Episode 12: What Is Sustainability? An Anthropologist's Guide to Culture and the Environment

Sustainability is a key goal in much contemporary social and political decision-making, from EU climate policy to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But the term has many different meanings and uses. In this episode of the EuroStorie Podcast, legal anthropologist and sustainability specialist Professor Reetta Toivanen shares her insights on the concept of cultural sustainability, how it intersects with environmental protection and human rights, and how anthropologists approach the study of Europe.

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An accessible transcript of the entire interview can be found here.


Reetta Toivanen

Professor Reetta Toivanen is Vice-Director of EuroStorie Sub-Project 3, ‘Migration and the Narratives of Europe as an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.’ She is also Professor of Sustainability Science (Indigenous Sustainabilities) at the Helsinki University Institute of Sustainability Science. Professor Toivanen is a scholar of anthropology and law involved in research projects addressing power and inequality, culture and identity and Arctic studies.

Emilia Mataix-Ferrándiz

Dr Emilia Mataix-Ferrándiz is the host of the EuroStorie Podcast. She is a postdoctoral researcher in subproject 1, Law and the Uses of the Past. She is a legal historian and classical archaeologist whose research focuses on management of cultural heritage and its political and social impact, maritime archaeology, ancient law and legal anthropology.

Zoë Jay

Dr Zoë Jay is the host of the EuroStorie Podcast. She is a post-doctoral researcher at EuroStorie in subproject 1, Law and the Uses of the Past. She has a background in international relations and political science, and her research focuses on European politics and culture, human rights, and the politics of international law and institutions.

References in the episode

Parker Krieg and Reetta Toivanen (eds), Situating Sustainability: A Handbook of Contexts and Concepts, Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 2020.
Reetta Toivanen, ‘European Fantasy of the Arctic Region and the Rise of Indigenous Sámi Voices in the Global Arena’, in Sellheim, Zaika and Kelman (eds), Arctic Triumph: Northern Innovation and Persistence, Springer, 2019.
Reetta Toivanen and Nora Fabritius, ‘Arctic Youth Transcending Notions of “Culture” and “Nature”: Emancipative Discourses of Place for Cultural Sustainability’, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 43, 2020, pp.58-64.
Adam Grant, ‘’There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing’, New York Times, 19 April 2021. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-langui…
Miika Nousiainen, Pintaremontti, Otava, 2020.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Europa, Europa!, Suhrkamp, 1988.


Episode no: 12 (series 2, episode 6)
Date recorded: 30 September 2021
Release date: 2 November 2021
Episode production, recording and editing: Emilia Mataix-Ferrándiz and Zoë Jay
Music: Antonio Lopez Garcia
Transcript: Karla Schröter
Web content: Maria Erma
Banner: Tuomas Heikkilä
Banner photo: Unsplash/Jakob Braun