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Why do environmentalists not consider compromises as legitimate?


  • Sarkki, Simo
  • Heikkinen, Hannu I.


Environmental problems are often complex and involve fundamental value contradictions. There is a need to explore whether a well-designed process can contribute to a legitimate decision ‘closure’ even in the presence of value conflicts. We examine why environmentalists did not accept a compromise between industrial forestry and full conservation in the case of some forestry debates in Northern Finland and the Liperinsuo site in particular. Contradictory value positions between the environmentalists and the Finnish state forestry enterprise can only partly explain the lack of legitimacy, because past decision-making processes form specific legacies affecting even the legitimacy of current decisions and compromises. By exploring the continuum of decision-making processes from the point of view of ‘opening up’ and ‘closing down’, we identify some conditions for processes contributing to legitimate decision ‘closures’, including: 1) the inclusion of all the relevant participants, 2) the problems which the decision should solve are co-defined and mutually agreed on; 3) the timing of the necessary ‘closing down’ of the decision is mutually agreed on; 4) the processes are transparent, and 5) the decision ‘closures’ are not transformed from one scale to another without possibilities for participation. By nurturing these conditions through deliberate process design, capacity to legitimately ‘close down’ decisions in order to resolve complex and value-laden environmental conflicts will increase.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarkki, Simo & Heikkinen, Hannu I., 2015. "Why do environmentalists not consider compromises as legitimate?," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 110-117.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:forpol:v:50:y:2015:i:c:p:110-117
    DOI: 10.1016/j.forpol.2014.08.004

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eeva Berglund, 2001. "Facts, Beliefs and Biases: Perspectives on Forest Conservation in Finland," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(6), pages 833-849.
    2. Raitio, Kaisa, 2013. "Discursive institutionalist approach to conflict management analysis — The case of old-growth forest conflicts on state-owned land in Finland," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 97-103.
    3. Zachrisson, Anna & Beland Lindahl, Karin, 2013. "Conflict resolution through collaboration: Preconditions and limitations in forest and nature conservation controversies," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 39-46.
    4. Marleen Kerkhof, 2006. "Making a difference: On the constraints of consensus building and the relevance of deliberation in stakeholder dialogues," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 39(3), pages 279-299, September.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:98:y:2004:i:04:p:687-701_04 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Ravikumar, Ashwin & Andersson, Krister & Larson, Anne M., 2013. "Decentralization and forest-related conflicts in Latin America," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 80-86.
    7. Sarkki, Simo & Rönkä, Anna Reetta, 2012. "Neoliberalisations in Finnish forestry," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 152-159.
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