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Maja Farstad, Ruralis – Institute for Rural and Regional Research, maja.farstad@ruralis.no

Pia Piroschka Otte, Ruralis – Institute for Rural and Regional Research, pia.otte@ruralis.no

Topic: Socio-cultural premises enabling social acceptance of a bioeconomic transition. Norway as case

Keywords: bioeconomy; social acceptance; socio-cultural premises


Complex challenges such as climate change, environmental problems and resource scarcity call for a new approach to reduce fossil fuels and move to the use of more sustainable, biological and renewable resources for future consumption. The bioeconomy presents one vision to overcome these important challenges, and Norway aspires to be a pioneer in the bioeconomic turn, reflected in its national strategy for the bioeconomy.

However, there is no baselined understanding of the bioeconomy, which makes it a very difficult concept to relate to for the general public. In addition, previous research has mainly focused on the technological capabilities for realizing the shift to the bioeconomy, hereby more or less neglecting the social-cultural context. The transition to the bioeconomy is expected to have considerable consequences for society – and for rural areas in particular, given the natural location of most bioresources – addressing risk aspects, utility assessments and ethical considerations. Thus, public perceptions will play a crucial role since bioeconomic development ultimately depend on consumers and citizens’ interests and acceptance. This paper contributes to this research gap by assessing socio-cultural premises enabling social acceptance of a transition to the bioeconomy.

We apply a qualitative, explorative approach in order to capture people’s perceptions, understandings, preferences and concerns regarding the bioeconomic transition. The analysis is based on eight focus group interviews with a total of 53 participants representing members of the general Norwegian public.

Our findings indicate that generally high trust in public authorities and their assumed ability to ensure the safety and soberness of new products and processes is a central premise for bioeconomic acceptance in Norway. In addition, a sense of resignation from steadily uncontrollable external impact on one’s own body and environments, both at home and when abroad, appears to make people more intrepid in the meeting with various new developments. As these premises are fear-repressive, they also seem to allow for willingness for future cultural adaptation.

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