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Special Issue "Enhancing Security, Sustainability and Resilience in Energy, Food and Water"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Marko Keskinen

Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, 02015 Espoo, Finland
Website | E-Mail
Interests: sustainability; resilience; multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity; science-policy-stakeholder interactions; scenarios
Guest Editor
Dr. Suvi Sojamo

Winland Consortium/Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, 02015 Espoo, Finland
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +358408244206
Interests: natural resources governance; water security; water stewardship; multi-stakeholder processes; co-creation
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Olli Varis

Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, 00076 Espoo, Finland
Website | E-Mail
Interests: security and sustainability linkages; water-energy-food nexus; water management; global resource issues; climate change

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue calls for multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary research articles that study the connections between security, sustainability and resilience, as well as their practical applications at different scales. Of particular interest will be contributions focusing on the relevance of energy, food and water to those three concepts (separately or together). This is also the focus of Winland project funded by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland (http://winlandtutkimus.fi/english). Given the increasing pressures to all those three resource sectors, recognising and analyzing the ways to support planning and policy processes with the help of system analysis, scenario planning and co-creation, for example, are expected to be an important part of the Special Issue.

Why such Special Issue? Because security and sustainability are increasingly connected. The use of security as a concept has broadened from national security concerns to other sectors and scales, extending to considerations of planetary security (e.g., Hettne 2010; World Economic Forum 2017; Schlag et al. 2017; Ligtvoet et al. 2017). Security is today also defining policies and practices related to sustainable use of natural resources, such as energy (e.g., Ranjan and Hughes 2014; Kucharski and Unesaki 2015; Strambo et al. 2015; Sovacool 2016), food (e.g., Godfray et al., 2010; Lang and Barling, 2012) and water (e.g., Bakker 2012; Zeitoun et al. 2016).

While energy, food and water, as resources, are all critically important for society, their availability is becoming increasingly constrained, with drastic differences between regions and actors in accessing them (Foley et al. 2011; Goldthau 2014; Kummu et al. 2016). The resource flows and value chains also cross national boundaries, making their governance interconnected and transnational by its nature. The three resource sectors are also inherently linked, as is emphasised by different nexus approaches (e.g., Keskinen and Varis 2016). All these features illustrate the relevance of these resources for security, and call for systemic and future-orientated thinking as well as understanding of the complexities included in such connections.

Closely related to both sustainability and security is the concept of resilience. Resilience has typically focused on the capacity of socio-ecological systems to withstand and respond to changes—whether environmental, economic, social or political (e.g., Holling 1973, Folke et al. 2010). Yet, the applications of resilience have broadened as well, and currently encompass also security-related aspects under concepts such as state resilience or societal resilience (e.g., Juntunen and Hyvonen 2014; European Union 2016; Juncos 2016; Shea 2016).

Together, the broadened interpretations of security and resilience can help in analysing and understanding the intricate interlinkages between security and sustainability (see also Seager 2008; Fiksel et al. 2011; Marchese et al 2018). Instead of focusing on global development challenges or national security threats separately, the concepts can help to set the focus on the capacity of humankind to ensure both national security and sustainable use of critical resources under global changes. At the same time, their broadened conceptualisation has arguably allowed different interpretations by various actors, making their practical implementation particularly politicised.


  1. Bakker, K. (2012). Water security: research challenges and opportunities. Science, 337(6097): 914-915.
  2. European Union (2016). A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy.
  3. Fiksel, J., Goodman, I. & Hecht, A. (2014). Resilience: Navigating toward a Sustainable Future. Solutions, 5(5): 38-47.
  4. Foley, J.A., Ramankutty, N., Brauman, K.A., Cassidy, E.S., Gerber, J.S., Johnston, M., Mueller, N.D., O’Connell, C., Ray, D.K., West, P.C., Balzer, C., Bennett, E.M., Carpenter, S.R., Hill, J., Monfreda, C., Polasky, S., Rockstrom, J., Sheehan, J., Siebert, S., Tilman, D. & Zaks, D.P.M. (2011). Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature, 478:337–342.
  5. Folke, C., Carpenter, S.R., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Chapin, T. & Rockstrom, J. (2010). Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecology and Society, 15(4): 20.
  6. Godfray, H.C.J., Beddington, J.R., Crute, I.R., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J.F., Pretty, J., Robinson, S., Thomas, S.M., & Toulmin, C. (2010). Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People. Science, 327, 812–818.
  7. Goldthau, A. (2014). Rethinking the governance of energy infrastructure: Scale, decentralization and polycentrism. Energy Research & Social Science, 1:134-140.
  8. Hettne, B. (2010). Development and Security: Origins and Future. Security Dialogue, 41(1): 31–52.
  9. Holling, C. S. (1973). Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 4:1–23.
  10. Juncos, A. E. (2016). Resilience as the new EU foreign policy paradigm: a pragmatist turn? European Security, 26(1):1–18.
  11. Juntunen, T. & Hyvonen, A. (2014). Resilience, security and the politics of processes. Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses, 2(3): 195–209.
  12. Keskinen, M. & Varis, O. (2016). Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Large Asian River Basins. Water 8(10):446.
  13. Kucharski, J. & Unesaki, H. (2015). A Policy-oriented Approach to Energy Security. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 28:27-36.
  14. Kummu, M., Guillaume, J.H.A., de Moel, H., Eisner, S., Florke, M., Porkka, M., Siebert, S., Veldkamp, T. & Ward, P.J. (2016). The world’s road to water scarcity: Shortage and stress in the 20th century and pathways towards sustainability. Scientific Reports, 6::38495.
  15. Lang, T. & Barling, D. (2012). Food security and food sustainability: reformulating the debate. Geographical Journal, 178:313–326.
  16. Ligtvoet, W., Knoop, J., de Bruin, S., van Vuuren, D., Visser H., Meijer, K., Dahm, R. & van Schaik, L. (2017). Water, climate and conflict - security risks on the increase? Briefing Note, Planetary Security Initiative.
  17. Marchese, D., Reynolds, E., Bates, M., Morgan, H., Spierre Clark, S. & Linkov, I. (2018). Resilience and sustainability: Similarities and differences in environmental management applications. Science of the Total Environment, 613–614(2018): 1275–1283.
  18. Schlag, G., Junk J. & Daase D. (2016). Transformations of Security Studies: Dialogues, Diversity and Discipline. Routledge.
  19. Seager, T.P. (2008). The Sustainability Spectrum and the Sciences of Sustainability. Business Strategy and the Environment, 17(7): 444–453.
  20. Shea, J. (2016). Resilience: a core element of collective defence, NATO Review. http://www.nato.int/docu/Review/2016/Also-in-2016/nato-defence-cyber-resilience/EN.
  21. Sovacool, B. (2016). Differing cultures of energy security: An international comparison of public perceptions. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 55:811–822.
  22. Strambo, C. Nilsson, M. & Mansson, A. (2015) Coherent or inconsistent? Assessing energy security and climate policy interaction within the European Union. Energy Research and Social Science, 8: 1–12.
  23. Ranjan, A. & Hughes, L. (2014). Energy security and the diversity of energy flows in an energy system. Energy, 73: 137–144.
  24. World Economic Forum (2017). The Global Risks Report 2017, 12th Edition. Available online: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2017.
  25. Zeitoun, M., Lankford, B., Kruegerc, T., Forsyth, T., Carter, R., Hoekstra, A.Y., Taylor, R., Varis, O., Cleaver, F., Boelens, R., Swatuk, L., Tickner, D., Scott, C.A., Mirumachi, N. & Matthews, N. (2016) Reductionist and integrative research approaches to complex water security policy challenges. Global environmental change, 39 (2016): 143-154.

