New Publication: Jana Holz (2023): “Threatened sustainability: extractivist tendencies in the forest-based bioeconomy in Finland.“ in Sustainability Science


Bioeconomy is portrayed by the EU and several national governments as a central element contributing to sustainability strategies and a post-fossil transformation. This paper critically engages with extractivist patterns and tendencies in the forest sector as one of the main bio-based sectors. It argues that despite the official endorsement of circularity and renewability in the forest-based bioeconomy, current developments of modern bioeconomy might threaten sustainability prospects. The Finnish forest-based bioeconomy and one of its well-known showcase projects, the bioproduct mill (BPM) in the municipality of Äänekoski, serve as a case study in this paper. The forest-based bioeconomy in Finland is scrutinized as a potential continuation or consolidation of extractivist patterns, rather than an alternative to these tendencies. The lens of extractivism is applied to identify possible extractivist and unsustainable characteristics of the case study which are discussed along the following dimensions: (A) degree of export orientation and processing, (B) the scale, scope, and speed of extraction, (C) socio-economic and environmental impacts, and (D) subjective relations to nature. The extractivist lens provides analytical value to scrutinizing practices, principles, and dynamics of the contested political field and vision of bioeconomy in the Finnish forest sector. The analysis results in a discussion of latent and manifest social, political, and ecological contradictions within the forest-based bioeconomy in Finland. Based on its analytical lens and the empirical case of the BPM in Äänekoski, it can be concluded that extractivist patterns and tendencies are perpetuated within the Finnish forest-based bioeconomy.

Open Access