“Metsän puolella” initiative


Kone Foundation wants to raise the level of the debate on forests: 20 forest-related projects in the Metsän puolella initiative to receive a total of EUR 2.8 million in funding

Metsän puolella is a new initiative by Kone Foundation that brings together researchers, artists, journalists and activists working with forests. The first projects to be funded include the Compensate Foundation’s calculator, which measures the economic value of forests in the carbon and nature value market, the advocacy work in the protection of state-owned forests by the Luonnonmetsä (Indigenous Forest) working group, Nora Schuurman’s research on the forest as a multi-species home we share with animals, and Extinction Rebellion Finland’s forest-themed campaign.

In May 2023, Kone Foundation announced its Metsän puolella initiative, which finances bold, insightful, in-depth projects on a wide scale of forest-related topics. Its aim is to increase multi-voiced public debate in society on the multiple meanings of forests, and to highlight voices that have not been heard in discussion about forests.

Metsän puolella funding can be applied for through Kone Foundation’s open and continuous call for applications. The projects should preferably include multidisciplinary research, art, journalism and activism in various combinations, or focus in-depth on one discipline of art or research. All projects must be linked to research or the arts in some way. A total of 89 applications were submitted to the first evaluation round, and the Kone Foundation’s Board of Trustees awarded funding for 20 of these.

“The initiative has a broader objective than simply financial support for individual projects. We want to diversify people’s understanding of forests and the debate about them. We are creating a Metsän puolella community for the people working in these projects, designed to help them succeed, broaden their own and others’ thinking and influence society,” says Mari Pantsar, manager of the Metsän puolella initiative.

The projects include work carried out alone, in pairs and in working groups, which means that the funding granted now will enable dozens of people to carry out their important work. The community will continue to grow in the future, as funding will be awarded approximately three times a year. The application process is continuous, which means that applications can be submitted for evaluation at any time.

The work and the results of the work carried out in these projects will be presented on the social media channels (@metsanpuolella) and website of the community.

“We will also organise events and meetings within this community, for example, for experts in the forest sector and the media,” Pantsar continues.

What kinds of things will happen in the projects?

The first Metsän puolella research projects will examine, among other things, the restoration of peatland forests, the meanings given to forests in basic education, and online discussion about forests.

PhD, Adjunct Professor Merja Elo and her team (€391,000) will study the ecology and ethics of peatland forest restoration. In addition to conservation, safeguarding the biodiversity of peatland forests requires restoration, which is likely to increase sharply due to international laws. The effectiveness, ethical sustainability and social acceptability of restoration require multi- and interdisciplinary research.

Researcher Veera Kangaspunta (€73,800) will explore ordinary Finns’ online discussions about forests. Her study will examine the role expertise plays in citizens’ dialogues, for example, by asking what different types of experts and expert organisations are utilised in discussions about forests, what the interpreted expertise is based on, and why the expertise of certain parties is considered questionable.

Adjunct Professor and postdoctoral researcher Otso Kortekangas and his working group (€251,400) will study how comprehensive school textbooks in Finland and Sweden have described the meanings given to forests from the 1970s to the present day, and how the citizens of these countries have consequently been taught to see forests.

PhD  Aila Mustamo’s research (€113,000) will explore the encounters between the forest and national extremism in the Finnish black metal subculture in the 2020s. In black metal since the 1990s, nature has often been depicted similarly as in National Romanticism, emphasising dark forests, rugged fells, winter and darkness. In recent years, a new kind of environmental thinking has emerged in the black metal community. It is evident in the way people in the community take a stand on current environmental problems and it seems to be linked to nationalist extremism. This research will access social debates beneath the surface that are not yet taking place in the mainstream public sphere.

Adjunct Professor Nora Schuurman’s (€197,000) project will examine forests as a multi-species home that we share with animals. This interdisciplinary project will boldly challenge the anthropocentric understanding of what home means and will link our everyday relationship with the forest to the networks and interaction existing between humans and animals. The study is based on oral tradition data, social media data and multi-species ethnography carried out through videotaped walking interviews.

The Luonnonmetsä (Indigenous Forest) working group (€132,000) performs advocacy work for the protection of state-owned indigenous forests. Among other things, the project includes putting the finishing touches to the topographic mapping of indigenous forests and planning a network of forest conservation areas, which is necessary for adapting to climate change, while utilising the conservation potential of state-owned land.

The project implemented by the Compensate Foundation (€282,000) challenges the Finnish debate on forestry by making the carbon and nature value market visible to forest owners. The project involves developing and bringing out an easy-to-use web-based calculator that forest owners and other parties can use to assess the economic value of forests in the carbon and nature value market. The results of the project will be demonstrated in journalistic articles and through events that will bring together a cross-cutting, multidisciplinary group of people to discuss the role of Finnish forests in this rapidly developing market.

The project Metsän vuoro – Elokapinan väliintulo keskusteluun (It’s the Forest’s TurnExtinction Rebellion Finland’s intervention in the debate), (€200,000), will implement Extinction Rebellion Finland’s forest-themed campaign. This campaign will include various events, such as art performances, inclusive protest marches and discussion events designed to promote the dissemination and putting into practice of research. The aim is to raise the voices of environmental authorities and leading researchers and to intensify the debate on sustainable forest use.

The Seitsemäs luonto (Seventh Nature) project (€173,000) by poet Saila Susiluoto and artist and architect Jaakko Pesoneninvolves studying a small forest in Southwest Finland. The aim of the project is to build seven temporary observation stations in the forest that align with their surroundings in terms of their architecture. This forest laboratory will be shared with others within the Metsän puolella community: its huts will act as both a tool and shelter for people to work in and observe the surroundings, to write, read, describe, draw, study and listen to seven different views in different seasons.

See a list of all funded projects (texts in Finnish)

Further information:
Mari Pantsar, manager of the Kone Foundation Metsän puolella forest initiative
+358 50 382 0755