Trash or food? A historical perspective on sustainability of fish as food  

Author: Matti Hannikainen

Fishing remains the most ancient method for gathering food that is still commercially important both locally and globally (Fagan 2018). Recent studies however suggest that by the 2030s, most commercial fisheries will be depleted beyond commercial use. Concerning sustainable food production, and the consumption of fish in particular, fisheries in Finland provides ­potential, which needs to be taken into account. In fact, recent discussions on food security and sustainability have highlighted the role of less valuable fish species. Yet the potential of less valuable species, such as roach (Rutilus rutilus), as a food reserve was recognised in the early 1950s as part of revising the scientific discourse on fish. Nonetheless, their history remains overlooked, which was the reason for analysing changes concerning the value and the consumption of various fish species in Finnish society during the 20th century.

An all-consuming society?

Recent research that has analysed the cultural value of fish in modernising Finnish society between the 1880s and 2010s, shows that the relationship between Finnish people and fish has changed drastically during the last century. The idea of inedible fish was alien in Finnish society in the late nineteenth century, because the evidence suggests that almost all fish, that were caught, were eaten in most cases salted or otherwise cured. Admittedly, some fish species have been valued for their taste and nutrient richness, whereas some have been disliked, because of their peculiar appearance or characteristic, above all, odour or taste. For instance, numerous cookbooks appreciate the taste of the fourhorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus quadricornis), especially in fish broth. Yet many Finns disapprove its peculiar looks. For example, according to an article published in 1925, most townspeople, ladies and servants in particular, ‘abhor this strange looking horned fish’, even though it was ‘a tasty fish cooked with ordinary spices.’ In fact, its large liver and roe were very valuable. The article ended underlining the importance of appearance ‘(t)he low status of the fourhorn sculpin is largely due to our ignorance about how to cook it’ (Suomen Kalastuslehti 1925, 48). As the society prospered and urbanised, Finns began to prefer certain species, such as Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), trout (Salmo trutta) and whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus), whose stocks were often supported by aquaculture. This contradicts the assumption that modernity has increased the diversity of the catch and the consumption of fish. In contrast, Finnish consumption and the catch became more selective as the demand for many previously consumed fish species dwindled.

Classifying species for profit

Scientific discourse that was initiated during the 1890s classified fish species according to their commercial value. The discourse aimed at modernising the prevailing subsistence fishing into a commercially viable industry for fishers in particular. Thus, the scientific discourse on fishing attempted to concentrate fishing and the consumption of fish on the most commercially valuable species only. The new three-tier classification of fish into commercially valuable, less valuable and worthless fish species was introduced and disseminated via the new textbooks on fish and fishing in the early 1900s. While in the late nineteenth century textbooks on Finnish fauna had indicated that almost every species of fish caught was edible, the following textbooks, manuals and journal articles divided species according to their commercial value classifying numerous species worthless. There were only a few species however that were ranked as trash fish throughout the twentieth century: three-spiked spicklenecks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), silver bream (Blicca bjoerkna) and blue bream (Ballerus ballerus). Their “worthlessness” was based on their small size and hence, the lack of commercial value, and on the fact that they were perceived to compete over food with or by eating the roe of the more valuable species. 

‘All begins from the plate’

Paradoxically, the concept trash fish surfaced in the culinary discourse when it disappeared from scientific discourse. In most historical studies fish has been taken for granted without considering changes in their cultural and commercial values not to mention changes in consumption (Räsänen 2021; Svanberg & Locker 2020; Greenberg 2010). The culinary discourse was thus crucial for analysing the consumption of and demand for fish in Finnish society. Most of the first Finnish cookbooks published in the 1890s were aimed at lower class women indicating a transition from oral tradition to written instructions in cooking. Reflecting the low-income level of their intended readers, most early cookbooks had more recipes for less valuable, cheaper fish species including roach than for expensive feast species, such as Atlantic salmon. In addition, most cookbooks provided recipes for salted fish that remained an important part of Finnish diet (Hannikainen 2022). Gradually, more recipes were published for fresh fish instead of cured fish reflecting the increasing demand for fresh fish.

The 1950s was the watershed in Finnish culinary history. Most importantly, Finns begun to prefer fresh fish in addition to which frozen imported fish and, later, farmed fish became preferred over salted fish marking one of the greatest changes in Finnish diet. Urbanising and modernising society moreover enjoyed the proliferation of electric kitchenware including stoves, refrigerators and freezers easing cooking. Sensory attributes for fish became more important in cookbooks that begun to emphasise taste, odour and structure of meat suggesting changes in valuing fish. The decline of the most commercially valuable species transformed the scientific discourse, because the only species that could withstand intensified fishing were those that had been classified less valuable and worthless i.e. trash fish. Accordingly, the prevailing three-tier classification (commercially valuable–less valuable–worthless) was changed into two-tier classification ranking all species to either commercially valuable or less valuable. The concept trash fish hence disappeared from the scientific discourse in the mid-1970s. Despite its strong, partly frightening rhetoric, exhorting the annihilation of worthless species, scientific discourse had had only minimal impact on the overall consumption of fish. 

