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Accepted Paper:

Liveability of a forest in uncertain contemporaneity  
Agata Konczal (Wageningen University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on a forest as space where the meaning of liveability and ecological destruction is agreed. It analyses multispecies relations and the role of the various pasts and futures for the way in which liveability is imaged and managed.

Paper long abstract:

With a myriad of lifeworlds that constitute its biodiversity, the Bialowieza forest (Poland) is described as a reminding piece of 'true nature'. In 2014-2018 a massive outbreak of a bark beetle took place there affecting 10% of trees in the forest. While foresters described the situation as an 'ecological disaster', ecological activists see the outbreak as a proof for a liveability of the forest. Using multispecies entanglements of the forest, I reflect on a relation between liveability and ecological destruction. I do it by analyzing the role of the imagined past and future. I present, how particular memory about the bygone landscapes influences the way in which liveability is managed. For the recent rise of the right-wing approach symptomatic is a narration about 'the land of old' - better Earth with strong nations and pristine nature (Latour, 2016). Thus, the willingness for 'the return' is on the rise around the world ('Make America/Poland/France/India… Great Again'), accompanied by the growing feeling of uncertainty. The same narrative about the past can be found within the idea to restore 'the lost nature'. With the example of the Bialowieza Forest, I present a forest as a matrix of relations and temporalities between which the meaning of liveability and destruction is agreed. I give a voice to inhabitants of forests, humans and beyond, like bark beetles and spruces, to show that the environment has a memory of previous events and relations. Thus, the contemporary includes various pasts and multiple futures (Kohn, 2013).

Panel P019
Liveability in a time of ecological destruction [Humans and Other Living Beings Network]
  Session 1 Wednesday 15 August, 2018, -