Below you will find all the session descriptions. When you find one that suits your paper, send your abstract directly to the session chair via the email provided in each session description.
Any questions regarding the sessions, please direct them directly to the chairs.
1. Maintaining and challenging the position of animal- and plant-based foods in food systems
Chairs: Mari Niva, Department of Economics and Management, University of Helsinki (email@example.com) – Silvia Gaiani, Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki – Taru Lindblom, Department of Education, University of Helsinki
Changes in food systems are critical in solving problems related to climate change, loss of biodiversity, and deterioration of ecosystems. A transition towards plant-based diets – shifting away and reducing the use of animal-based products – has been suggested as one of the key elements of reducing the harmful ecological effects of food systems. Until recently the discussion on sustainable diets has largely focused on the reduction of meat consumption, but it is evident that changes are needed in other animal-based foods as well.
The animal-based food regime has been supported by, for example, agricultural and nutrition policies, media discourses, and social practices of production and consumption reinforcing the position of animal products as a normalized and normative part of everyday eating. So far there is no evidence of large-scale systemic change towards less animal-based food systems, although recently in Western countries the development of plant-based and other novel alternatives to meat and milk products has increasingly aroused interest among various actors in the food system.
This session focuses on the ways in which the position of animal- and plant-based foods is currently reproduced and challenged by public policies, media, marketing communications, and everyday food-related practices. It also looks at how the tensions between producing and consuming animal-based and alternative products are both strengthened and resolved in various discourses and practices as well as by different actors in the food system.
We invite papers analysing the production, marketing, and consumption of animal-based and alternative products in Finland and elsewhere, and look forward to building the session around a variety of social scientific perspectives, theoretical approaches and methodologies. Both theoretical/conceptual and empirical papers at different stages of development are welcome.
2. Technology is the answer, but what was the question? Critical approaches to the green promises of digitalization
Chairs: Eeva Berglund, Aalto University (firstname.lastname@example.org) – Minna Santaoja, University of Eastern Finland
In the Nordics and beyond, the imperative to digitalize appears to have become taken for granted. Yet, research shows that both the production of digital technology and its use are detrimental to the environment. The discourses of digital technology – words like immaterial, easy, cloud, open and clean(tech) – point towards virtues that are easy for the public to support, but they hide a vast realm of extractivist and other forms of violence. They also help create potentially devastating socio-technical lock-ins. Developing digital technology may provide tools for tackling ecological crises, but the energy and resource use of the ICT-sector is far from sustainable.
Meanwhile, digital services and the hardware required continue to flood everyday life. They bring about troubles as well as benefits. This has inspired humor and comment but, at least so far, little systematic resistance. Hardwired into ubiquitous infrastructures, digitalization has ubiquitous and deep socio-ecological impacts. This creates ethical and financial tensions at many levels, particularly as its normalization makes other ways of doing important everyday things (e.g., accessing financial or health services) more expensive and, for some, more difficult. In parallel with these processes, the datafication of everyday life and policymaking is altering how collective life is understood and arranged. Datafication in this context points to the sourcing, managing, and monetizing of data often inadvertently given away by users and captured for actual and potential corporate gain.
This panel critically engages the digital environment and digitalization trends and policies from the perspectives of environmental social sciences. We seek ways of narrating and conceptualizing a layer of the environment that is often hard to see and to understand. What drives digitalization? Who/what is left out? Where is resistance? Also, how to concretize the intangible? What is/could be green digitalization?
3. Sustainability in Tourism – Meaning of Nature for Individuals, Businesses, and the Whole Society
Chairs: Henna Konu, University of Eastern Finland, Tourism Business research group (email@example.com) – Katja Pasanen, University of Eastern Finland, Tourism Business research group – Jarno Suni, University of Eastern Finland, Tourism Business research group – Muhammad Khogali, University of Eastern Finland, Tourism Business research group – Kelsey Johansen, University of Eastern Finland, Tourism Business research group
Natural environments and ecological assets, such as coastal, river, and woodland habitats, as well as protected areas, are widely acknowledged for their numerous positive contributions to the well-being of individuals and societies. These benefits encompass various opportunities for leisure, recreation, and wildlife observation, and also foster enhanced physical health through activities in green and blue spaces. Additionally, they offer visual beauty, improved mental and psychological well-being, artistic stimulation, and educational insights into ecology.