Paradoxically, the concept trash fish surfaced in the culinary discourse, when it disappeared from scientific discourse. Cookbooks hence divided fish species into two categories as part of the culinary discourse: commercially valuable and worthless species. Admittedly, trash fish was used by common people prior to the advent of the scientific discourse. There were 14 inscriptions from the period between 1890 and 1920 alone in the digitized newspapers and magazines of the National Archives suggesting that the concept was employed in the opinion letters and in fishing stories. However, most of the cases were located on the areas, where there were Atlantic salmon, trout and white fish spawned in central and northern Finland implying strong regional variations in the use of the concept (Hannikainen 2022). In addition, many cookbooks preferred more imported fish species than native Finnish species. Above all, trash fish were often omitted completely from cookbooks in contrast with the revised classification of the scientific discourse. There were however a few cookbooks published in the 1970s already that encouraged Finns to consume more those less valuable species that were labelled trash fish. While the stocks of most species popularised as trash fish has grown, their consumption seems to remain minimal – unfortunately.

New Hope?

While fish farming may provide employment, innovations in addition to imports, the key point is that the consumption of fish in addition to the way Finns value local fish species needs to change. Perhaps a historical analysis may provoke us to appreciate local species and to change our consumption of fish into more sustainable. Finland with its abundant ‘trash fish’ may remain self-sufficient concerning the consumption of fish. To reintroduce these sustainable fish species into Finnish diet, we may need more education, but above all co-operation with the ‘master chefs’ and leading restaurants. There are a few examples that may provide us with a useful starting point, such as FoodSmart DUBLIN.


Fagan, Brian (2018). Fishing – How the Sea Fed Civilization. New Haven & London.

Paul Greenberg (2010). Four Fish – the future of the last wild food. New York.

Hannikainen, Matti O. (2022). “Roskaa vai ruokaa? Keittokirjojen kalat 1900-luvulla”, 196–235, in Jukka Mikkonen, Sanna Lehtinen, Kaisa Kortekallio & Noora-Helena Korpelainen (eds.) Ympäristömuutos ja estetiikka. Helsinki,

Räsänen, Tuomas (2021). Tyhjenevä maa – suhde luonnonvaraisiin eläimiin. in Ruuskanen, Esa, Paula Schönach, Kari Väyrynen, Matti Enbuske, Miina Kaarkoski, Ritva Kylli, Tanja Riekkinen, Tuomas Räsänen, Matti Salo & Jarno Valkonen. Suomen ympäristöhistoria 1700-luvulta nykyaikaan. Tampere: Vastapaino, 2021, 267–291.

Suomen kalastuslehti 1925.

Svanberg, Ingvar & Alison Locker (2020). Ethnoichthyology of freshwater fish in Europe: a review of vanishing traditional fisheries and their cultural significance in changing landscapes from the later medieval period with a focus on northern Europe. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 16: 68,


Writer introduction

Dr Matti O. Hannikainen is a post-doctoral researcher in history at the University of Helsinki. He is also a member of Helsinki Institute for Sustainability Science.

There Is More Than One Way to Discuss the Aesthetic Dimension in Sustainable Development

Author: Noora-Helena Korpelainen

Alex loves colour and taste, a holiday abroad, and sunshine with morning coffee. This Alex is you and me, a citizen of a wealthy country. It is Alex who is asked to change his/her preferences, choices, and practices for the sake of the planet and forthcoming generations – to be a hero of our time, and for a good reason: it is humans who have, with their way of living, caused global climate change and biodiversity loss to mention only two of the many grave phenomena of our time. It is also because of Alex that we eagerly develop new technology to compensate for the necessary changes to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Does unsustainability then boil down to our preferred taste of living?

Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

Consider Aesthetics

It is all too easy to blame our aesthetic inclinations, for example, Alex’s drive for colour and taste, for exotic and familiar, for our unsustainable practices. In fact, doing so implies a lack of aesthetic literacy. It also undermines that, which is pointed out, for example, by the etymological root of the word ‘aesthetic’: aesthesis (Greek) means sensory perception and that which is (dis)valued through perception, for example, beauty, delicacy, ugliness. Although the meaning of the aesthetic may remain open to dispute, much of the recent aesthetics’ research understands Alex, as well as other human beings, as doomed to deal with the aesthetic.

Aesthetics may also be Alex’s practice. Sometimes s/he ponders what art is. S/he makes pottery and aquarelles, has a season ticket to opera, and eagerly discusses the latest tv-series. Public artworks arouse his/her opinion, and novels keep him/her company. Although Alex might gladly avoid analytically scrutinizing questions around meaning, senses, values, emotions, imagination, and affect, for example, as is done in the philosophical discipline of aesthetics, s/he is not totally unaware of that realm of being and doing. After all, s/he prefers particular fragrances, moves, textures, and atmospheres. And while Alex’s aesthetic interest in environments through gardens, urban green infrastructure, and friluftsliv or in everyday experiences through cooking, jogging, and home decoration might tell something about Alex’s time, such discussion is not novel for an aesthetically minded meaning-making and discussion.

Sustainable Aesthetics? No Thanks!

Alex wishes to support sustainable development. Yet, s/he is often heard saying out loud, and sometimes on an aesthetic basis, “No thanks!” to veganism, pedestrianism, and unfashionability, for example. Is sustainable aesthetics then too much to ask for?

What about if developing sustainability paradoxically necessitates unsustainable aesthetics?

