Our Mobility Lab member Age Poom defended her doctoral thesis titled ”Spatial aspects of the environmental load of consumption and mobility” on 2 March 2017 at University of Tartu Senate Hall.
Supervisors: Professor PhD Rein Ahas, PhD Kati Orru;
Opponent: Associate Professor PhD Tuuli Toivonen (University of Helsinki)
The thesis addresses the dilemma between the environmental benefits and disadvantages of urbanization across the settlement hierarchy of Estonia, aiming to get new insights about the effect of location on the environmental load of final consumption. It explores the carbon load and ecological footprint of the consumption and mobility behaviour of Estonian residents based on the data collected in Household Budget Survey (Statistics Estonia) and in surveys conducted among high school students and small enterprises providing knowledge-intensive business services.
The thesis brings out the lifestyle environmental impacts of additional consumption that occurs along higher degrees of urbanization both in dense urban cores and in their surrounding hinterland. Better availability and accessibility of various commodities, especially leisure-related goods and services, in higher hierarchy level settlements (i.e. in Tallinn, Tartu, and Pärnu together with their hinterland) favour their consumption and the consequent environmental load also when differences in income levels and other socio-demographic aspects of households are considered.
The thesis reveals the exceptional position of the residents of regional industrial centres in Estonian settlement hierarchy considering their significantly low environmental load from final consumption. This is only partially explained by lower affluence level and different ethnical composition of the population when compared to the rest of the country. It may be assumed that the industrial character, development peculiarities and environmental problems, lack of opportunities for self-expression, and low rate of social relations with the hinterland areas have hindered these regional centres to develop towards contemporary urban cores of active lifestyle.
Estonian spatial policy in local, regional, and national planning needs to consider the causes of spatially varying consumer behaviour in order to achieve a socio-environmentally balanced society.