This session emphasizes sustainability in tourism development. The discussions will focus on diverse and innovative approaches that look at the phenomenon from a bio society perspective and explore e.g., diverse modes of tourism (such as ecotourism, community-based tourism, and regenerative tourism), that can promote conservation, empower local communities, and foster meaningful cultural exchange.
This session seeks proposals focused on the amenity values associated with nature, with a particular emphasis on recreation, well-being, and tourism. We encourage researchers to submit abstracts exploring the significance of amenity values of nature for individuals, businesses, communities, and the whole society.
The abstracts may include studies examining, for instance, the influence of outdoor recreation and tourism on mental and physical health, the role of amenity values of nature in nature-based services, the economic advantages of nature-based tourism and recreational activities, and the social benefits of promoting a sustainable society through responsible utilization of natural resources.
4. Deep leverage points and layers to understand and generate sustainability transformations: examining root causes of unsustainable systems
Chairs: Annika Lonkila, Finnish Environment Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org) – Suvi Huttunen, Finnish Environment Institute
In the era of exacerbating polycrises such as climate change and biodiversity loss and the need for deep transformation of our societies, environmental social scientists must take accountability and turn our attention to the root causes of the unsustainable systems of production and consumption. In sustainability transitions and transformations research the focus is often on shallow explanations, which focus on mechanistic characteristics of the system, such as optimizing parameters, or technological, political or social factors causing unsustainability (Dorninger et al. 2020). The need to move towards understanding deeper layers in the functioning of societies has been recognised as necessary to enable sustainability transformations and to timely respond to the crises our planet is facing (Abson et al. 2017).
In search for deeper explanations we rely on the works of Donella Meadows and Sohail Inayatullah, who independently developed the leverage point concept and causal layered analysis. Both provide means for identifying deep levers, which concern the goals and values of a system, and the paradigm that defines the mindset out of which the system arises. Realizing systemic transformation by adjusting individual parameters is difficult, if change is not triggered on these more fundamental levels of the system. For example, sustainability interventions focusing on efficiency improvements can fail to generate systemic change without attention to de-coupling resource use from economic activity or challenging the paradigm of endless growth (Dorninger et al. 2020).
We call for papers that increase our understanding of root causes: how can deep levers be triggered to generate sustainability transformations? What does this mean in terms of legitimacy of transformations? How are deep levers connected across different systems? We welcome theoretical, conceptual, empirical or methodological papers that examine deep levers and the root causes of unsustainability across different systems and thematic areas.
Meadows, D. 1999. Leverage points. Places to intervene in a system. Sustainability Institute. DOI: 10.1080/02604020600912897.
Abson D.J, Fischer J., Leventon J. et al. 2017. Leverage points for sustainability transformation. Ambio, 46, pp. 30-39. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-016-0800-y.
Dorninger C., Abson D., Apetrei C.I. et al. 2020. Leverage points for sustainability transformation: a review on interventions in food and energy systems. Ecological Economics, 171. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106570.
Inayatullah, S. 1998. Causal layered analysis. Poststructuralism as method. Futures, 30(8), 815–829. DOI: 10.1016/S0016-3287(98)00086-X
5. Technological optimism and its critique in environmental social sciences
Chairs: Toni Ruuska, University of Helsinki (email@example.com) – Andreas Roos, Lund University
Dominant narratives of green growth and sustainable development rest upon an uncritical perception of technology. The positive role of science and technology is often taken for granted for desired social and ecological change in the environmental social sciences as well. As exemplified by the endorsement of a range of “green” technologies, technological optimism is now also seeping into even previously critical schools of thought, like degrowth and political ecology.
