How has the goal of biodiversity conservation been included in the political decision making in Finland?
Henry Laine is studying in the Master’s Programme in Political Science at the Swedish School of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki, and he wanted to investigate this question.
“I think this issue has been overlooked both in the political decision making and in the political sciences research,” Henry Laine says.
Biodiversity conservation is nominally included in the political decision making, but understanding it in a deeper level is still in its infancy.
“How do we solve, for example, the conflict between biodiversity conservation and other interests, such as financial goals.”
Also, people are not always aware of the differences between the different kinds of nature-related goals.
“People do not realize that nature-related goals might collide with each other. From a biodiversity perspective, a carbon absorbing forest might not be in accordance with the biodiversity goals.”
Scholarship enabled a quick completion of the master’s thesis
Henry Laine wrote his master's thesis on political science as part of HELSUS Co-Creation Lab of the University of Helsinki. The Lab brings together master's degree students from different disciplines to find solutions to sustainability challenges. The theme for this year was biodiversity. Public sector and business partners also participate in the lab and share their expertise with the students.
Laine wrote his thesis in the work group of the Ministry of the Environment, which focused on the connection between the public administration and the loss of biodiversity. Other students in the group were, for example, students of forestry and life sciences, legal science, and from the business school.
“Co-Creation Lab helped me to see my thesis in a larger context.” It is healthy to view the topic from the perspectives of different disciplines, other than your own field of study.
During the thesis writing process, Laine focused on the water resources management and drainage operations in agriculture and forestry.
“When it comes to biodiversity, agriculture and forestry is the most important sector in Finland.”
In his studies, Laine had already earlier focused on the environmental politics. He wrote his bachelor’s thesis on greenhouse gas emissions. Since his childhood, nature has always had an important role in Laine’s life.
“For all my life I have spent time in the nature, I have hiked and fished. As a child, we would go to the cabin with my friend, take along some sandwiches and go out in the forest for all day and come back in the evening.
Laine found the topic of his thesis interesting also because there are farmers and loggers in his family whose work Laine has seen from close.
In HELSUS Co-Creation Lab, the master’s theses are done in a schedule of nine months. Henry Laine got a scholarship of 2000 euros from Friends of Environment Fund. Having the scholarship was very important for the completion of his thesis.
“It enabled me to write my thesis full time and keep to the schedule. I am very grateful for that.”
The concept of “biodiversity” should be better defined
Henry Laine submitted his thesis in October. One of the results of his thesis was that the concept of biodiversity in political context is difficult to define.
“Biodiversity is a concept that is difficult to apply in practice,” Laine says.
It is common that the biodiversity goals included in strategies and decision making are left unexplained, and so are the concrete means and goals which we are trying to achieve.
“Often the agriculture and forestry project leaders do not have the means of measuring the biodiversity.”
Administrative structures and monitoring are also needed to support the biodiversity conservation, Laine says. In addition, the measures should be based on scientific research.
“People often assume that certain measures must be good for the biodiversity, even if there is no scientific research.
Laine hopes that his master’s thesis will create further discussion in general on how different goals, such as promoting equality, can be included in the political decision making. After Laine graduates, he wishes to continue researching the topic.
“It would be extremely interesting to get to work, for example, as a specialist in water resource management.”