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Accepted Paper:

‘Back to the future’ or ‘no more of the same’? Living and working with forests in a changing climate  
Ronja Mikoleit (Forest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg (FVA), Germany) Carolin Maier

Short abstract:

With forests dying, the existential threat of climate change materializes in people’s backyards. How do people and professional foresters relate to these changes? We examine these dynamics using qualitative interviews and participatory observation from a case study in south-west Germany.

Long abstract:

Forests are places where human bodies are surrounded by non-human nature, a counter-world to mechanized, urbanized and daily life, a workplace and economic space, and a strongly identity-forming landscape element. Between 2018 and 2022, large-scale forest dieback in Germany has rapidly altered entire landscapes. In many regions, large areas of drought and bark-beetle damaged trees have been removed, and in some places, forests have disappeared completely, turning former forests into dystopic sceneries.

With forests dying, the existential threat of climate change thus materializes in people’s backyards. How do people living in these regions relate to these changes in their immediate natural surroundings, and how do professional foresters, traditionally proud of their long-term forest planning and being in charge of the forest’s everyday management, experience and react to them?

We examine these dynamics using qualitative interviews and participatory observation from a case study in south-west Germany. We present results from our reconstructive analysis, focusing on patterns of public and professional forest-related perceptions and practices – how do people make sense of these changes? What positionings, practices and bodies of knowledge become strained, and which ones become invigorated?

We identify reactional patterns of consternation, powerlessness and social distancing, of wishful thinking, reassurance, and holding on, of disorientation, painful habitual disruptions and unsettled professional identities. What is striking is the apparent need for simplyfing complexities by identifying clear counterparts to one’s own position, and framing these developments as components of specific non-forest related societal developments, which are described as beyond one’s influence.

Traditional Open Panel P225
Existential threats and catastrophes in the everyday: from the global to quotidian
  Session 1