Don’t get me wrong. The efforts towards environmentally more sustainable and socially more just practices are invaluable, nay crucial. Those efforts also shape that complexity we seize in perception, eventually influencing various aesthetically related practices. In this sense, artists are exemplary, for example, when engaging in such use of materials that can be considered more sustainable. But our environmental awareness can also play a role in our experiences of nature through the organization of space and matter, for example, in built environments and urban and national parks. Nevertheless, to achieve long-term sustainability transformations, we may need to accept that no particular type of aesthetics sustains – not even the one that could be currently regarded as ecologically sustainable.

By referring to the temporal meaning of sustainability, I wish to say that aesthetics, as a practice involving inquiry, cannot be limited to that understanding of the human experience we currently have or want to preserve. On the contrary, through committing to experiment and exploration, aesthetics offers assistance in changing our experience.

Luckily there is more than one way to discuss the aesthetic dimension in sustainable development.

Photo by Noora-Helena Korpelainen

Broadening the Conception of Sustainability

The aesthetic dimension can be, for example, discussed as a critical lens to the ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability. It means enabling a reflective approach to individual experiences through time. Recently, such use has been suggested by aesthetics’ researchers with the complementary category and concept of aesthetic sustainability.

Aesthetic sustainability concerns, first and foremost, the perceptible reality. Also in our aesthetic domain, some elements sustain changes while others do not pass the “test of time.” It can be revealing to study the relationship between those aesthetic elements and the various dimensions of sustainability. Thus, instead of conceiving sustainability only as a challenge to our aesthetic appreciation and experiences, aesthetic sustainability underlines that the aesthetic dimension can also broaden the conception of sustainability.

Developing Capabilities for Sustainability Transitions

The aesthetic dimension can also be discussed through the practices of developing one’s sensitivity and cultivating our sensibility. As many aesthetics’ researchers have recently argued, using imagination, artistic skills, and sensitivity may support building individual and societal resilience during contemporary multiscale transitions. For example, artistic skills are used to detect and reflect, in works of art, our unsustainable practices in a way that leaves room for critical thinking as well as building awareness and changing attitudes. In short, some works of art have the power to touch and move us. Another example is to draw power from deepening one’s sensitivity within a changed everyday environment, say, through focusing on the experiences brought about, for instance, by sounds, sceneries, smells, and bodily postures in an unfavourable situation. Aesthetic experiences often uplift Alex’s well-being, thus enhancing her/his opportunities to participate also in sustainability transitions.

Being part of a transition, in turn, calls for adaptation to which open-mindedness, caring, and perceptual skills can be supportive. Alex’s aesthetic practice may thus mean learning to find beauty in new ways. In some cases, accepting the un-fixedness of the aesthetic – or beauty – can mean turning to more sustainable practices, for instance, engaging in the circular economy or aesthetically appreciating the experience of being in the dark when appropriate. And as our aesthetic choices and values transform, so may our shared aesthetic sensibility, as can be deduced from the previous large-scale cultural transformations discussed in aesthetics.

Of course, this is not to say that artistic and aesthetic practices could provide the solution to speeding up sustainability transitions but that developing one’s sensitivity and the changes in aesthetic sensibilities may also have a supportive role in those processes.

Motivating Practices with Concepts

Yet another way to discuss the aesthetic dimension in sustainable development is to consider the role aesthetics’ concepts have. Thoughts and ideas motivate our practices, and aesthetics’ concepts show like a spotlight the realm of experience we may not have noticed before. Think about, for example, urban aesthetics and food aesthetics. Such concepts invite us to experiment, for example, to taste food and ponder how various aspects of our experience with food amount to the experience being precisely aesthetic. For some, this means adopting utterly new practices and an overall interest in broadening one’s conception and experience of food.

In terms of climate change, the recently appeared concepts of weather aesthetics and cryosphere aesthetics are especially inspiring concepts because they provide attempts to bridge perception and climate change – the phenomenon that affects our perception but which we are nevertheless unable to perceive directly. To get a grasp of what to perceive and value in experiencing weather or ice and snow, one needs to practice being in diverse weather conditions, imagine living that is based on the relationship with ice, and reflect on appreciating the experience of those to whom such conditions form the everyday environment. By bringing us in experiential and imaginative contact with climatic changes, those aesthetic practices inspired by weather aesthetics or cryosphere aesthetics may support broadening our awareness of the human and possibly also non-human condition.

In thinking of motivating practices with concepts, one could even follow some aesthetics’ researchers to consider the aesthetics of sustainability. With that concept, what kind of practices are, and would be, induced?

Cultivating Sustainability

There is more than one way to consider the aesthetic dimension in sustainable development. But what would it mean for aesthetics, as a practice, to be genuinely sustainable? That question may remain open for Alex to be thought about case by case already because the multitude of aesthetic practices eludes generalization, as also the use of “Alex” in this text indicates. However, if aesthetics can ever be sustainable, it needs to mean reconfiguring our aesthetic capabilities. But that reconfiguration lies in the very heart of aesthetics, which means we should support endeavours in aesthetic literacy. Therefore, let’s keep on practicing, Alex!

This blog post is based on the following research article:

Korpelainen, Noora-Helena. 2021. “Cultivating Aesthetic Sensibility for Sustainability,” ESPES. The Slovak Journal of Aesthetics 10(2), pp. 165–182.