For possible extension of submission deadline, please contact Special Issue editors.

Dr. Marko Keskinen
Dr. Suvi Sojamo
Prof. Olli Varis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • security, resilience, sustainability, energy, food, water, climate
  • multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, scenarios, co-creation

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Open AccessArticle Critical Infrastructures: The Operational Environment in Cases of Severe Disruption
Sustainability 2019, 11(3), 838; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030838
Received: 21 December 2018 / Revised: 30 January 2019 / Accepted: 2 February 2019 / Published: 6 February 2019
PDF Full-text (546 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
The functioning and resilience of modern societies have become more and more dependent on critical infrastructures. Severe disturbance to critical infrastructure is likely to reveal chaotic operational conditions, in which infrastructure service providers, emergency services, police, municipalities, and other key stakeholders must act [...] Read more.
The functioning and resilience of modern societies have become more and more dependent on critical infrastructures. Severe disturbance to critical infrastructure is likely to reveal chaotic operational conditions, in which infrastructure service providers, emergency services, police, municipalities, and other key stakeholders must act effectively to minimize damages and restore normal operations. This paper aims to better understand this kind of operational environment resulting from, for example, a terrorist attack. It emphasizes mutual interdependencies among key stakeholders in such situations. The empirical contribution is based on observations from a workshop, in which participants representing the critical services and infrastructures in Finland discussed in thematic groups. Two scenarios guided the workshop discussions; nationwide electricity grid disruption and presumably intentionally contaminated water supply in a city. The results indicate that more attention should be paid to the interdependencies between critical infrastructures, as well as to the latent vulnerabilities hidden inside the systems. Furthermore, producing security seems to require continuous interaction and creation of meanings between extremely different actors and logics. This implies a need for changes in thinking, particularly concerning the ability to define problems across conventional administrative structures, geographical boundaries and conferred powers. Full article

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Open AccessArticle Finland’s Dependence on Russian Energy—Mutually Beneficial Trade Relations or an Energy Security Threat?
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3445; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103445
Received: 31 August 2018 / Revised: 21 September 2018 / Accepted: 25 September 2018 / Published: 27 September 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (663 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Studies on energy security in the context of relations between European Union (EU) and Russia tend to focus on cases, with an open conflict related to supply, such as “hard” energy weapons, or on only one fuel, often natural gas. However, there is [...] Read more.
Studies on energy security in the context of relations between European Union (EU) and Russia tend to focus on cases, with an open conflict related to supply, such as “hard” energy weapons, or on only one fuel, often natural gas. However, there is a need to understand the long-term impacts that energy relations have politically, economically and physically, and their linkages between resilience, sustainability and security. We analyse the Finnish-Russian energy relations as a case study, as they are characterised by a non-conflictual relationship. To assess this complex relationship, we apply the interdependence framework to analyse both the energy systems and energy strategies of Finland and Russia, and the energy security issues related to the notable import dependence on one supplier. Moreover, we analyse the plausible development of the energy trade between the countries in three different energy policy scenarios until 2040. The findings of the article shed light on how the trends in energy markets, climate change mitigation and broader societal and political trends could influence Russia’s energy trade relations with countries, such as Finland. Our analysis shows that Finland’s dependence on primary energy imports does not pose an acute energy security threat in terms of sheer supply, and the dependence is unlikely to worsen in the future. However, due to the difficulty in anticipating societal, political, and economic trends, there are possible developments that could affect Finland. Full article

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