Day 1:Lapland? Are we going up there?

By Carlos Soto and Hanna Stepani

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The International Comparative Rural Policy Studies (ICRPS) Summer Institute 2019 started on June, 16th in Lapin Yliopisto (University of Lapland).

Bringing up the theme “Enhancing Smart Ecosystem in Rural Areas”. This 16th edition of the Summer Institute is focused on food policies, food security, renewable energy, built environments and governance models in remote rural regions.

With more than 15 nationalities in the same classroom coming from both developed and developing countries the event welcomed by Timo Aarrevaara and followed by the introduction of the faculty members promised to be both academically enriching and entertaining from the very beginning.

Four (4) big themes were brought to the table followed by student’s introduction, when we expressed our interest on one of the main topics proposed to work on during the next two weeks. 25 Students, 15 faculty members, 2 main organizers, several sponsors and the willing to exchange knowledge were together in this event.

After the introduction of the organizing team, the guest lecturers and the participants, Ray Bollman introduced a definition of rurality through two indicators: Density (D) and Distance to Density (D2D) where we had a picture from a quantitative approach on how to understand and maybe classify rural land, seen as cells of an axis.

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That session was a good starting point to raise questions about the qualitative definition of what is rural.

Following the questions and answer session, we made groups to discuss and explore what is the meaning of “rural” when it comes to our professional backgrounds and home countries. It might sound like a trivial task, but in fact it was interesting to see, while trying to define such apparent basic term, that it was not that trivial after all.

Different meanings were presented, with some points in common and some differences across the dimensions that surround the concept; from the traditional association that attach it to agricultural activities, passing by socio-economic and ecological perspectives that deal with margination of population and the value of landscape, respectively, until other relations made between rural and an under-developed level or not developed infrastructures and services. But a general overview of the outcome was given by Ryan Gibson.

It was 4pm and the sun shone after a quick rainy afternoon, we started walking from the university to the City Centre to get to know Rovaniemi City. We were introduced different places around and from a community barbeque place near the lake, passing by the bridge to the Arctic Garen and Artikum Science Centre Museum, all surrounded by a pleasant landscape that led us to our next station: The Welcoming dinner in the 21 cafe & bar in the city Centre!

Most of us tried reindeer for the very first time and enjoyed the Rovaniemi exoticism in some bites that turned to be the perfect closing for the 1st day of ICRPS 2019!

More photos of Day 1 below: