Growth in WEIRD Helsinki: Countering Dominant Urban Politics and its “Green” Pretentions

Eeva Berglund, Guy Julier


Despite persistent concerns over sustainability, cities continue to be developed that serve
capital more than citizens. Where urban politics prioritizes growth, “green” credentials easily turn out
to be illusory. Helsinki, with its pro-environmental administration, is an example of combining “green”
agendas with a culture of growth and depoliticizing debate. This essay presents two cases of this broadly
ecomodernist approach. In one case this approach led to proposing the destruction of irreplaceable green
space and in the other, to drawing residents into international circuits of finance and data. This problem
does not just emerge from corporations and elites, however. Drawing on Harvey Molotch’s idea of “the
city as growth machine”, we suggest that growth ideology reflects a culture that, following psychologists,
we might call WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich and Democratic. Its claims are founded
on a historically particular but widespread conception of global progress that is increasingly questioned.

Klíčová slova

the neoliberal city, urban growth, “green” growth, planning for sustainability, degrowth, Helsinki

Plný Text:

mobi (English) EPUB (English)


Zobrazit literaturu Skrýt literaturu

Ameel, Lieven. 2016. “Emplotting Urban Regeneration: Narrative Strategies in the Case of Kalasatama, Helsinki.” Teoksessa Rajaniemi, J.toim.: DATUTOP 34: 222–240.

Arjanko, Timo. 2015. Dwellings Promoting Sustainable Lifestyles in Vartiosaari. Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Master’s thesis.

Arts in the Environment Nordic Symposium 2017. Online information. Retrieved May 19, 2020 (

Asafu-Adjaye, John et al. 2015. An Ecomodernist Manifesto. Retrieved May 18, 2020 (

Bennie, Claire. 2015. “Helsinki: Jätkäsaari + Arabia.” Retrieved February 20, 2020 (

Berglund, Eeva. 2001. “Facts, Biases, and Constructions: Perspectives on Forest Conservation in Finland.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 44(6): 833–849.

Berglund, Eeva and Cindy Kohtala, eds. 2015. Uusi Helsinki? Det Nya Helsingfors? Changing Helsinki?: 11 näkökulmaa kaupungin mahdollisuuksiin. Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Nemo.

Berman, Marshal. 1982 All that is Solid Melts into Air. New York: Penguin.

Blühdorn, Ingolfur and Michael Deflorian. 2019. “The Collaborative Management of Sustained Unsustainability: On the Performance of Participatory Forms of Environmental Governance.” Sustainability 11(4): 1189.

Chertkovskaya, Ekaterina, Alexander Paulsson, Girogos Kallis, Stefania Barca, and Giacomo D’Alisa. 2017. “The Vocabulary of Degrowth: A Roundtable Debate.” Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization 17(1): 189–208.

City of Helsinki. 2013. Helsinki City Plan: Vision 2050. Helsinki: City Planning Department.

City of Helsinki. 2015. Planning Committee, Agenda/ Helsingin kaupunki – Kaupunkisuunnittelulautakunta, Esityslista, May 12, 2015.

Davidson, Mark. 2010. “Sustainability as Ideological Praxis: The Acting out of Planning’s Master-Signifier.” City 14(4): 390–405.

Demaria, Federico, Giorgos Kallis, and Karen Bakker. 2019. “Geographies of Degrowth: Nowtopias, Resurgences and the Decolonization of Imaginaries and Places.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 2(3): 431–450.

Fiksukalasatama. 2015. “Explore Kalasatama in Helsinki.” Retrieved October 4, 2019 (

Fortun, Kim. 2014. “From Latour to Late Industrialism.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4(1): 309–329.

Fredriksson, Peter and Pekka Normo. 2019. “Asumisen ja maankäytön politiikka arvioitava uudelleen.” Yhdyskuntasuunnittelu-lehti 57(2): 51–55.

Glancey, Jonathan. 2015. “Here and Nowhere Else.” Pp. 123–131 in Changing Helsinki? 11 Views on a City Unfolding, edited by Eeva Berglund and Cindy Kohtala. Helsinki: Nemo.

