HELSUS Brown Bag Lunch

HELSUS Brown Bag Lunch pitkä

HELSUS Brown Bag Lunches will continue in the autumn. 

HELSUS Brown Bag Lunches are concise lunchtime events where participants bring their own lunch box and gather to a seminar with presentations over topical research themes. The 20-30 minutes talks by the presenter will be followed by an open discussion for about 30-40 minutes. The topics are related to five HELSUS research themes, or other relevant sustainability science topics. No advance registration is needed. 

General information


Due to the COVID-19 situation events held via Zoom until further notice.

Link (click here), Passcode: Brownbag (Detailed invitation below)


On Fridays at 11.00-12.00.


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Accesibility information of the venue: There is an elevator access to the 2nd floor of Porthania, with the one in the middle being wide enough also for electric wheelchairs. At the HELSUS entrance there are two steps with a ramp with a railing going up to the door. For more information please reach out to helsus@helsinki.fi 

HELSUS Brown Bag Lunches Autumn 2020

18.9. Creating a SustFood Database for Finland: considerations for diets with lower environmental impacts combining economic, socio-cultural, and nutritional aspects, presenter Rachel Mazac

We will walk through the background and considerations for optimizing diets with lower environmental impacts combining economic, socio-cultural, and nutritional aspects. Discussions to follow will be on what further considerations are needed and the benefits and drawbacks of novel/future foods in sustainable food systems.

Bio: Rachel Mazac, is a doctoral student working with the Future Sustainable Food Systems research group at the University of Helsinki. She models sustainable diets and future food systems through an interdisciplinary approach considering the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic dimensions of sustainability. She graduated with a M.Sc. in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems from the Public Health and Urban Nutrition research group in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Prior to her M.Sc. studies, she worked for Spark-Y: Youth Action Labs, educating and empowering youth through sustainability and urban agriculture. Rachel is now a member of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) and leads their monthly Sustainability Discussion Group.

9.10. Understanding Circular Economy in Everyday Life: Trade, Sort & Recycle? Perceptions of High School Students from Finnish Context, presenter Angelina Korsunova

Abstract: It is generally accepted that governments, municipalities, business and citizens alike have a role to play in transitioning towards circular economy (CE). Yet most academic and policy discussions of CE revolve around technological solutions and business models. Although CE also means significant changes to ways of living, these aspects of CE are barely addressed. The citizen role is traditionally assumed to be the consumers or users of the newly developed solutions, while also following guidelines for sorting and recycling. Little is known on why citizens would want to be part of the CE, and how they envision being part of it. Our study addresses this gap by exploring perceptions of young adults in Finland on how CE reflects into their everyday life. Our dataset consists of 249 responses from high school students in Finland to open-ended questions regarding CE. Our preliminary analysis highlights that CE is strongly associated with recycling, waste sorting and re-selling/buying second-hand, which is in line with conventional roles of efficient recyclers and consumers. Although CE harbors wider potential for more active citizen roles related to repair, maintenance and upcycling, these aspects are often overlooked in favour of more familiar lifestyles. Authors: Angelina Korsunova, Susanna Horn and Annukka Vainio. 


Angelina Korsunova is a post-doctoral researcher in the Research Group on Behavioural Change Toward Sustainability at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, and member of HELSUS, University of Helsinki. Angelina’s current research focuses on the human dimension of circular economy - social and cultural aspects of CE, and improving citizen well-being in transitioning towards sustainability. Angelina is an active member of the Climate University network, interested in further developing education for sustainability.

Susanna Horn (DSc in Econ) is a senior research scientist in the Center for Sustainable Consumption and Production at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). She is currently working in projects related to life cycle approaches and circular economy from different perspectives, such as various value chains, ecodesign, climate change impacts and climate regulations. Susanna is actively participating in several theme groups preparing the strategic programme promoting circular economy in Finland.

Annukka Vainio is an associate professor and head of the Research Group on Behavioural Change Toward Sustainability at Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, member of HELSUS at University of Helsinki. A social psychologist by education, Annukka is serving as a Member of the Finnish Climate Panel.





