The 30th Anniversary of Scandinavian Society of Forest Economics

A historical overview


John Eid, Professor, Department of Forestry, Section Resource Economics and Planning, Agricultural University of Norway


    To be a historian is even more difficult than to be an economist. This is one of the reasons why we have two celebrating parties. The first question is: What are we celebrating today? The other question is: What were we celebrating two years ago in Visby? My investigation has given the following results:  The first meeting was at the Agricultural University of Norway at Aas in June 1961, nearly 30 years ago. Today we are remembering this meeting. The Scandinavian Society of Forest Economics was established in 1958. And in Visby we celebrated the foundation of this society.

Frits Jørgensen took the initiative in 1958 to establish Nordisk Skogøkonomisk Seminar. It was a meeting among young forest economists, Stridsberg, von Malmborg, Holopainen, Heikinheimo, Hermansen, Seip and Jørgensen at the Nordic Forestry Congress in Stockholm in 1958. Five other forest economists, Grøn, Keltikangas, Saari, Streyffert, and Langsæter were later invited to participate in the Seminar. As mentioned before the first meeting was held at the Agricultural University of Norway in Aas.

I will repeat the program for 1961.

The first day there were two lectures:

  • T. Paulsson Frenckner, Handelshögskolan, Stockholm: "The problems with formulation of goals in a company".
  • N.K. Hermansen: "The goalsetting in forestry".

The next day five lectures were given:

  • H.K. Seip: "Conventional long term planning in forestry".
  • E. Stridsberg: "An example of long term planning by linear programming".
  • L. Strand: "Possibilities and limitations by using linear programming".
  • S. Spurkland: "Calculations of Sustained Forest Yield by Computer Models".
  • K. Nygaard: "Use of Computers and Numerical Methods".

Kristen Nygaard has later developed the famous programming language Simula. He is now a professor in Cybernetics at the University of Oslo.

The last day we had three lecturers:

  • N.K. Hermansen: "Economic calculations regarding production in forestry from an international point of view."
  • A.H. Grøn: "The international work with the accounting system in forestry".
  • L. Heikinheimo: "Productivity of labour in forestry".

I have recalled this program in detail because it was the first one, and it also indicates an impressing program. The strong influence from central planning is surprising.

In 1962 we had a meeting in Oslo. Market problems were discussed in papers given by V. Holopainen, R. Sæther and A. Scheistrøen.

I shall of course not mention all meeting in detail. However, I will give a comment to the third meeting in 1964 in Copenhagen. The reason is not the meeting, but what happened before the meeting. Frits Jørgensen had planned an excursion in Denmark. Frits Jørgensen was both our leader and our servant. In many ways this was typical for Jørgensen.

During this trip we visited skovrider Hvass, and he served a marvellous lunch. The reason was that Hvass had been allocated funds for this lunch directly from the Royal Department of Agriculture. We felt that we were really appreciated in Denmark.

The rate of interest was very high in Denmark at that time. We visited a forest estate belonging to Juncker. Mr. Juncker managed his forestry after a very high interest rate. I was really exited. The result was a sensation. We saw some trees, no forest.

I shall give some comments to some of the achievements of the Society. The first big cooperation project was "Readings in Forest Economecs". The book was published at Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, and the editor was Asbjørn Svendsrud. It was a successful project.

In the preface it is mentioned that forest economics is an old field, especially in Denmark, more than 125 years, today more that 145 years old. The more recent development of forest economics in Scandinavia are tied to the names Grøn, Saari, Langsæter and Streyffert.

The next large project "Newsletter" was developed in Finland by Michael Johns and Ashley Selby. "Newsletter" was distributed in the period 1972-84. This project was also successful.

In 1979 "Who is Who in Scandinavian Forest Economics" was published. During the last 10-15 years several proceedings have been published, giving an important documentation of research in forest economics in Scandinavia.

The most significant result of the meetings may, however, be the contacts, the discussions, and the friendship they have created among the Scandinavians researchers in forest economics.

At the end I will give some comments to the following questions:

Will forest economics continue to be a topic of its own in the future? As mentioned before, forest economics is an old discipline, and Faustmann is our starting point. He has been rediscovered several times by theorists. But forest economics is also an applied discipline where we are trying to combine elements from technology, biology and economics.

Just now ecology is a hot topic. The mechanism in ecology has perhaps some similarity with the mechanism in economy. I believe that to combine ecology and economy is rather difficult, however important.

Are we going to produce only specialized foresters and specialized researchers, or will we produce combination candidates as foresters and researchers? I think we shall do both. This dilemma our Society should take care of. I hope that this Society in the future will produce excellent theoretical contributions, but at the same time I hope that the Society will not forget the forest and the real world.

And my last question is:

Where are we going to celebrate the 60-year anniversary?

If we look at the speed of the political development in Europe during the years after Visby, my prognosis is that the 60-year anniversary meeting of our Society will take place in Brussels or Moscow.


Originally posted at :www.flec.kvl.dk/ssfe/project/project.asp%3Fpage%3D56