Granqvist, Kaisa, Sauli Sarjamo, and Raine Mäntysalo. 2019. “Polycentricity as Spatial Imaginary: The Case of Helsinki City Plan.” European Planning Studies 27(4): 739–758.

Hall, Tim and Phil Hubbard. 1996. “The Entrepreneurial City: New Urban Politics, New Urban Geographies?” Progress in Human Geography 20(2): 153–174.

Hamilton, Clive. 2015. “The Theodicy of the ‘Good Anthropocene’.” Environmental Humanities 7(1): 233–238.

Hannikainen, Matti O. 2019. “Planning a Green City: The Case of Helsinki, 2002-2018.” Pp. 121–134 in Planning Cities with Nature: Theories, Strategies and Methods, edited by Fabiano Lemes de Oliveira and Ian Mell. Springer.

Harvey, David. 1989. The Urban Experience. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Harvey, David. 1996. Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge, MA and Oxford: Blackwell.

Haughton, Graham, Iain Deas, and Stephen Hincks. 2014. “Making an Impact: When Agglomeration Boosterism Meets Antiplanning Rhetoric.” Environment and Planning A 45(2): 265–270.

Heikkurinen, Pasi. 2017. Sustainability and Peaceful Coexistence for the Anthropocene. Routledge.

Helsingin Sanomat. 2019. Front-page advertisement for SRV, September 22, 2019.

Helsinki City Strategy 2017-2021: The Most Functional City in the World. Retrieved May 15, 2020 (

Heynen, Nik, Maria Kaika, and Erik Swyngedouw, eds. 2006. In The Nature of Cities: Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism. London: Routledge.

Hyötyläinen, Mika and Anne Haila. 2018. “Entrepreneurial Public Real Estate Policy: The Case of Eiranranta, Helsinki.” Geoforum 89: 137–144.

Ilta Sanomat. 2017. “IS-raportti.” Retrieved February 20, 2020 (

James, Paul. 2014. Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of Sustainability. Abingdon: Routledge.

Julier, Guy. 2005. “Urban Designscapes and the Production of Aesthetic Consent.” Urban Studies 42(5-6): 689–688.

Julier, Guy. 2011. “Design Activism Meets Place-Branding: Reconfiguring Urban Representation and Everyday Practice.” Pp. 221–238 in Brand and Branding Geographies, edited by Andy Pike. London: Edward Elgar.

Julier, Guy. 2017. Economies of Design. London: SAGE Publications.

Kaika, Maria. 2017. “’Don’t Call Me Resilient Again!’: The New Urban Agenda as Immunology … or … What Happens when Communities Refuse to be Vaccinated With ‘Smart Cities’ and Indicators.” ENVIRONMENT and URBANIZATION 1: 89–102.

Kaupunkiaktivismi / Civic Activism as Resource for the Metropolis website. Retrieved February 20, 2020 (

Kirsch, Stuart. 2014. “Social Relations and the Green Critique of Capitalism in Melanesia.” American Anthropologist 110(3): 288–298.

Kotilainen, Juha, Maija Halonen, Eero Vatanen, and Markku Tykkyläinen. 2016. “Resource Town Transitions in Finland.” Chapter 12 in Transformation of Resource Towns and Peripheries: Political Economy Perspectives, edited by Greg Halseth. Abingdon: Routledge.

Kysela, Eva. 2015. “Acceptability of Environmental Policies in the Czech Republic: A Comparison with Willingness to Make Economic Sacrifices.” Sociální studia / Social Studies 12(3): 179–198.

Latouche, Serge. 2009. Farewell to Growth. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Lawrence, Jessica C. 2017. “Managing the Environment: Neoliberal Governmentality in the Anthropocene.” Pp. 68-84 in Sustainability and Peaceful Coexistence for the Anthropocene, edited by Pasi Heikkurinen. Abingdon: Routledge.

Lehtinen, Ari A. 2018. “Degrowth in City Planning.” Fennia 196(1): 43–57.

Lisää kaupunkia Helsinkiin Facebook group. N.d. Retrieved February 20, 2020 (

Luke, Timothy W. 1995. “On Environmentality: Geo-Power and Eco-Knowledge in the Discourses of Contemporary Environmentalism.” Cultural Critique 31: 57–81.