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HELSUS Brown Bag Lunches Spring 2020

17.01. Economic, social, and political geography in the context of Sustainable Urban Development?, presenter Mikko Weckroth

Watch the recorded seminar on Unitube

As an interdisciplinary inquiry, sustainability sciences are characterized by complex and to some extent overlapping concepts. This complexity is increasingly apparent when focusing on specific research areas, which inevitably involve a wide range of methodological variation e.g.  “Sustainable Urban Systems / Development”. In this presentation, I try to analyze and disentangle some of this conceptual complexity by utilizing concepts, ideas and theories used in political, social, and economic geography.

The research on sustainable cities and urbanism is dominated by techno-economic rationality and supply-side solutions. In contrast, human geographers have tendency to argue that socio-spatial as well as political context matters when trying to understand the agency, action, and decision-making of individuals.  Therefore, insights from political and behavioral economic geography can complement economic perspectives while trying to understand socio-spatial human behavior in several areas relevant for sustainability sciences (e.g. voting behavior, consumption choices, housing markets and location choices). In this presentation, I will present and discuss certain geographical but also mental divisions and dimensions within societies that affect these key issues in sustainability sciences.

Within this context, I shall address the following questions: What is the socioeconomic and political geography of climate change attitudes and efficacy? What can be learn from interpreting the carbon neutral agendas of cities from the political geography perspective and especially as acts of city-regionalism? What is the role of human wellbeing and values in the transformation into sustainability? And ultimately, instead being fixated on “sustainable cities”, should we be discussing on a broader concept of “sustainable spatial form of a society”?

In this presentation, I shall also present my past and present research on the geographies of wellbeing, human values, and development and try to reflect these results to different definitions on Sustainable Urban Development and Systems.

Bio: Mikko Weckroth is a postdoctoral researcher in the Sustainable Urban Systems research group at the University of Helsinki. He has an academic background in regional studies and human geography and he has previously worked as a university lecturer in human geography and as a postdoctoral researcher in a H2020 project IMAJINE addressing the territorial inequalities and advancing spatial justice within the European Union. In his current work Mikko is conducting research on socioeconomic geography of climate change attitudes along with his perennial interest to understand the role of subjective wellbeing and human values shaping the spatial form of societies.

31.01. Indicators of wetland sustainability: methodological approaches and field-based experiences, presenter Sara Fraixedas

Wetland ecosystems are home to some of the richest biodiversity on the planet, providing ecosystem services of crucial importance to both local and global communities. Yet, wetlands are listed among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Numerous efforts are therefore being undertaken to support conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The success of these conservation initiatives is often monitored through the use of biodiversity indicators. Because of their sensitivity to environmental changes, birds are increasingly used as indicators to assess the status and trends of wetland ecosystems. In this talk, I will first provide empirical evidence of the use of bird indicators to assess the conservation and management of wetlands based on case studies from Spain, France and Finland. Second, I will discuss a participatory monitoring scheme with local Indigenous communities from Lake Turkana (Northern Kenya), an Important Bird Area located along one of the main migration routes of Palearctic wintering birds in Africa. This compilation of case studies is conceived as an integrative approach to advance the use of bird indicators for assessing wetland conservation in an era of rapid social-ecological changes.

Bio: Sara Fraixedas is a HELSUS postdoctoral fellow and part of the Global Change and Conservation group. Her research project entitled “Towards wetland sustainability: operationalizing socio-ecological indicators in Europe” aims to provide decision-makers with a complete set of socio-ecological indicators in order to inform a European-level strategic plan to address wetland sustainability. The present work will serve to broaden the scope of policy options available to address the current drivers of wetland loss and degradation in Europe. By feeding the results of this project into science-policy interfaces, the impact of the project will be directly channelled into producing policy-relevant science and stimulating transformative change towards wetland sustainability in Europe.

14.02. Navigating the science policy interface:  forestry researcher perspectives, presenter Maria Ojanen

Improved science-policy linkages are needed to address sustainability challenges. Multiple efforts have been pursued to enhance knowledge exchange between scientists and society over years. The subsequent science policy literature suggests that effective science-policy engagement requires evidence that is perceived as credible, relevant and legitimate. However, given that many sustainability challenges are so called “wicked problems”, marked by multiple interests, values and contestation over the solutions, there is a  myriad of perceptions and needs over what constitutes such evidence. How do scientists navigate this complexity?  

