The responsive bioeconomy: The need for inclusion of citizens and environmental capability in the forest based bioeconomy


As climate change becomes an increasing concern in Europe, the bioeconomy could challenge previous conceptualizations about how states, citizens and corporations interact in everyday practices of natural resources governance. In Finland, there are efforts to support the transition towards the bio-based economy and to reform forest governance to respond to local circumstances while mitigating global climate change. Recent research has examined bioeconomy from political discourse point of view but citizen participation has not been sufficient in the current bioeconomy discourses. This talk connects the capability approach and the forest based bioeconomy in the context of Finland. It argues that citizen have capabilities and ability to participate in decisions about matters that directly affect their well-being. However, in the case of forest based bioeconomy, the inclusion of citizen requires an interactive collaborative approach to empower people to meet and debate on the development of their own living environment and environmental capability. Citizen may not be able to find solutions and new innovations which the bioeconomy requires, yet it is the citizen who will live under the changed access to opportunities and entitlements including environmental services. For this reason, responsive governance needs to ensure that many change actors are taken into account as a matter of justice in the bioeconomy transition processes, including citizen values, interests, knowhow and environmental entitlements.


Dr Irmeli Mustalahti is Professor of Social Scientific Bioeconomy Research (Environmental Policy) at the University of Eastern Finland. Her PhD dissertation examined participatory forest management and she obtained her doctorate at the University of Copenhagen in 2007. In 2014, she received the Academy of Finland Award for impact on policy-making in several countries. Her ongoing research focuses on theoretical debates on responsive governance in the bioeconomy, environmental conflict mediation and collaborative governance of the bioeconomy. She is principal investigator of the “REDD+: The new regime to enhance or reduce equity in global environmental governance? A comparative study in Tanzania, Mexico and Laos” project funded by the Academy of Finland. She also leads the “Responsive Natural Resources Governance Research Group” at the University of Eastern Finland. Since January 2018, she has been interaction leader of ALL-YOUTH project, which aims to learn from action-oriented case interventions how society could become more inclusive of youth so that they could contribute to sustainable development and well-being. She is also one of the founding members of the Social Scientific Circular Bioeconomy Research Network (SOBIO).