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Power Discourses of Fish Death: Case of Linnunsuo Peat Production


This article explores the peat production impacts on Jukajoki river in Finland by implementing discourse analysis. Four discourses are explored: state truth statements; company statements that are in close proximity of state power; discourses provided by the local community Selkie, who provided counter-narratives to the official views; and finally media and related discourses. In conclusion, the discourses by the state and closely related actors (A–B) comprised implementation of their power and justifying it at the expense of those who are excluded from such power, in this case the village. The village narrative (C) contains elements that strongly contradict the statements provided by those with power. The results indicate local communities should be taken more seriously. The systematic denial of local peoples’ rights should be reviewed, and local participation in environmental permit assessments implemented.

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Fig. 1


  1. pH 2.77–3.4 and amount of iron 300 000 µg l−1. Such amounts are lethal to all life in a waterbody.

  2. The choice of autoethnography as a method contains limitations and benefits compared for example with participant observation. Insider view embedded in it can be criticized from the viewpoint of a biased interpretation. I am aware of these risks and have tried to balance this with the use of discourses reflected in official documents.

  3. Such as local ecological knowledge (Berkes 1999).

  4. State power here signifies actors which are in close proximity of formal, established structures of governance.

  5. Space does not allow here to discuss the rural–urban divide or residence of Finns in the context of local knowledge. Focus here is on people living in close proximity of natural habitats.

  6. Linnunsuo = mire of the bird.

  7. An administrational concept referring to a process where authorities have to do all in their power to stop the threats or problems.


Official Documents

  • Agency for Environmental Permits for Eastern Finland. Environmental Permit for the “Linnunsuo” Peat Production Area, 2003. Dnro ISY-2002-Y-192 (In Finnish).

  • Center of Economic Development, Transport and the Environment—CEDTE. Decision. POKELY/469/07.00/2010. 23rd November 2010 (In Finnish).

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  • (a) Complaint Submitted by the Village Association of Selkie to the Regional State Administrative Agency for Eastern Finland, 28.1.2011 (In Finnish).

  • (b) Clarifying Explanation of the Village Association of Selkie in Response to the Response Provided by the Company “VAPO”, submitted 23.5.2011 at the Regional State Administrative Agency—Eastern Finland (In Finnish).

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This article has been made possible by the Turvetuotanto ja vesistövaikutusten hallinta: Relevanteista faktoista tehokkaisiin normeihin/WATER MANAGEMENT AND PEAT PRODUCTION: From the Relevant Facts to Effective Norms (WAPEAT) (Suomen Akatemian hanke 263465) Project. The author is thankful to Jarmo Rinne, Hilkka Heinonen and Kaisu Mustonen and two anonymous reviewers for comments regarding the article.

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Mustonen, T. Power Discourses of Fish Death: Case of Linnunsuo Peat Production. AMBIO 43, 234–243 (2014).

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  • Peat production
  • Fish death
  • Discourse analysis
  • Jukajoki
  • North Karelia
  • Finland
  • Local knowledge