In this presentation, I will discuss how forest scientists deal with this complexity and contestation in science policy interfaces, characterized by several actors and competing interests regarding how forests should be managed - and for whose benefit. I use the concepts of credibility, relevance and legitimacy (Cash et al. 2003) to explore the challenges and tensions experienced by scientists in science-policy interfaces as well as their strategies of responding to them. Based on the analysis of in-depth interview data, I will highlight how expertise and scientific knowledge is contested and ignored in knowledge exchange processes. I will also discuss how the source of research funding and the funders’ requirement for societal impact can adversely affect the quality of scientific knowledge.  The results indicate that challenges are best met with a wide range of strategies, including partnering and using strategic planning tools. I conclude by drawing lessons that can inform and strengthen future science-policy engagements. 

Bio: Maria Ojanen is a PhD student in the International Forest Policy Group at the Department of Forest Sciences. Her research focuses on evidence informed decision making, especially regarding how evidence is generated and how science and scientists influence policy making processes related to natural resource policies. 

28.02. Learning sustainability competencies, presenter Kalle Juuti

Adolescents are concerned with global warming, diminishing biodiversity and the lack of global and intergenerational equity. Recently, many climate demonstrations and activities have been organised internationally by youths who are eager to create a sustainable future and demand modern lifestyle changes. The presentation focuses on the question how school subjects could help students learn to make changes and how action competence could be tackled in teacher education. First I will introduce the sustainability competencies (System thinking, Normative thinking, Anticipatory competence, strategic / action competence and interpersonal competence). Further, I will introduces circular economy and invention processes as a pedagogical approach to apply and learn powerful disciplinary knowledge in building a more sustainable future. 

Bio: Kalle Juuti is an associate professor (Digital learning at schools) at the faculty of Educational sciences. He has been working within teacher education about two decade. Lately, his research topics has been teachers’ professional learning, project-based learning, digital tools in teaching and learning, interest and emotions in learning, learning powerful disciplinary knowledge, and students’ invention as a pedagogical approach to learn sustainability competencies. He has engaged in educational design research as a methodological approach. He has a physics, mathematics and drama teacher qualification.

CANCELLED: 13.03. Becoming Earth: Rethinking and (re-)connecting with the Earth, Sámi lands and relations, presenter Hanna Guttorm

This presentation will be an autoethnographic inquiry and storytelling on and from multiple perspectives on a multiple world, or a pluriverse, following eg. de la Cadena and Escobar. The presentation will dwell around the question: What on Earth is it, or could it be, to be an Earthling, a Sámi/Indigenous, a habitant of this planet, in the era of super-complexity, in the need of turning the gaze towards the more-than-human(ist)? The presentation will not be concentrating on producing that much new knowledge on any ‘reality’, but more on finding paths to different actions and mindsets. These possible paths will be outlined and dreamed with inspiration of Sámi concepts and stories concerning life/nature/environment, as well as other Indigenous ontologies.

Bio: PhD Hanna Guttorm is a postdoctoral fellow at HELSUS, with a doctoral degree in education. She is widely interested in life and its’ possibilities on our planet. She is especially inspired on Indigenous ontologies and post theories with those she investigates, how we should do and write research in order to make a change towards more ecological, social and cultural sustainability and solidarity possible.


CANCELLED: 03.04. International Marine Mammal Law, Nikolas Sellheim

Dr Nikolas Sellheim presents his new book International Marine Mammal Law.