For further reading:

Brady, Emily. 2021. “Global Climate Change and Aesthetics,” Environmental Values 31(1), pp. 27–46. Doi:

Lehtinen, Sanna. 2021. “Aesthetic Sustainability,” in Situating Sustainability: A Handbook of Contexts and Concepts (ed. Parker Krieg & Reetta Toivanen). Helsinki University Press.

Mikkonen, Jukka. 2021. “Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature and the Global Environmental Crises,” Environmental Values. Doi: 10.3197/096327121X16245253346567.

Mikkonen, Jukka, Sanna Lehtinen, Kaisa Kortekallio & Noora-Helena Korpelainen (eds.) (forthcoming) 2022. Ympäristömuutos ja estetiikka. The Finnish Society for Aesthetics.

Saito, Yuriko. 2017. Aesthetics of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Writer introduction:

Noora-Helena Korpelainen is a grant-funded doctoral researcher in aesthetics in the University of Helsinki’s Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI). Her research aims at understanding the notion of cultivating aesthetic sensibility in the context of sustainability transformations. She is also a HELSUS member. Currently, her research is supported by the Finnish Concordia Fund. Thanks for reviewing and commenting on this text go to Usha Mohanraj, Tuija K. von der Pütten, and Sanna Lehtinen.

Lost Voices: How Mining in Scandinavian Arctic Regions has Impacted Sámi Livelihood

By: Avery Desrosiers, Nicole Rice, Selja Ryöppy and Hilja Kurkinen

Photo by Khusen Rustamov on Pixabay

Through the analysis of the Kiruna mine in Northern Sweden and the Nussir mine in Northern Norway, we can understand how Arctic mining affects Sámi people, an Indigenous community living in the Arctic. In addition to the negative effects on traditional livelihoods such as reindeer herding, mining also impacts Sámi culture, rights and identity as a whole, as nature is intertwined in all aspects of Sámi life. Despite the policies put in place to protect their communities and practices, the Sámi have been constantly overlooked and disregarded. This post shares examples from Scandinavia, as well as potential improvement suggestions from Canada.

Threats to reindeer herding – example of Kiruna and Nussir

In Kiruna, Northern Sweden, state-owned LKAB Company founded an ore mine during 1890’s. Today, Kiruna is Sweden’s largest and most central mining region and the mine one of the world’s largest underground iron ore mines. The continuous expansion and exploitation of ore has led to a major risk of subsidence of the ground. In order to continue mining, the city of Kiruna will be relocated – an operation referred to as ‘the Kiruna city transformation’. Both mining and the relocation create pressure on reindeer herding.

For Sami people living in Kiruna, the ore exploitation means loss of reindeer grazing lands as well as forced adaptation to the mining activities. The relocation of the city has highly impacted reindeer herding areas for example by restricting reindeer migration routes near the city. In addition, the surrounding infrastructure such as roads and railroads create even more challenges for herding, since the roads cut through the pastures leading to a sectioning of the grazing lands. The sectioning hinders the possibility of reindeer movement and endangers the reindeer. The sectioning also leads to overgrazing in some areas, which can lead to further degradation in ecosystems and disappearance of lichen.

Another case in Scandinavia, the Nussir copper mine, is located in the Finnmark region of Northern Norway, specifically impacting the Sámi community in the Kvalsund municipality. Similarly to Kiruna, the development of the mine and its surrounding infrastructure places environmental stressors on the reindeer, leading to decreased reproduction and migration through the municipality, thus negatively impacting the ability for Sámi people in this community to engage in reindeer herding.

Identity impact, Sámi resistance and violated laws

The Nussir case provides a good example of how the mine is impacting the wider Sámi identity. Due to the increase of outmigration among the younger Sámi population in the Kvalsund municipality towards neighbouring cities, there is a desire with elder Sámi people to strive to bring forward their cultural history and traditions and not let the Sámi identity dissipate. This explains why elder Sámi reindeer herders are protesting the development of the Nussir mine as it has negative implications on their ability to herd reindeer, which is an important aspect of their traditional livelihood and culture that they want to teach younger generations. The mine clearly impacts Sámi identity as it impairs their ability to practise their traditions and pass them down through generations.

Sámi reindeer herders in the Kvalsund municipality are particularly upset as their voices are not heard after protests, and the extractive mine activities will be taking place on land containing pastures, which they are supposed to have established rights over. The Sámi community is frustrated as the government and global extractive companies have a profit-driven mindset and are looking past the impacts that the mine has on Sámi traditional reindeer livelihood practices, thus affecting their culture.

Photo by Natalia Kollegova on Pixabay

With regulations such as the Finnmark and the Mineral Acts in place in Norway, the Nussir mine should never have been able to begin operations. Still, due to the profitability of this institution, production was deemed necessary. On paper, both of these acts set out to provide protection for Sámi people’s culture and livelihood. The Finnmark Act outlines land management protocols and states that Sámi people have control over their land. The Mineral Act has control over all mining operations in Norway and says that under the Act all Sámi rights are safeguarded.  Additionally, both of these acts disclose that Sámi people have the opportunity to refuse potential mining operations if they foresee irreparable damages as a result of the plausible project. In the initial phases of mining, it was decided that the mining company would have to work collaboratively with the reindeer herders to develop a plan that would allow herding to remain unaffected throughout the duration of mining. After the statement was issued, no further work was done to protect the reindeer herding in the area.

