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Political Polarizations of Sustainability

What role would you think sustainability policies play in accentuating political division in your country? How has the question of peat energy become a polarizing issue in Finland and how does it relate to sustainability? What is the Finnish approach to bioeconomy and how sustainable is it? 

We’re witnessing an increased geographical division of politics in many countries in Europe and North America, between the so-called liberal, metropolitan centres on the one hand, and increasingly marginalized rural peripheries, on the other. We can see this  division in the US elections, between and within states, but also with the recent success of various populist movements across Europe (Dimock & Wike 2020).  

An important part of the dividing line in these polarizarions has to do with sustainability policies largely supported by the liberal populations of the urban centres and largely resisted by many people in more rural areas. For example, the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement in France started initially as a reaction against rising taxes on petrol and diesel. In the Finnish context, it is well known that the Green party gets its best scores in the largest cities and its worst scores in sparsely populated rural areas (Statistics Finland 2019). Perhaps as a mirror effect, the populist party Perussuomalaiset (True Finns) has come to define itself as vihreiden vastinpari, meaning the antithesis of the Greens (see Rämö 2019).  

To get a better understanding of how sustainability is linked to political polarization, with particular illustrations from Finland, listen to Martin Fougère, an Associate Professor in Management and Politics at Hanken, Hanna Lempinen, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Forest Sciences at the University of Helsinki, and Heikki Sirviö, postdoctoral researcher in geography with at the University of Helsinki.  


Martin Fougère’s introduction to topic 

Dimock, M. & Wike, R, 13.11.2020. America is exceptional in the nature of its political divide. Pew Research Center Fact Tank: 

Rämö, A, 20.12.2019. Strategia: Perussuomalaisten rakettimainen nousu ei johdu vain muiden puolueiden epäonnistumisesta ja maahanmuutto- tai ilmastokeskustelusta. Suomen kuvalehti.

Statistics Finland, 2019.  

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