CANCELLED: 24.04. Re-thinking sustainability transformation of Northern sparsely populated areas, presenters Daria Gritsenko and Nadezhda Stepanova

Extreme environmental conditions, sparsely distributed human populations, and diverse local economies characterize the Russian Arctic and Far East. As global changes in the environment and the economic priorities of nations accelerate and globalized societies emerge, there is a neesd for multidisciplinary research into how the Arctic and Far East can be developed sustainably. Yet, when it comes to sustainability indicators, it is clear that little consideration thus far has been given to sparsely populated and remote territories. Rather, the majority of indicators have been developed and tested using empirical research gathered from cities and densely populated rural localities. As a result, there is no develop scientific technique that can be used to monitor the development of sparsely populated territories and inform policy choices that account for local specificity. We are working on a conceptual model for linking sustainability to the unique characteristics of the sparsely populated regions of the Arctic and Far East. We provide an empirical illustration based on regional-level data from the Russian sparsely populated territories. We conclude by suggesting indicators that could be best suited to promoting balanced regional development that accounts for the environment, economy, and social needs of sparsely populated territories.

Bio: Daria Gritsenko has PhD in public policy, she is Assistant professor of Russian Big Data Methodology in administration, economic and political governance in the Aleksanteri Institute HU; holds a membership at the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS); the founder and coordinator of the Digital Russia Studies network. Expert in environmental sustainability, large infrastructure governance in the Russian Arctic, the policy-making activities of private actors. Investigated the effects of Russian energy policy on local sustainability in the Arctic in a number of international Academy projects. PI in the project “Sustainable development in sparsely populated regions: The case of the Russian Arctic and Far East”.

Bio: PhD Nadezhda Stepanova is a postdoctoral fellow at HELSUS, with a doctoral degree in Regional Economy. She is interested in the Arctic sustainability as well as the strategic planning and spatial development in Russian North.

HELSUS brown bag lunches Autumn 2019

CANCELLED: 13.12. The evolution of local involvement in international conservation law, presenter Nikolas Sellheim

The role of local populations in international environmental law-making and implementation has found increasing recognition in international fora, even though lack of local involvement has been identified in the UN gaps report. This presentation traces the history of recognition of local populations and takes three case studies to demonstrate the differences in textual and practical recognition of local populations. This recognition is particularly relevant in light of the recently adopted UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNROP), which this study briefly introduces in regard to its participatory rights. It is furthermore discussed how the UNROP might influence three existing regimes and the role local populations might play in them in the future.

Nikolas Sellheim is a postdoctoral researcher at HELSUS, focusing on the role of local populations in international conservation law with a particular focus on the marine mammal hunt. He is co-Editor-in-Chief of Polar Record, the journal of the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. His new book International Marine Mammal Law will be published by Springer in 2020.

13.9. Understanding human-nature interactions from social media, presenter Anna Hausmann

People´s life and well-being depend on biodiversity. Interacting with nature provides essential physical and psychological benefits from material (e.g. food, energy, water purification, diseases control) and non-material (e.g. cultural, recreational, educational, spiritual) ecosystem services. However, we are living in the Anthropocene, an era where human activities are causing an unprecedented loss of species worldwide. Understanding human-nature interactions is therefore crucial in identifying sustainable solutions that can help address the biodiversity crisis, while promoting people´s well-being. However, collecting such information is costly, time consuming and difficult to implement (e.g. at global scale), while available resources are scarce.

We also live in the Information Age, where an increasing volume of data is constantly being generated by users on digital networks. This brings new opportunities to study human-nature interactions rapidly, cost-efficiently and at unprecedented spatio-temporal scales. Digital conservation is a new sub-field of conservation science where Big Data harvested from the Internet is being analyzed to help reverse the biodiversity crisis. My research focuses on exploring how data shared on social media platforms can be used to understand people´s preferences, activities, and perceptions of nature and nature-based experiences when visiting protected areas, as well as potential threats to biodiversity. My presentation will provide an overview of the opportunities and challenges of using social media to understand human-nature interactions, and how it can be used to inform protected area management and conservation decision-making from local to global scale.

27.9. The role of values in sustainability transformations, presenter Andra Horcea-Milcu

Sustainability science increasingly acknowledges that the new forms of collaborative generation of knowledge need to engage with normative and value-related issues, as sustainability is a normative concept.Co-production approaches for sustainability transformation seem to allow growing space to the importance of assigned, relational, and held values. Although there is a relative agreement in the transdisciplinary sustainability research on factoring in the importance of values for sustainability transformation, these framings remain silent about the ways values actually underpin and ‘work’ in collaborative settings for sustainability transformation. Specifically, the linkages between values and knowledge are often overlooked in these processes.