The Nussir mine clearly demonstrates how the laws and legislation which have been put into place to protect Sámi rights are consistently disregarded. It reveals the pattern often seen when businesses and government organisations interact with Indigenous groups: there is minimal effort to collaborate and consider the needs of any other entity other than their own. Profits are of the sole importance and anything that gets in the way of this goal is destroyed. This, and other case studies show that companies do not hesitate to negatively impact local livelihoods if it means they can have greater success in mining results.

Canadian Lessons

To improve the Sámi rights, the policy makers in Scandinavia could look at the recent developments in Canada. In June 2021, the Senate passed a bill which sets to align all regulation with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This bill is likely to trigger regulatory reforms in mining licensing, increasing the potential for conducting assessments in true partnerships, or even led by Indigenous communities. The move suggests that Canada is taking concrete steps towards real reconciliation, something that has long underpinned their constitutional acknowledgment of Indigenous rights. Although all Arctic countries have miles to go before the Indigenous rights and opinions are respected both in regulation and in practice, the Canadian case provides a glimpse of hope that better times may be ahead.


Allard, C., & Curran, D. (2021). Indigenous Influence and Engagement in Mining Permitting in British Columbia, Canada: Lessons for Sweden and Norway? Environmental Management.

Amatulli, G. (2015). The Legal Position of the Sámi in the Exploitation of Mineral Resources in Finland, Norway and Sweden Institute for Human Rights Åbo Akademi University.ámi-in-the-exploitation-of-mineral-resources.pdf

Evans, R. (1996). Some impacts of overgrazing by reindeer in Finnmark, Norway. Rangifer, 16(1), 3-19.

Johnsen, K. I. (2016). Land-use conflicts between reindeer husbandry and mineral extraction in Finnmark, Norway: contested rationalities and the politics of belonging. Polar Geography (1995), 39(1), 58–79. doi: 10.1080/1088937X.2016.1156181

Halvor Dannevig, & Dale, B. (2018). The Nussir Case and the Battle for Legitimacy: Scientific Assessments, Defining Power and Political… ResearchGate; unknown.

Khazaleh, L. (2017). Forced displacement in Sweden: when a mine company demolishes and rebuilds an entire city. Available at:

Nilsen, T. (2019, April 14). Minister says controversial copper mine needed for the green shift.

The Independent Barents Observer. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from

Overud, J. (2019). Memory-making in Kiruna: Representations of Colonial Pioneerism in the Transformation of a Scandinavian Mining Town. Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research, 11(1), 104-123.

Sommer, N. (2009). The history of mining and inroads in Sámiland and their effect on the Sámi. Sámi Culture.

Szpak, A. (2019). Relocation of Kiruna and Building the Markbygden Wind Farm and the Sami Rights. Current developments in arctic law.

The Minerals Act. (2010). Retrieved from

Pohjoisten metsien monikäyttö Suomessa

Kirjoittanut: Kati Kauppi ja Tuija Simpanen

From Shutterstock

Finland’s northern forest use has historically been divided and faced environmental conflicts between forestry and reindeer husbandry. Different interests for natural resource use between communities and groups can cause disagreements, but for sustaining diverse forest nature and local, valuable culture of Sámi Homeland in the future, we must reconsider our relationship with forest use. Northern forests are sensitive for changes, but also filled with opportunities. The balance between cooperation of industries that utilize forests, local culture, recreational use and vital habitats of old growth forest species should be aspired.  

Suomen pohjoisten metsien käyttö on jakautunut historiallisesti poro- ja metsätalouden kesken. Metsiämme hallinnoi Metsähallitus, joka omistaa suuren osan pohjoisista metsistä. Pohjoisen paikallisväestön ja Metsähallituksen välillä on ollut paljon ristiriitoja pohjoisten metsien käytön suhteen. Porotalouden on katsottu kärsivän metsätaloudesta, toisaalta myös metsätalous on ollut alueella suuri työllistäjä. Lisäksi pohjoiset metsäalueet ovat kiinteä osa paikallista kulttuuria.  Nykyisin pohjoiset metsät ovat paljon monipuolisemmassa käytössä ja myös osa kestävän kehityksen turvaamista. Tekstissä käsittelemme pohjoisten metsien ainutlaatuisuutta ja metsien monikäytön mahdollisuuksia alueella, jossa metsä on sekä luonnonvara että merkittävä osa kulttuuria.  

Metsä taloudellisena resurssina   

Metsä tarkoittaa Suomessa monille taloudellista resurssia puumateriaalien muodossa. Monikäytön edistämiseksi on hyvä kuitenkin laajentaa näköpiiriä ja arvioida erilaisten käyttömuotojen tuottavuutta ja kannattavuutta. Monimuotoisesta metsäluonnosta voi löytää monenlaisia tulonlähteitä ja elinkeinoja puutavaran lisäksi, ja tällä hetkellä erityisesti matkailu onkin noussut merkittäväksi tulonlähteeksi Lapissa. Erilaisten elinkeinojen lisäksi arviot esimerkiksi metsien arvosta hiilinieluina ja -varastoina, ekosysteemipalveluiden tuottajana ja moninaisten elinympäristöjen tarjoajana ovat tärkeitä, sillä tiedämme etteivät tämänhetkiset toimet metsien taloudellisessa hyödyntämisessä ole kestäviä. Suojelutoimia suunniteltaessa talousnäkökulmaa ei kannata täysin vierastaa, sillä joissain tapauksissa se voi toimia erinomaisena välineenä toimien todellisia vaikutuksia arvioidessa. Kaikkia luontoarvoja ei ole järkevää eikä mahdollista kaupallistaa, mutta suojelutoimien tehokkuutta ja vaikutuksia voidaan arvioida esimerkiksi maankäytön suunnittelussa ja habitaattien turvaamisessa.  

