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

(Not) My Green City?


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

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