Bioeconomy and Justice (BioEcoJust)
Funded by the Academy of Finland’s research programme BioFuture 2025, Bioeconomy and Justice (BioEcoJust) is a research project that aims at understanding the role of the bioeconomy in the future. This project combines forces of Futures Studies and Philosophy to seek new knowledge on the future of bioeconomy and to put this knowledge to practical use.
Foresight and Ethics
Futures Research Methods are used to develop scenarios of possible futures of the bioeconomy in Finland and the world for the years 2025, 2075, and 2125. These scenarios help to better understand the possibilities for advanced biotechnologies and their potential impacts on society.
Based on these scenarios, ethical questions are raised, and we discuss the consequences and responsibilities related to bioeconomic decisions. We shall dive deep into understanding the moral aspects of emerging bioeconomy scheme for the next hundred years, and even further.
Bioeconomy is a hot topic in a lot of debates that concern how Finland will develop new strengths for its economy and society. We hope to enrich this debate with our scenarios and ethical considerations.
The main knowledge seeking objectives are to figure out what the consequences of different bioeconomic decisions are in 2025, 2075, and 2125; which decisions and agents are responsible for the consequences; and what this responsibility means normatively.
The practical objective is to make private and public agents, experts, the media, and citizens aware of the consequences and responsibilities related to bioeconomic decisions; and to make these decisions more acceptable to them insofar as they are just. Both objectives are ambitious, but eminently achievable by the consortium.
Exploring the long-range futures of bioeconomy
Bioeconomy is proposed to be the next significant wave of social and economic development transformation. It promises to create employment for rural areas and produce economic growth by creating new high value-added products and services.
Bioeconomy is a term used to refer to the production and use of different bio-based techniques and materials, as well as business models that seek to replace fossil fuel and materials as the core of modern economies, that is currently proposed as a key solution to the pressing environmental concerns, like the climate change.
The shift to the bioeconomy will require a number of active decisions by individuals, businesses and political decision makers. Certain choices will promote the transition, while others may make it less likely to occur. Also, as with all large-scale transformations, there are central ethical issues leading to adopting a bioeconomy, and choices to be made about the form in which it would be implemented.
Analyzing decisions of the future
In the BioEcoJust project, our research team comprises of futures researchers and morality philosophers who will anticipate the decisions that have to do with the transformation to a bioeconomy. We will explore the nature and potential outcomes of these decisions: who are the key actors making the decisions, what kinds of factors may affect their decisions, and what are the causal responsibilities attached to these decisions. We will also look into past transformations and identify patterns that can be utilised in informing on decisions regarding future transformations. An important aspect of the work is to make private and public decision-makers aware of the long-term repercussions attached to decisions made today, and to discuss the responsibilities and choices that will need to be confronted.
Methods for building our Scenarios
Methods used for the work include the Delphi method, applied here in order to better understand the possibilities for advanced biotechnologies and their potential impacts on society. We will assemble a series of futures workshops in order to explore debates about the acceptability of different solutions and ethical dimensions linked to this decision-making. The results are valuable for their potential to generate further insightful discussion around the topics, from both the general public and the key decision-makers. To ensure that the ideas produced in the project are disseminated we will organise academic meetings, general lectures, and panels and seminars with political decision-makers.
The long time span of the study, combined with a focus on the ethical dimensions of technological decision making, place this research at the core of futures studies. Investigating ethical dilemmas of the future will necessarily draw attention to the need to consider multiple possibilities. It will force us to clarify our expectations about the impacts of our decisions, and question the projected technological trajectories. Black swans will also need to be considered, that could disrupt any development assumed to be given. Yet, the most important aspect in discussing long-range futures is that the impacts of any decision made about future technologies will often be both deeply ethical and also divisive. Bioeconomy represents new challenges, and it brings up new issues that we as decision-makers need to be ready to face.
One thing is sure: the more nearer 2020 and beyond comes, the more the challenge and the opportunity of bioeconomy will haunt us.