Day 5: Transition from a fossil fuel to a green economy: New economic opportunities for rural areas based on bio resources and beyond. Bio products, bio services and land-use conflicts.

By Edoardo Desiderio and Louise Ormstrup Vestergård

Photo by Carlos Soto and Hanna Stephani

21st of June marks the beginning of Midsummer celebrations in all the Nordic countries. Finland usually celebrate this day with bonfires across the country. As usually the day started with breakfast in the main hall at the University, but contrary to the other mornings we had the university to ourselves as everybody else was on holiday. We have been told that for this peculiar holiday, most Finnish people spend the weekend in their cabins on the seaside, enjoying the celebrations that last a couple of days.

The main topic of the day was circular economy and how different rural areas through policy tools can shift from a linear growth model to a more sustainable and circular one.

Coordinator of the all day was Karen Refsgaard, research and deputy director at Nordregio. She works as an institutional economist with expertise in rural development and policy, natural resource, circular economy and innovation. Karen introduced the Nordregio Institution from 8.00 to 8.30, showing to the ICRPS team Nordregio’s 2018 report “State of the Nordic Regions”. We learned about the research conducted at Nordregio, and especially how Nordregio has an expertise in creating maps by the use of GIS technology. A brief overview was given over reports published by Nordregio. The bioresources on which the Nordic green economy can be based on are dispersed and diverse, and mainly in rural and coastal areas.

Karen’s introduction was then followed by two 20-minutes-lectures. The first about Food Waste from Professor Matteo Vittuari, University of Bologna, and the second by Professor Thierno Thiam, University of Tuskegee, addressing the political challenges to the transition away from fossil. The first lecture taught us about the different strategies to tackle and contain food waste and losses, two different issues that regard the food supply chain. Matteo’s lecture was then followed by a brief work group, where we were divided in couples, with the aim of identifying typologies of policy interventions: market-based approaches, regulations and suasive approaches.

In conclusion it turned out as the main lesson of the day, that to shift from a traditional petroleum-based economy to a green one, the role of institutions is fundamental in order to make the transition happen. The transition takes place starting from green growth to green transition. The role of institution should be the one of mediating. A second group work followed were we had to create a product/service with a circular approach. Our group came up with the idea of a pen, made of pressed wood dust and reindeer blood as ink, that could be a symbol of Lapland attempt to use by-products from traditional manufacturing processes.

The topic then shifted to land use management in rural communities. Professor Gabino Naval Bernal from the University of Mexico gave us a lecture about land use and policies in Mexico, and how much private companies are sometimes influencing local areas for personal benefits. In a comparative framework, the Mexican scenario was then compared to the Finnish one through a lecture from Professor Eeva Aarrevaara, from the Finnish University of Lahti. One output is the importance to be aware of how rurality is presented in e.g. the new Finnish government programme. This government programme focuses mostly on agriculture which show a quite narrow perception of rural areas. The last lecture of the day was given by faculty member Mikaël Akimowicz on sustainable rural-urban fringes addressing both the challenges as well as the opportunities that exist and arise in the areas where urban and rural areas meet.  

After the many inspiring lectures, the day ended with Midsummer celebrations that among others included bonfire by the river and singing and dancing in the Midnight Sun.