As a reaction to this, we seek to explore how various modern techno-scientific positions originate from and perpetuate the capitalist growth economy, and the ethos of progress, and facilitate the increasing exploitation of people and nature as a whole. Further, we question the incipient optimism toward new technologies and scientific discoveries and invite explorations of alternative conceptions of technology for the environmental social sciences.
We welcome philosophical, theoretical, and empirical contributions from researchers, educators, practitioners, activists, and all those willing to critically engage with the questions of technology in relation to the polycrisis.
6. “All old is new again” – The alternative organisations as a phenomenon
Chairs: Minna Käyrä, University of Jyväskylä (firstname.lastname@example.org) – Maija Lähteenkorva, University of Jyväskylä
Alternative organisations are resurfacing as a response to the poly-crisis. Alternative organisation scholarship was born already in the 1970s and its path has been cyclical, resurfacing in times of crisis. These organisations refer to a diverse set of entities, typically outside the mainstream corporate or governmental structures. Characteristic for these arrangements is to operate with alternative principles, values, and practices that diverge from conventional models. They often prioritise environmental values, social justice, community engagement, and democratic decision-making processes. These organisations can take various forms, including non-profit organisations, cooperatives, social enterprises, grassroots movements, community-based organisations, and activist groups. There is no clear consensus on the definition of alternative organisations, neither are previously mentioned organisation forms synonymous to each other. Scholars tend to debate the criteria of what is recognised as an alternative organisation.
In the first wave of alternative organisation scholarship, we saw research on worker cooperatives, food conspiracies, and other organisational collectives. Today we are seeing a second wave of interest in alternative organisations with new fields of scholarship. For instance, an emerging scholarship on degrowth and post-growth organisation assuming new understanding of economic activity, particularly in organisation and management studies. We recognise that the conventional responses to the multiple environmental and social crises are insufficient; therefore, we need alternative ways of organizing our production and consumption.
We strive to provide a more comprehensive picture of the phenomenon. Contributions could include a reflexive intervention, but are not limited to:
- How are alternative organisations understood in the era of poly-crisis (in Finland)?
- How do you understand alternative organisations in your research discipline/practices?
Cruz, L. B., Alves, M. A., & Delbridge, R. (2017). Next steps in organizing alternatives to capitalism: Toward a relational research agenda. Management, 20(4), 322-335.
Khmara, Y., & Kronenberg, J. (2018). Degrowth in business: An oxymoron or a viable business model for sustainability? Journal of Cleaner Production, 177, 721-731.
Mair, J., & Rathert, N. (2021). Alternative organizing with social purpose: Revisiting institutional analysis of market-based activity. Socio-Economic Review, 19(2), 817-836.
Reedy, P., & Learmonth, M. (2009). Other possibilities? The contribution to management education of alternative organizations. Management Learning, 40(3), 241-258.
Spicer, J., & Kay, T. (2022). Another organization is possible: New directions in research on alternative enterprise. Sociology Compass, 16(3)
Vandeventer, J. S., & Lloveras, J. (2021). Organizing degrowth: The ontological politics of enacting degrowth in OMS. Organization, 28(3), 358-379.
7. Conflicts and contestation in the Green Transition – where are the tensions and what should be done?
While the green transition is widely understood as a prerequisite to a more sustainable future, it, nevertheless, evokes various types of conflicts and contestation. Tensions and contestation emerge on different ‘fronts’, affecting sectors of the economy, social groups, local and regional realities and livelihoods very differently. The accelerating transition does not proceed without local environmental and land use impacts, imposing changes on communities, e.g. with renewable energy projects.