Kiistat pohjoisten metsien käytöstä  

Pohjoisten metsiemme käyttö metsätalouteen on haastavaa. Ilmasto-olot ovat ankarat ja vaihtelevat, pinta-alat ovat laajoja, puuston kasvu hidasta, kuljetusmatkat ovat pitkiä, puu on suhteellisen huonolaatuista ja lisäksi suoalueet vaikeuttavat puun korjuuta ja kuljetusta. Toisaalta metsätalouden kustannustaso on edullisempaa kuin muualla Suomessa ja valtion tukitoimet parantavat kannattavuutta. Inarin metsäalueiden käytöstä kiisteltiin 1980-luvulta aina vuoteen 2010 aina YK:n ihmisoikeuskomiteassa asti. Lisäksi Greenpeace, Suomen luonnonsuojeluliitto, Ihmisoikeusliitto, Suomen Porosaamelaiset ja Saamelaisliitto ovat olleet mukana asian selvittelyssä ja siihen vaikuttamisessa. Inarissa sijaitsee maailman pohjoisimmat luonnontilaiset mäntymetsät, joiden taloudellinen merkitys puutaloudelle on pieni, mutta porotaloudelle ja paikallisille metsureille suuri, mikä vaikutti omalta osaltaan ristiriitoihin. Useamman vuosikymmenen kiistelyn jälkeen Metsähallitus ja paliskunnat allekirjoittivat sopimukset, joiden seurauksena suuri osa metsistä rauhoitetiin pysyvästi.  

Metsähallitus omistaa suuria maa-alueita pohjoisessa Suomessa ja on siellä myös suuri työllistäjä. Lapissa metsätalouden harjoittaminen on rajoitetumpaa kuin muualla Suomessa, sillä vanhoja metsiä suojellaan ja niiden monimuotoisuutta turvataan. Lisäksi halutaan sovittaa yhteen porotalouden, metsätalouden, matkailun ja virkistyskäytön tarpeet. Suojeluvaatimuksia lisätään kaiken aikaa ja Lapissa paikallisväestön joukossa on pelkoa myös siitä, että metsäteollisuusyritykset luopuvat kokonaan tämän alueen tuotantolaitoksista ja metsienkäytöstä. Paikallisväestön keskuudessa on tämän vuoksi myös kriittistä suhtautumista metsien suojelua kohtaan. Esimerkiksi Inarin yhteismetsien omistajat kokevat, ettei pelkkä matkailu elätä paikallisia ja yhteismetsien omistus aiheuttaa vain kuluja, mutta ei tuottoja. Koska paikallinen luonto on niin vahvassa yhteydessä alueen kulttuuriin, täytyy päätösten teossa olla sensitiivinen myös kulttuurisille seikoille, jotta ristiriidoilta vältyttäisiin.  

From Shutterstock

Monikäyttö on mahdollisuus  

Noin 90% Suomen lakisääteisestä suojellusta metsämaa-alasta sijaitsee Pohjois-Suomessa ja etenkin Lapissa, jossa on suojeltuna lähes miljoona hehtaaria vanhaa metsää. Aiemmin on ajateltu, että metsänkäyttömuodot, kuten porotalous, metsätalous ja matkailu kilpailevat keskenään. Nykyisin ollaan kuitenkin ymmärtämässä, että monipuolinen metsäalueiden käyttö voi luoda uusia mahdollisuuksia, kunhan eri ryhmien kesken saavutetaan kompromisseja. Esimerkiksi matkailu on nykyisin metsäteollisuuden jälkeen taloudellisesti ja työllistävyydeltään merkittävin Lapin luontoon ja metsiin liittyvä elinkeino. Lisäksi metsästys, marjojen, sienten ja jäkälän keruu tuo lisätuloja monille kotitalouksille. Myös biojalostamohankkeet, tuulivoima, malminetsintä ja kaivoshankkeet ovat lisääntyneet perinteisen metsä- ja porotalouden ohessa.  