The importance of values opens the co-creational research modes of sustainability science to numerous inquiries such as: i) What are the values held by the various stakeholder groups in relation to complex sustainability challenges such as biodiversity conservation?; ii) How do values underpin knowledge co-production processes?; iii) How to deliberately foster transformation through co-creation processes (acting as levers) intervening at the level of values (acting as leverage points)?

This presentation aims to open perspectives on values as both a driver and outcome of co-production of knowledge for sustainability transformation. I will critically reflect on recent contributions for re-thinking the relationship between values and knowledge for sustainability transformation. I will then suggest potential ways to account for the under-considered value dimensions of co-production such as mapping individuals’ values landscapes as a baseline for the process of knowledge co-production.

Bio: Andra-Ioana Horcea-Milcu is a postdoctoral researcher in the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science. With a background in exploring social-ecological systems and experience in place-based transdisciplinary research, she is interested in leveraging the transformative potential of knowledge co-creation in real-world contexts. Her main focus is on the role of held and assigned values in underpinning such knowledge. Through her boundary work, she aspires to contribute to managing the science/society/policy interface, and to reframing sustainability in terms of core human values.

11.10. Values in Integrated Assessment Modelling, presenter Henrik Thorén

Questions pertaining to the assessment of the social and economic implications of climate change as well as what an ‘optimal’ mitigation pathway might look like are typically addressed in contemporary climate impact research by deploying different kinds of integrated models such as so-called integrated assessment models (IAMs). These models, and the overarching approach that is based on using them, flows from the idea that coupling sub-models (modules) that represent different sub-systems traditionally associated with different disciplines provide us with otherwise unattainable insights into how the larger interconnected system works.

But the models have been controversial and critics worry that uncertainties are magnified, rather than ameliorated, in the coupling process and obscured by model complexity. This, it is argued, renders the models prone to questionable value influences.

In this talk I will give an introduction to these models and the way that they are used at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research based on interviews I have carried out there. The overarching purpose is to provide a better understanding of the possibilities and limits of these models, the arguments that have been marshalled against their use, and the appropriate role of values in climate impact modelling.

Bio: Henrik Thorén is a postdoctoral researcher at HELSUS, with a doctoral degree in theoretical philosophy. Thorén's research project "Values in Model Integration for Sustainability: Principles, Practices, and Problems" tackles pressing environmental problems by recruiting the knowledge and expertise from researchers from a wide range of disciplines belonging to both natural and social sciences, with a goal of finding pathways towards more sustainable resource use.

25.10. Redefining urban aesthetics with the concept of Aesthetic Sustainability, presenter Sanna Lehtinen

Contemporary urban environments comprise both lasting and fairly stable elements as well as those that change continuously: change is an inevitable part of urban life. Different aspects of city life evolve with a different tempo: urban nature has its cycles, inhabitants their rhythms and building materials and styles different lifespans, for example. However, the experienced quality of various types of urban environments has not traditionally been at the forefront of understanding how cities evolve through time. This becomes an especially important issue, when future imaginaries are projected onto existing urban structures and when decisions about the details of urban futures are made.

This talk aims at bringing environmental and urban aesthetics into the discussion about the possible directions of urban futures. The focus is on introducing the notion of aesthetic sustainability as a tool to understand better how urban futures unfold experientially and aesthetic values of urban environments develop with time. The concept has background in design theory, more specifically relating to sustainable usage and product design, but it has not so far been used in order to study large scale urban living environments. The concept can prove to be a valuable supporting tool in urban sustainability transformations based on how it captures the experiential side of the physical and temporal dimensions of cities.

Bio: Sanna Lehtinen is a postdoctoral researcher at HELSUS with a focus on developing the concept of aesthetic sustainability to support urban sustainability transformations. Her research interests revolve around philosophical and applied environmental aesthetics, the experiential sphere of urban life, urban futures, and philosophy of technology.

