New studies show potential for implementation of environmental democracy in Raseborg

Researcher Ruslan Gunko has studied life quality in Raseborg for his PhD thesis.

Raseborg/Raasepori Bioeconomy RDI
ruslan gunko

The local environment plays a significant role for life quality of community members. The results of the thesis demonstrated that local environmental conditions have an effect on people’s life quality in Raseborg. Moreover, the quality local environment buffered the stress impacts of the pandemic of COVID-19. It is important in light of the negative effects of the climate change crisis that small communities are exposed to. This thesis suggests that local council in Raseborg should involve residents in decision-making and thereby promote environmental democracy.

In recent decades the role of nature has risen significantly due to the climate change crisis, which is considered as one of the biggest threats to our civilization. People experience climate change effects around the globe on a different scale, with both global and local impacts. The consequences of climate change are not well known but the prognoses worsen from year to year. Dealing with climate change requires a comprehensive approach including public actions on a local scale.

“At the same time, it is important to understand if people see the link between the environment and life quality and how they perceive the local environment. Even when they interact with nature every day here, in Raseborg, it is not necessarily clear if residents can recognize actual changes in environmental conditions that don’t lead to disaster or ecological catastrophe. In other words, if people from Raseborg can recognize potential issues with the environment they interact.”  says PhD researcher Ruslan Gunko

Participants gave their view on water quality

The thesis aimed to combine objectively measured environmental quality with subjective evaluation of the environment, life quality and COVID-19 impact from the community members. The methods of the thesis were applied in the coastal community Raseborg. For this municipality, the state of coastal waters has a crucial value and varies in different parts of Raseborg. Due to that respondents of questionnaires were asked to evaluate the state of coastal waters in the immediate vicinity, and it was used as a proxy of environmental conditions.

The first results of the thesis showed that over 70% of the respondents in Raseborg assessed water quality in the right direction and almost 60% were correct in their estimates. It suggests that the role of community members could be changed from observers to actors, which would strengthen environmental democracy on a local level. At the same time, the findings indicated the significant role of people’s environmental perceptions for their life quality.

“People from Raseborg felt more satisfied with their life quality if they think that environmental conditions in their surroundings are in a good state. However, this psychological effect disappeared for community members with serious income issues,” clarifies Gunko.

Nature as a buffer against global stress

The role of the local environment for life quality increases if the community faces global stress. In the thesis, Gunko found that local nature can buffer the adverse impacts of global stress such as COVID-19. The results demonstrated that despite the general negative impact of the pandemic on life quality of people in Raseborg, respondents who believe that the surrounding nature is in a good condition reported even higher satisfaction with their life in comparison with pre-pandemic times. Moreover, the pandemic triggered changes in the people-nature relationship. Respondents, who reported a stronger personal negative impact of the pandemic stated that they changed their behavior towards being more environmentally friendly (spending more time in nature, buying more nature-friendly products, less use of the car, etc.).

“This is the clear sign for policymakers and politicians in Raseborg that nature can mitigate global stress consequences and that people demand 'green changes', ”  highlights Gunko.

Lastly, the results demonstrated that individuals could benefit economically from a high-quality environment. Gunko, by analysis of the house and cottages sale ads from Raseborg in open source Oikotie, found that people responsible for the initial evaluation of the property value (owner and real-estate agent) consider the state of coastal waters in the published price. It provides a new insight in how community members can extract economic benefits without serious pressure on the local environment.

“The economic benefit of adequate environmental conditions in Raseborg can promote pro-environmental initiatives, such as environmental protection, among community members. It also can potentially drive local council to pay more attention to environmental questions and activate economic instruments for supporting local environmental initiatives and decentralizing climate change actions. Environmental democracy in action and Raseborg can benefit from it,”  finalize Ruslan Gunko.

The study took place within a project at Novia UAS and University of Turku

Link to the thesis:


For more information contact

Novia UAS, Ruslan Gunko,