Monikäyttöön voidaan laskea myös pohjoisten metsien käyttö ilmaston muutoksen torjumiseen. Suomen pinta-alasta hyvin suuri osa on metsää ja pohjoisten metsien monimuotoisuutta suojelemalla voidaan hillitä ilmastonmuutosta. Metsät sitovat tehokkaasti hiilidioksidia puuston ja muun kasvillisuuden kasvun myötä, ja suojelemalla lajiston monimuotoisuutta, voidaan edesauttaa metsien toimimista kestävinä hiilinieluina ja -varastoina. Hiilensidonnan lisäksi voidaan hyödyntää uusiutuvia ja vähähiilisiä energiantuottotapoja. Metsähallitus on mukana lisäämässä tuulivoimaa Suomessa, sen ilmasto-ohjelman mukaan tuulivoimaloita lisätään runsaasti valtion omistamille maa- ja metsäalueille miljardien eurojen edestä.  Tyypillisesti tuulivoimalat sijaitsevat melko kaukana asutuksesta ja käytännössä suurin osa hankkeista suuntautuukin pohjoisille metsäalueille. Paikalliselle väestölle tämä tarkoittaa myös tuhansia uusia työpaikkoja. Toisaalta tuulivoimalahankkeet voivat myös herättää vastustelua, mikäli niiden rakentamisen koetaan häiritsevän luonnonmaisemia tai niitä varten rakennettava uusi tieverkosto hajottaa yhtenäisiä metsäaloja. Hankkeissa onkin erityisen tärkeää huomioida ympäristöarvot ja alkuperäisasukkaille tärkeiden maa-alueiden säilyminen, sekä että paikalliset lintu- ja kasvilajit, biotoopit ja erilaiset maankäyttömuodot voivat jatkua tuulivoima-alueella.  

Positiivisia signaaleja monikäytöstä 

Tuulivoiman kehittäminen ja pohjoisten metsien käyttö ilmastonmuutoksen hillitsemiseen ovat esimerkkejä hyvistä signaaleista, että tulevaisuudessa pohjoisten metsien monikäyttö on lisääntymässä ja eri intressiryhmät voivat löytää kompromisseja ilman, että eri elinkeinot ja kulttuuriperinteet ovat vaarassa. Uudet taloudelliset hankkeet luovat myös työllisyyttä alueelle. Metsien käyttö esimerkiksi virkistyskäyttöön, kuten patikointiin ja matkailuun, sekä lisätuloihin, kuten sienestykseen, marjojen ja jäkälän poimintaan on hyvä esimerkki siitä, kuinka monikäyttö ei välttämättä poissulje eri käyttömuotoja keskenään.  Parhaimmillaan pohjoisten metsien monikäyttö palvelee kestävää kehitystä ja kunnioittaa ympäristöä sekä tukee paikallista kulttuuria ja työllisyyttä. 


Bäck, Jaana 2022. Northern forests help curb climate change, but only if we preserve their diversity. Tulostettu 5.5 2022.   

Hyppönen M. 2002. Lapin metsätalouden erityispiirteet. Metsätieteen aikakauskirja vuosikerta 2002 numero 4 artikkeli id 6207.  

Jokinen, Mikko. “Lapin ympäristökiistojen kulttuuriset tekijät.” Dissertationes Forestales (2019).  

Liimatainen, Matti 2010. Greenpeace: Inarin metsäkiistan lyhyt historiikki. Tulostettu 5.5 2022  

Kyytsönen, Jouko “Ei meitä pelkkä matkailu elätä” – Ylä-Lapin metsätalous on uhattuna suojeluvaatimusten takia, paikallisille metsätulot ovat tärkeä osa taloutta. Tulostettu 5.5 2022.  

Metsähallituksen kotisivut. Pohjois-Suomen metsätalouden erityispiirteet. Tulostettu 5.5 2022.   

Metsähallituksen kotisivut. Ilmastoratkaisuja ja hyvinvointia tuulivoimalla. Tulostettu 5.5 2022.   

Turunen, Minna T., et al. “Relations between forestry and reindeer husbandry in northern Finland–Perspectives of science and practice.” Forest Ecology and Management 457 (2020): 117677.  

Pantsu Pekka, 2020. Yle verkkosivut: Lappiin iski metsien ostobuumi: kaupat lisääntyivät 50 prosenttia ja hinnat nousivat eniten koko Suomessa. Tulostettu 5.5 2022. 

How does reindeer husbandry affect ecosystems in Kilpisjärvi?

By Anna Kangas, Helmi Lappalainen-Imbert, Eveliina Piispanen, Juliette Rose 

There is no other place in Finland than Kilpisjärvi that has similar differences in altitudes combined with moist marine climate traits and rare soil minerals. There, in the northernmost part of Finland, nature has a central role in the livelihoods of people. This area is also home to 177 reindeer herders, of which 45% are Indigenous Samí people, and 10 000 reindeer. Reindeer husbandry provides meat and supports traditional herding, which is an important part of the local culture. In traditional herding, reindeer can gallop freely between pasture lands. In this blog we will discuss how reindeer herding affects the local ecosystems. The area is also facing new challenges due to global warming, as the temperature in the Arctic is rising significantly faster than the global average.  

Endangered flowering plants and reindeer herding 

Kilpisjärvi area is well known for its colorful flowering plant species, many of which are nationally endangered. For example, the yellow flowers of glacier buttercup (Ranunculus glacialis spp. glacialis), cannot be found anywhere else in Finland. Also, strolling reindeer herds are a part of the Kilpisjärvi landscape. How do the endangered small plants and the semi-domesticated plant eating and ground trampling ungulates, get along?  

While reindeer grazing is an important factor for maintaining some fell habitat types, nationally grazing is also defined as a cause of endangerment for 21 biotopes. Further, there isn’t yet comprehensive knowledge on how reindeer herbivory affects single endangered species found in Kilpisjärvi. Some studies indicate that reindeer grazing could be beneficial for small growing plants, as mammals remove taller competing biomass from the growing site. On the other hand, some species, like the buttercup, are well known to suffer from trampling and dining of the herds.  