8.11. Organic animal farms and farmland bird abundance in Boreal region, presenter Iryna Herzon

Agriculture is a primary driver of biodiversity loss worldwide, and several expensive public schemes are being implemented around the world to improve farming landscapes as a habitat for wildlife. The largest in terms of cover and expense is the agri-environment-climate schemes (AES) of the European Union. AES compensate farmers for reducing land-use intensity and maintaining or introducing biodiversity-rich habitats. Benefits of AES vary by measure, region and taxonomic group considered.

We assess the country-wide impact of several AES measures on bird abundance using citizen science data on birds and detailed information on AES take up from across Finland. The results demonstrated a significantly positive impact of just one AES - that of organic animal husbandry on abundance of all farmland associated birds. This effect was particularly strong for insectivorous species, species that are associated to farmyards and long-distance migrants. No other AES correlated with bird diversity.

These findings highlight the potential positive impact that some compensatory measures may have on wildlife. But also indicate that most AES may have insufficient cover or introduce a relatively minor management change to the normal land use practices. Traditional animal husbandry is based on grazing of animals and restriction on external inputs, similarly to what is stipulated under organic production contract. It may represent an effective management tool for restoring or maintaining threatened species and ecosystems in rural areas of the EU, while providing high-quality protein in quantities compatible with sustainable diets. Further experimental research should disentangle which of the organic practices is most beneficial, grazing of animals, presence of pastures or avoidance of agrochemicals.

Dr. Iryna Herzon is a university lecturer in agroecology. She works in the field of sustainable agriculture, with the emphasis on ecology and social acceptability of conservation on in farmland. Most of her work is multidisciplinary, bridging disciplines across ecology, agronomy, social sciences, and economics.

22.11. Artificial Intelligence for sustainable smart cities, presenter Laura Ruotsalainen

Autonomous traffic on ground and in air is anticipated to improve safety and quality of life in cities as well as to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Although many cities have already started testing the use of autonomous vehicles in transportation, massive research and development efforts are needed until we are ready for autonomous traffic. Artificial intelligence provides means for forming accurate and reliable spatiotemporal data and for using it in development of sustainable smart cities.

Laura Ruotsalainen is an Associate Professor of Spatiotemporal Data Analysis for Sustainability Science at the Department of Computer Science. Her research looks at spatiotemporal data to develop methods for creating accurate and reliable navigation data for the benefit of sustainability science, especially for the development of sustainable smart cities.

HELSUS brown bag lunches spring 2019

The effect of urban planning on cities’ breathability – urban climate perspective, presenter Leena Järvi

Cities act as hotspots for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increased air temperatures and air pollutant concentrations. All these have major effects on global and local climate including human health and well-being. However, with successful urban planning the exchange of GHG, heat and air pollutants between the urban surface and the atmosphere can be optimised thus improving the conditions of life. In Helsinki, the local urban climate including the surface-exchanges of  GHG, heat and air pollutants have been directly measured for several years over different urban land covers (semi-urban and dense city-centre) allowing to examine the spatial and temporal changes of the emissions and the urban activities they are originating. Traffic is the major controller for carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions and concentrations whereas the built-up land cover fraction is mainly responsible for increased heat emissions and furthermore air temperatures. Following the observations we can track people’s activity and how different interventions can affect the breathability of the city. At the same time with measurements, a wide-range of meteorological modelling capabilities allow to examine the most optimal urban planning choices in order to minimise the unwanted emissions and those hotspots that most affect human well-being. Examples on how we can reduce carbon dioxide and heat emissions and how we can increase ventilation and air quality in street canyons will be given.

The role of law in adaptive environmental governance? Presenter Niko Soininen

For a number of years now, the top challenge for environmental governance has been to figure out what kind of policy mix would be best equipped to deal with complex environmental challenges, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and water quality. As Hardin famously illustrated, common pool resources attract short-sighted behavior often leading to a collapse of the resource and ecosystem services provided by it. Moreover, the management of common pool resources is riddled with social-ecological complexities and scientific uncertainties.

