Changing Approaches to the Future in Swedish Forestry, 1850–2010

in Nature and Culture

This article explores the changing construction of the future in Swedish forestry since 1850. The framework is based on three concepts: (1) knowability, addressing changing views of knowledge; (2) governability, addressing changing views of the ability to steer the future; and (3) temporality, referring to varying ways of relating to time. The results reveal that until the 1980s, trust in science-based forestry triggered other knowledge-based activities, such as education, surveys, and field trials. The future was seen as predictable and forecasts were expected to support increased forest production. In the 1970s, the environmental debate about the forest incorporated a pluralistic futures agenda. High-production forestry using intensive management methods was questioned. Futures studies shifted focus from predictions to scenarios, highlighting a less predictable future open to human agency. Paradoxically, with increased knowledge of forest ecology and forest markets with improved modeling techniques, the future horizon shifted to one of risks and uncertainties.