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“We need to understand our dependence on sustainable ecosystems”

An Interview with Eeva Primmer, Research Director, Finnish Environmental Institute (SYKE)

Forests are among our planet’s most important human life-supporting ecosystems, and we have many expectations with regards to the ecosystem services they provide. But: How do major global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss affect forests globally, and what can forest governance and management do? How can we deal with rising and changing demands for forest products and ecosystem services due to global population and economic growth, and urbanization?   

In order to discuss these questions, the conference “Governing and managing forests for multiple ecosystem services” brought together policymakers, practitioners and academic researchers from different fields on 26-28 February in Bonn. During this event, EFI in collaboration with the documentary filmmaker Patrick Augenstein, interviewed Eeva Primmer, Research Director, Finnish Environmental Institute (SYKE).

Growing up on a small farm in Southern Finland and later working in Zambia for many years, Eeva and other inhabitants lived with nature. Learning to adapt to extreme weather events and other changes Eeva says has been a very formative experience for her.

Now as an environmental policy researcher, Eeva brought to the conference insights of what political science can contribute  to discussions of the sustainable delivery of multiple ecosystem services.

“What this discipline has to offer is structuring the problems, noticing who says what, and noticing trends in the ecosystem. Who benefits from changes in the ecosystem and also who loses and then how this changes if you change the mechanisms by which you govern a system”

Eeva Primmer

Eeva also addresses the large disciplinary divide between preservation and sustainable management. She gives an example of the conflict between the forestry, biodiversity, and climate mitigation sector, and explains that if we want to see an increase in sustainability we must bring the discourses together. This, in addition to arguments over how to utilize trees, is what she attributes to the lack of progress in restoration.

Eeva’s wish for the future of the planet follows along this path. She hopes that we will understand our dependence on sustainable ecosystems and recognize their sustainability is increased by collaboration among sectors. She recommends that we should reimagine forests as complex systems which can serve multiple functions, but not necessarily the same ones in each forest. “Forests are not a technical unit” she says; therefore, you cannot design a one-size fits all management policy. Instead she calls for the thoughtful design of management practices with the inclusion of local people, including the indigenous. 


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