Beyond fossil extractivism?
A comparison of two Northern forest-based bioeconomies and their contested potential for degrowing pressure on forests
Climate change and the loss of biodiversity restrict the scarce, sustainably usable biomass resulting in conflicts over the distribution of land and biomass. The high demand for bio-based raw materials will continue to increase in the future. However, ecosystems won’t be able to provide enough biomass for existing demands or for substituting fossil materials. For forest-based bioeconomies, this means increasing pressure on forest utilization not only to produce wood and pulp products, but also biomass for energy production, e.g. wood pellets. Criticism regarding forest-based bioeconomies often addresses the production of biomass for energetic use or single-use products. A main controversy arises around the strategy of cutting forests in view of the short time left to stop climate change.
We compare two Northern forest-based bioeconomies to examine how these two exemplary regions position themselves in the ongoing tension between increasing demand for green energy, climate policy goals, biodiversity loss, and the needs of local populations. We compare the region of Central Finland, Europe, and the province of Alberta, Canada. Both areas are relevant players in global forest utilization. The forest-based bioeconomy in the two regions differs regarding political-economic constellations, guiding principles, the use of technology, and civil society perceptions. For our comparison, we ask: How sustainable are Alberta's and Central Finland's forest-based bioeconomies? How can forest utilization be operated effectively in terms of an ambitious climate policy, as the degrowth movement demands? How can a non-extractivist bioeconomy look like? And which factors stand in a way of a socio-ecological, post-fossil forest utilization?