Pasture lands facing climate change 

The ongoing climate change is altering the ecosystems of Kilpisjärvi. Rain and temperatures are also expected to increase in winter more than in summer, and this will cause changes in snow and ice conditions as well as in vegetation. The warming climate shifts the tree line and the distribution of plant species northward to higher altitudes. This causes tundra and fell ecosystems to be replaced by birch forests and coniferous forests. As a result, pasture lands suitable for reindeer may decrease and become fragmented. 

As spring is expected to start earlier and winter later, and snow cover is expected to be up to 40 % thinner by midcentury, it can benefit the herders and increased rain boosts plant growth. Local herders have already noticed a shift from lichens to vascular plants. In addition, increased pollution may reduce the quality of forage plants. Especially lichens are sensitive to air pollutants. Reindeer can be categorized as opportunists, meaning that they can feed on a wide range of plant species. Therefore, reindeer may be able to adapt to the changing vegetation at some level. 

Increased frost and thaw cycles together with heavy rain-on-snow-events can cause ground ice to block access to winter food and cause mass starvation in reindeer populations. Heavy rain events can cause flooding and drown reindeer. Warming temperatures can also introduce new species, diseases, and parasites to the area, adding stress to reindeer. 

Increase in predators 

Brown bear, gray wolf, wolverine, and Eurasian lynx are the main four large carnivores that prey on reindeer in Finland. Prior to 1990, these animals were hunted without limitation to avoid reindeer predation causing large carnivores to almost disappear. Since 1990, hunting has been regulated to preserve them. Today, predator populations are increasing.  

However, reindeer herders do not appreciate this comeback of large predators, since it increases predation and threatens their traditional livelihood. In the Käsivarsi district, 3-5% of reindeer are killed annually. In Kilpisjärvi wolverine dominates the damages with 621 reindeer found killed in 2021.  

Loss of reindeer due to predation is financially compensated. Herders get the value of carcasses they find, which costs time and money and is not considered within the compensation. This has made herders feel that the compensation is inadequate, as in addition the value of their breeding practice is not compensated either. One solution could be to compensate reindeer losses according to the territory occupied by predators, which would allow herders to spend more time protecting the herds instead of assessing the damage. However, this idea is not approved of by the herders. This means that predation on reindeer may continue increasing, and some herds may disappear in the future. 


Herders facing the changing environment  

To cope with the changing environment, herders need to create successful coping strategies that ensure the economic and cultural viability of their livelihood. Examples of strategies could include intensifying pasture use and diversity, using supplementary feeding, using enclosures, or increasing control over their herd to ensure herds’ safety, and this also helps to limit the damage done by predators. Repellants and anti-parasite medication will also be necessary to ensure the survival of the populations.   

The future of reindeer herding in Kilpisjärvi 

Reindeer population has a significant impact on its environment. A unique area like Kilpisjärvi draws the interest of many different groups of people with different points of view on reindeer. For some actors, herding is an important traditional livelihood, whereas for some it is seen as a potential threat for plant diversity and endangered large carnivores. What is the future of reindeer herding, when for example climate change induces changes in pasture conditions? Will indigenous people be able to continue their activity? To help communities to adapt to changing conditions, regulation policies should ensure profitability and diversification of the herding livelihood. Policies should help to protect the culture and traditional knowledge, reorganization of the management systems and support herding practices to be more sustainable. Currently, the Kilpisjärvi community is, for example, lacking a consensus on the effects of grazing on regional vegetation. More objective research would be needed to support the local community to work together for a sustainable solution that acknowledges the socio-cultural and biological diversity of the area. Decisions must be taken now, and all the voices should be heard. 


Rantanen, M., Karpechko, A. Y., Lipponen, A., Nordling, K., Hyvärinen, O., Ruosteenoja, K., Vihma, T. & Laaksonen, A. 2021. The Arctic has warmed four times faster than the globe since 1980. Physical Sciences.  

Horstkotte, T., Utsi, T. Aa., Larsson-Blind, Å., Burgess, P., Johansen, B., Käyhkö, J., Oksanen, L. & Forbes, B. C. 2017. Human-animal agency in reindeer management: Sami herders’ perspectives on vegetation dynamics under climate change. Ecosphere. 8(9): 1–17. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1931 

Paliskunnat. 2022. Kilpisjärvi. Reindeer herders’ association. Online document. 

Metsähallitus. 2019. Käsivarren erämaa-alueen ja Annjaloanjin suojelualueen hoito- ja käyttösuunnitelma. 

Rasmus, S., Kojola, I., Turunen, M., Norberg, H., Kumpula, J., et Ollila, T., 2020. Mission impossible? Pursuing the co-existence of viable predator populations and sustainable reindeer husbandry in Finland. Journal of Rural Studies, volume 80, p. 135-148 

Turunen, M., Soppela, P., Kinnunen, H., Sutinen, M.-L. & Martz, F. 2009. Does climate change influence the availability and quality of reindeer forage plants? Polar Biol. 32: 813–832. doi: 10.1007/s00300-009-0609-2 

Turunen, M., Rasmus, S., Bavay, M., Ruosteenoja, K & Heiskanen, J. 2016. Coping with difficult weather and snow conditions: Reindeer herders’ views on climate change impacts and coping strategies. Climate Risk Management 11:15-36