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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Closing the Future: Environmental Research and the Management of Conflicting Future Value Orders

Andersson, Jenny; Westholm, Erik


This paper examines a struggle over the future use of Nordic forests, which took place from 2009 to 2012 within a major research program, Future Forests-Sustainable Strategies under Uncertainty and Risk, organized and funded by Mistra, The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research. We explore the role of strategic environmental research in societal constructions of long-term challenges and future risks. Specifically, we draw attention to the role played by environmental research in the creation of future images that become dominant for how societies structure action for the long term. We also show that this process is on several accounts problematic. Research labeled "strategic" or "relevant" is intended to manage long-term risks and challenges in a sustainable way, by taking into account the "open" and "plural" nature of the future. The case of Future Forests suggests, rather, that by contributing to the emergence of dominant future images, environmental research is entangled with a process of gradual consensus creation around what may be highly selective or biased narratives of the long term, which may conceal or postpone key forms of future conflict.


environmental practices; epistemology; futures; alternative life forms; politics; power; governance; space/place/scale dynamics

Published in

Science, Technology, and Human Values
2019, Volume: 44, number: 2, pages: 237-262

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production
    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

    Publication identifier


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