Multiple meanings and boundaries of growth in shrinking regions in East and North Finland
Growth stands out as a key development object in contemporary green economy policies. It is particularly interesting in the Nordic context such as in East and North Finland, where many regions are rich in natural resources, but also shrinking and lagging. Therefore, their regional development is simultaneously framed by an expected sustainability transition that alternates between green growth and degrowth agendas, and the socio-economic phenomenon of shrinkage. This article examines how growth is understood and framed among regional development actors, with special interest placed on different meanings, possible critics, and the boundaries of growth. The interviewed actors are positioned as intermediaries who possess special knowledge regarding regional development. The interviews show that the understanding of growth in this context requires various framings that combine global, regional, and local perspectives on sustainable development, as well as the burdens of shrinking and lagging regions balanced against cohesive and inclusive promises of green growth. The hegemonic frame is approached through a lens of green growth, yet the shrinking population remains in the background. Growth appears as a favoured means to tackle societal problems, which reflects a mission-oriented goal setting. Critical statements are directed at growth policies and funding instruments that do not seem to promote cohesive and inclusive growth. The clearest boundary for growth relates to nature, but it is far too early to make interpretations on an intentional degrowth agenda. From the regional actors’ perspective, setting boundaries for growth in a context of long-term shrinkage, sparse population, and extensive natural surroundings seems trivial. Handling the peripheries’ societal problems related to shrinkage and their struggle for resources appears as the more relevant mission that also requires growth in various forms.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Maija Elina Halonen
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