Mazzucato, Mariana. 2018 The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy. London: Allen Lane.

Mirowski, Philip. 2013. Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. London and New York: Verso.

Molotch, Harvey. 1976. "The City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place." American Journal of Sociology 82(2): 309–332.

Nielsen, Mark, Daniel Haun, Joscha Kärtner, and Cristine H. Legare. 2017. “The Persistent Sampling Bias in Developmental Psychology: A Call to Action.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 162: 31–38.

Niemelä, Jari. 2018. Kestävän kehityksen kaupunkipolitiikka, pp. 64-67. Retrieved May 15, 2020 (

Oinonen, Okko. 2015. Save Vartiosaari FLASH MOB video. Retrieved may 15, 2020 (

Peck, Jamie, Nik Theodore, and Neil Brenner. 2009. “Postneoliberalism and its Malcontents.” Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography 41(6): 94–116.

Pelastetaan/ Save Vartiosaari Facebook group. N.d. Retrieved May 19, 2020 (

Quilley, Stephen. 2000. “Manchester First: From Municipal Socialism to the Entrepreneurial City.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 24(3): 601–615.

Sairinen, Rauno. 2003. “Environmental Governmentality as a Basis for Regulatory Reform: The Adaptation of New Policy Instruments in Finland.” Available online via, retrieved October 4, 2019.

Schlosberg, David and Romand Coles. 2016. “The New Environmentalism of Everyday Life: Sustainability, Material Flows and Movements.” Contemporary Political Theory 15(2): 160–181.

Schulman, Harry and Pasi Mäenpää, eds. 2011. Kaupungin kuumat lähteet. Helsingin metropolialueen innovaatioympäristöt. Helsinki: Helsingin kaupungin tietokeskus.

Smart Kalasatama – Smart City District of Helsinki. n.d. Online by Forum Virium Helsinki. Retrieved May 15, 2020 (

Springer, Simon. 2012. “Neoliberalism as Discourse: Between Foucauldian Political Economy and Marxian Poststructuralism.” Critical Discourse Studies 9(2): 133–147. 2018. ”Korkein hallinto-oikeus vahvisti Vartiosaaren Osayleiskaavan Kumoamisen ja …” Retrieved February 20, 2020 (

Swyngedouw, Erik. 2013. “The Non-Political Politics of Climate Change.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 12(1): 1–8.

Unsworth, Rachael, Sue Ball, Irena Bauman, Paul Chatterton, Andrew A. Goldring, Katie Hill, and Guy Julier. 2011. “Building Resilience and Wellbeing in the Margins within the City: Changing Perceptions, Making Connections, Realising Potential, Plugging Resources Leaks.” City 15(2): 181–203.

Uudenmaan Maakuntahallitus, minutes of meeting. Retrieved September 9, 2019 (

Uutta Helsinkiä website n.d. Retrieved September 29, 2019 (

Vanolo, Alberto. 2008. “Internationalization in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area: Images, Discourses and Metaphors.” European Planning Studies 16(2): 229–252.

Vapaavuori, Jan. 2018. “Esipuhe (Preface).” In Helsinki Symposium: Kaupunkien aikakausi – Kaupunkitutkijoiden puheenvuoroja 2020-luvun kaupunkipolitiikastan [The Urban Era – Urban Scholars’ Perspectives on the Urban Policy of the 2020s]. Retrieved May 15, 2020 (

Wallin, Sirkku. 2018. “Katsantoja kaupungin muutokseen.” Yhdyskuntasuunnittelu-lehti 56(4): 11–27.

While, Aidan, Andrew E. G. Jonas, and David Gibbs. 2004. “The Environment and the Entrepreneurial City: Searching for the Urban ‘Sustainability Fix’ In Manchester and Leeds.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 28(3): 549–569.

YLE. 2019. “Yle Luonnon kysely: Suomalaiset asettavat luonnon talouskasvun edelle – huoli luonnon monimuotoisuudesta kasvaa [Finns Put Nature Ahead of Economic Growth – Concern about Biodiversity is Growing].” Retrieved September 28, 2019 (