winter, while the Moomin family wakes from its long hibernation, ready to face the new year. Climate change threatens the natural environmental conditions that keep life in Moomin Valley ticking along – and our lives, too.

Many of our favourite characters in Nordic children’s literature are powerful role models, showing us human qualities we might hope to emulate in our own lives. Pippi is “the strongest girl in the world”, but it’s less her physical strength and more her inner strength that endears her to us and makes her so special. Across the world, girls are often prevented from revealing their strengths and having them recognised. What if we lived in a world where anyone who felt like being a Pippi could just go for it? Is that a world you’d like to live in?

Vanessa Ellingham is a writer and editor, from New Zealand. She founded NANSEN, a magazine about migrants of all kinds.