The transition brings about tensions related to inclusion, recognition and fairness (Ciplet & Harrison 2020). The pace of the transition puts pressure on decision making and democratic participation, risking the recognition of alternative value systems. Different dimensions of environmental justice are at play. From the indigenous communities’ perspective, the green transition in the form of, e.g. wind energy projects, power transmission lines and battery mineral extraction may constitute infringements on indigenous rights, raising criticism of a new form of ‘green’ colonialism (Fjellheim 2023)
Arising conflicts and contestations can be seen as indicators of the transformative potential and dynamics of the transition: they reveal what kinds of stakes, social tensions and power relations are at play in given transition processes (Proka et al. 2018). At the same time, the characteristics of the transition itself becomes contested; are the projects pinned to the transition really green or merely greenwashing? Is it a just transition or are communities expected to just transition to a new industrial reality?
The working group “Conflicts and contestation in the Green Transition” explores different fronts and facets of conflicts related to the transition. We welcome theoretical, empirical and practice-oriented contributions related to environmental conflicts, controversies and contestation in the green transition. Where are the frontlines and hotspots of conflict and contestation? What do they reveal about the green transition? What kinds of policies and governance tools are needed to settlle tensions and finding creative solutions?
Ciplet, D., & Harrison, J. L. (2020). Transition tensions: mapping conflicts in movements for a just and sustainable transition. Environmental Politics, 29(3), 435–456. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2019.1595883
Fjellheim, E.M. “You Can Kill Us with Dialogue:” Critical Perspectives on Wind Energy Development in a Nordic-Saami Green Colonial Context. Hum Rights Rev 24, 25–51 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12142-023-00678-4
Proka, A., Hisschemöller, M., & Loorbach, D. (2018). Transition without conflict? Renewable energy initiatives in the dutch energy transition. Sustainability (Basel, Switzerland), 10(6), 1721–. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061721
8. Experience and Meaning in/of Environments
Chairs: Pasi Heikkurinen, University of Helsinki (email@example.com) – Tuulikki Halla, University of Eastern Finland
Owing to their focus on ’experience’ (kokemus) and ’meaning’ (merkitys), the traditions of phenomenology and semiotics are central in the study of environments from a social science perspective. These traditions, however, are often in the background and seldom explicated in research designs. The purpose of this session is to explore the conceptual foundations of experience and meaning in relation to environmental social sciences, as well as to understand their practical relevance in developing responses to the polycrisis. Central questions for our session include: What does it mean to experience environment(s)? How it/they can be experienced? How these experiences can be identified, described and analyzed in research? What kind of normative arguments and recommendations can be made from studying experience and meaning? What meanings people associate with / attach to their environments? How these meanings can be studied? What kind of contributions or challenges these approaches may raise? Are experiences and meanings purely human or could they be examined via non-anthropocentric approaches as well? What is the role of cultures, institutions, technologies and histories in the processes of meaning making and meaning giving? What is the role of experiences and meanings in polycrisis and followingly, in reconstructing human-environment relationships towards sustainable change? We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions to the session.
9. Engaging with care and broken world thinking in polycrisis
Chair: Taru Peltola, University of Eastern Finland and Finnish Environment Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Polycrisis exposes the fragility of the natural, social and technological worlds we inhabit. Despite this, current sustainability scholarship tends to focus more on innovation, development and technological transition as key themes and problems in the society rather than breakdown and decomposition, as has been argued by science and technology studies scholar Stephen J. Jackson (2014). When things or ecosystems become dysfunctional, a liminal space of restoring, mending, revitalizing, cleaning and maintaining is exposed. Sustainability as care of ecosystems, goods, buildings and infrastructures resists decay, sustains life and rebuilds connections in a creative way, for example, by using whatever materials are available or by experimenting with physical environments. Such acts can also be socially generative, nurturing and healing affected communities. Inspired by Jackson’s notion of broken world thinking, but also more broadly the post-humanist discussion on environmental and material care, this working group explores what a shift from deconstruction to reconstruction might entail for environmental social science research. Both theoretical and empirical works exposing the significance of repair, revitalisation and maintenance are welcome. Contributions can address for example the following questions: Where do we find restorative sites of care? How do stories about the world in a constant process of rehabilitation bridge the past and future in the age of polycrisis? What does living in the aftermath mean for communities facing changing or damaged ecosystems? How do accounts of the afterlives of materials, goods or buildings call into question the dominant stories about growth and productivism in green transition? What kind of responsibilities and ethics or tensions, contradictions and priorities emerge in everyday acts of tinkering or collective attempts to restore eco-social relations? What kind methodologies lay open people’s engagements in repairing the broken worlds?