Adaptive governance theories have emerged to tackle this challenge. Adaptive governance means “a range of interactions between actors, networks, organizations, and institutions emerging in pursuit of a desired state for social-ecological systems.” (Chaffin, Gosnell & Cosens 2014) One typical feature of adaptive governance is to facilitate institutional designs that support experimentation and learning among public managers and private operators in solving complex environmental problems. This sounds exciting but requires rethinking the role of law in governance. Using EU-Finnish water law as an example, the presentation discusses some of the most pressing failures of current water legislation and engages with some practical applications of the adaptive governance theory as potential solutions to these problems.

Authoritarian Environmentalism: Propaganda or Reality, presenter Viktor Pál

Since the early 2000s, authoritarianism has risen as an increasingly powerful global phenomenon. This shift has environmental implications: authoritarian leaders seek to recast the relationship between society and the government in various aspects of public life, including environmental policy. When historians of technology or the environment have investigated the environmental consequences of authoritarian regimes, they have frequently argued that authoritarian regimes have been unable to produce positive environmental results or adjust successfully to global structural change, if they have shown any concern for the environment at all. Put another way, the scholarly consensus holds that authoritarian regimes on both the left and the right generally have demonstrated an anti-environmentalist bias, and when opposed by environmentalist social movements, have succeeded in silencing those voices.

The edited volume “Environmental Politics and Policy under Authoritarian Regimes: Myth and Reality” (co-edited by Stephen Brain and Viktor Pál,  New York: Routledge, 2018) explores the theme of environmental politics and authoritarian regimes on both the right and the left. The authors argue that in instances when environmentalist policies offer the possibility of bolstering a country’s domestic (nationalist) appeal or its international prestige, authoritarian regimes can endorse and have endorsed environmental protective measures. The collection of essays analyzes environmentalist initiatives pursued by authoritarian regimes, and provides explanations for both the successes and failures of such regimes, looking at a range of case studies from a number of countries, including Brazil, China, Poland, and Zimbabwe. The volume contributes to the scholarly debate about the social and political preconditions necessary for effective environmental protection.

Environmental and Sustainability Education in Finnish schools: current situation and some future prospects, presenter Sirpa Tani

Sustainability education has its roots in the tradition of environmental education and environmental awakening of the 1960s. The UN defined goals for the environmental education for the first time in 1975. In 1985, environmental education was included in the Finnish core curriculum as one of the basic aims of education. In the 2004 curriculum, the concept of environmental education was replaced by the aim of ‘responsibility for the environment, well-being and a sustainable future’. The main idea was to include environmental and sustainability education to all school subjects as one of the crosscutting themes, not as a separate entity that would be taught detached from the other contents of the courses. In the current curriculum from 2014, ‘sustainability’ is included in the underlying values of education as well as in the transversal competences, which should be implemented in the aims and contents of all the school subjects. In this presentation, a preliminary analysis of the status of environmental and sustainability approaches in the curriculum will be presented and some of the main challenges of their implementation in teaching will be discussed.

Urban agriculture boom in Cuba: Towards food sovereignty, presenter Reynaldo Jiménez Guethón

Urban agriculture has boomed in Cuba after the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989, which cut Cuba off from food imports, fertilizers and fuel. Urban gardening was a new local and autochthonous response to acute food shortage and malnutrition caused by the severe economic crisis. Currently, urban agriculture is considered fundamental for food sovereignty, which has become a key goal in Cuba's agrarian policy, since it constitutes an alternative to a food system that used to rely on foreign imports of both food and expensive technology. Urban agriculture is considered to be an effective solution to increase the availability of agricultural products to the population. The diversification of crops for family self-sufficiency and the efficient use of soils are priorities for Urban, Suburban and Family Agriculture. Various technological innovations, organic farming methods, and ecological knowledge are being applied in urban agriculture. It is also an important source of employment and income generation.

