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Decolonising Wildfire Research and Challenging its Colonial Legacies 
Sophie De Pauw (University of Reading)
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Palmer 1.11
Friday 30 June, -
Time zone: Europe/London

Short Abstract:

To date, fire's biophysical aspects has dominated the wildfire research agenda, largely ignoring the needs/knowledge of local fire users. Developing tools to sustainably co-exist with fire calls for the decolonisation of wildfire science. This panel examines why and how this should be achieved.

Long Abstract:

In many ways wildfires have become emblematic of the Anthropocene, representing the epitome of natural disasters exacerbated by the climate crisis. Recent years have seen an increase of extreme fires worldwide, even in previously unaffected areas. Mounting reports of their often-devastating consequences on human health and livelihoods as well as on the environment has prompted the UNEP to declare a "Global wildfire crisis". These escalating concerns have given rise to a burgeoning community of wildfire researchers and practitioners aiming to develop the knowledge and tools for a more sustainable co-existence with fire.

In its earliest iterations, wildfire science was limited to understanding the physical characteristics and impacts of fire with management strategies often centred around suppression and risk-mitigation. However, the field has since evolved into a transdisciplinary domain bringing together researchers from a wide spectrum of scholarly backgrounds. Consequently, wildfires are no longer seen as decontextualised biophysical phenomena but are increasingly understood to occur in diverse socionatures (interwoven social, ecological, political, economic, and metaphysical worlds). This shift has also led to the recognition that fires are not universally viewed as disasters. Indeed, controlled fires are often essential to maintaining subsistence-oriented or smallholder livelihoods particularly in the Global South.

Nevertheless, the foundations of wildfire research remain imbued with western hegemonic worldviews and continue to be influenced by colonial legacies. The objective of this panel is to examine how coloniality has influenced the sphere of wildfire research and discuss how researchers can decolonise their practices and processes.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 30 June, 2023, -