Jackson, S.J (2014). Rethinking repair. In: Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (Eds Tarleton et al.) MIT Press.
10. Policies and practices for sufficiency
Chairs: Tina Nyfors, University of Helsinki (email@example.com) – Senja Laakso, Tampere University – Kristoffer Wilén, University of Helsinki
Sufficiency is increasingly being brought up as a necessary strategy complementing efficiency efforts to reduce human pressure on the environment. Sufficiency is closely connected to ideas of environmental limits, what is ‘enough’, needs versus ‘wants’, and what is a ‘good life’. Sufficiency has been defined as ‘a set of measures and daily practices that avoid demand for energy, materials, land, and water while delivering human wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries’ (IPCC 2022).
As living well within limits is the core challenge of our time, sufficiency should be promoted across societal scales. Both public policies (Nyfors et al. 2020) and novel business practices (Beyeler and Jaeger-Erben 2022) are crucial for the implementation of sufficiency. In addition, everyday practices and consumption patterns need to change, and the changes need to take place in an acceptable manner (Sahakian et al. 2023).
We welcome presentations related to implementing policies and practices for sufficiency on a broad scale in affluent societies. Contributions could include, but are not limited to: How to translate sufficiency ideas into concrete policies and practices? What type of sufficiency policies or practices are there, already implemented or suggested? How can these be strengthened and enabled? Which are the barriers and drivers?
Beyeler, L. & Jaeger-Elben, M. 2022. How to make more of less: Characteristics of sufficiency in business practices. Frontiers in Sustainability, Sustainable Consumption, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/frsus.2022.949710
IPCC (2022) Climate Change 2022. Mitigation of climate change. Summary for Policymakers. Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/
Nyfors, T., Linnanen, L., Nissinen, A., Seppälä, J., Saarinen, M., Regina, K., Heinonen, T., Viri, R., Liimatainen, H. (2020) Ecological Sufficiency in Climate Policy: Towards Policies for Recomposing Consumption. Futura 3/2020. https://helda.helsinki.fi//bitstream/handle/10138/323631/Nyfors_et_al_Ecological_Sufficiency_in_Climate_Policy_version_accepted_author_manuscript.pdf?sequence=1 Sahakian, M. et al. 2023. How social practices inform the future as method: Describing personas in an energy transition while engaging with teleoaffectivities. Futures, 148, 103133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2023.103133
11. Decolonialization and moving towards environmental collaboration
Chairs: Irmeli Mustalahti, University of Eastern Finland (Irmeli.firstname.lastname@example.org) – Patience Mususa, The Nordic Africa Institute
Various types of intervention rely on a logic of requiring citizens to be responsible and build their capacity to manage, protect or govern e.g. nature, the environment and natural resources. In this panel, we aim critically discuss how we understand capacity building and how it is connected to concepts such as colonialization and decolonialization and environmental collaboration. The capacity-building and responsibilization process similarly considers the agency of subjects within the liberal concept of the individual (rational choice and economically motivated self). In the global era of polycrises, we should be alarmed by the fact that capacity building might not automatically lead to democratic societies and decolonialization. And we should better understand and discuss agency understood as the capability and capability of commons, not only the capacity, and the power to generate actions exercized in a social context and shaped by the resources and opportunities available to people (see Cleaver, 2007).
Scholars working with collaborative, environmental governance highlight that an individual has only a part of the needed information, resources, or materials. Therefore, the resources combined to accomplish the shared goal can be considered positive resource interdependence: In our panel, we would like to further discuss what type of environmental collaboration and initiatives could support shared roles and responsibilities as well as positive interdependence. In our panel, we would like to welcome papers which discuss how agency, collaboration and interdependence could make the partnership around environmental collaboration?