The Myth of Privatising Nature, presenter Franklin Obeng-Odoom

The proposition that nature must be privatised in order to save it was central to the analytical framework of mainstream economics until the rise of the Bloomington School of institutional economics. Led by Elinor Ostrom, its advocates and critics alike claim that it successfully created a scientific revolution by displacing the dominant notion of a ‘tragedy of the commons’, a breakthrough that led to the award of a Nobel Prize in economics. In practice, it is questionable whether Elinor Ostrom fundamentally challenged the conventional wisdom. Instead, she enhanced it, and, hence, her Nobel Prize consummated the Conventional Wisdom. Progressive thinkers have tried to go beyond this stasis, but have only succeeded in creating a ‘Western Consensus’. Analytically problematic, this alternative misunderstands the dynamic relationships between fundamental cause and effect. Its insidious colonial value system makes it ethically bankrupt, while its political strategy is weak because its vision and approach to analysis are fundamentally misaligned. Neither the Conventional Wisdom nor the Western Consensus can provide a framework for sustainability, whether understood as social, economic, or ecological.

Sustainability and chal­lenges of in­tergen­er­a­tional justice, presenter Simo Kyllönen

Sustainability as a long-term issue invites us to think it in terms of justice between generations. Famously concepts, such as sustainable development, have been defined by referring to a notion of intergenerational justice: the needs of the present generation should be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Still, the idea of intergenerational justice is contested and philosophically challenged, since it seems to evade some of our core ideas and concepts of justice. For instance, most of our existing concepts of justice require at least a hypothetical kind of reciprocity between the “members” of justice. Typically it is also though that when someone does injustice, she does it to some particular person(s). But in the relation between present and future people there seems be no reciprocity at all. Rather the relation is radically asymmetric one, in which future generations are entirely dependent on the goodwill of the earlier ones. Indeed, the future people are dependent on earlier ones for their sheer existence. The earlier people have also power to affect who particular persons in the future will come to exist. In this presentation, I will give an overview about the challenges of intergenerational justice and suggest a plausible way to address them. My suggestion defends a so-called sufficientarian idea of justice, according to which, the main idea of justice is neither to maximise the aggregate (intergenerational) wellbeing nor to equalise it, but rather to guarantee that people now and in the future have enough what they ought to have for a decent life. Finally it is argued that as far as sustainability invites any concept of intergenerational justice, the sufficientarian one is the most defensible.

Re-thinking Sustainable Development as a Global Concept, presenter Charles Gore

Sustainable development means many different things to different people and this paper focuses on one dimension of this chaotic diversity, namely, whether it is conceptualized as a national concept or a global concept.  Using the analytical framework which I have developed to consider how the idea of poverty went global in the 1970s, I examine the historical trajectory of the concept of sustainable development. The paper argues that sustainable development was originally conceptualized as a global concept but over time, it has been reconceptualised as a national challenge which should be pursued in all countries. The latter perspective now dominates policy thinking. An epistemic shift from thinking sustainable development as a national concept to thinking it as a global concept is an essential element of a transition to a sustainable world. Such a re-thinking sustainable development as a global concept does not have to start from scratch but can be done by recovering the original global conceptualization of sustainable development and re-invigorating it with the new understandings of global physical, economic and social processes which we now have.

Reflections on indigeneity, resilience and contemporary colonialism, presenter Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen

Rapid and unpredictable global changes have engendered a political ethos of resilience. In the midst of calls for preparedness, international politics has re-discovered the (allegedly) innate qualities of indigenous peoples that enable them to adapt to and accommodate change. The peoples’ exemplary resilience has been deemed empowering, not only for themselves, but for the planet as a whole.

My presentation engages in a critical discussion on indigeneity, colonialism and resilience and is based on the joint research with researcher Marjo Lindroth, University of Lapland (Lindroth and Sinevaara-Niskanen, 2016; 2018; forthcoming). As we argue, the seemingly well-meaning and benign political celebration of resilient indigeneity continues marginalization and othering, practices that are often considered to belong to the colonial past. With reference to contemporary political initiatives of the United Nations and the Arctic Council, we illustrate the ways in which the political focus on and desire for indigenous resilience continue the age-old expectation that indigenous peoples will adapt, endure and persevere. Resilience enables colonial practices to persist; it is yet another façade allowing those in power to continue to order time and to ignore the relevance of the past and current injuries indigenous peoples have endured.