Article

Smokey Bear and the pyropolitics of United States forest governance

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract and Figures

Wildfire prevention advertisements featuring Smokey Bear represent the longest-standing and most successful government advertising and branding campaign in U.S. history. As the public face of U.S. fire control policy, Smokey Bear uses mass media to influence the attitudes and behavior of U.S. citizenry in order to accomplish particular outcomes related to wildfire prevention and suppression, forest protection, and resource management. Smokey Bear can therefore be viewed as a governmental instrument that simultaneously targets the behavior of the U.S. public and the biophysical materiality of combustible forests. Examining the evolution of Smokey Bear and related wildfire prevention media, we explore connections between state management of people, territory, and flammable landscapes. Borrowing from Nigel Clark (2011), we use the term pyropolitics to describe the resulting more-than-human assemblage of citizenship, fire suppression and forest ecology. Importantly, this pyropolitical assemblage has substantive and recursive impacts on state practice. Through aggressive wildfire prevention and suppression that include and extend beyond Smokey Bear, the U.S. state has transformed fuel loads, species compositions, and ecosystem dynamics across North America. One result is a heightened propensity toward catastrophic wildfire, requiring additional and sustained state intervention to maintain an imposed and unstable equilibrium. Thus even as the economic, social and cultural realities of U.S. civic life have changed over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries – and even as knowledge of the ecological benefits of fire to ecosystem health has developed over time – the message of Smokey Bear has remained remarkably consistent, communicating an official imperative to prevent anthropogenic ignition.
Content may be subject to copyright.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... While many contemporary U.S. fire management strategies stem from a long, intertwined history between fire, forestry and industry (e.g. wood products), strategies for managing fire in other, non-forest ecosystems are not widespread (USDA Forest Service, 2017;Minor & Boyce, 2018). Furthermore, as many fire ecologists and land managers have recently noted, conifer forest management alone is not enough to address California's escalating wildfires (Schwartz et al., 2020). ...
... Of all burned land cover types, shrubland in particular deserves increased consideration given (a) the high value of shrublands in California for biodiversity, and (b) our finding that shrubland burned more than any other land cover class when considering all wildfires, only megafires, and WUI fires. Most fire policies in the United States originated in historical forest management (Minor & Boyce, 2018), but many of the tools that are successful for fire management in conifer forests often have unintended effects in shrublands. For example, more frequent prescribed fire and thinning restore natural landscape heterogeneity and ecological processes in some conifer forest ecosystems (Collins & Stephens, 2007;Knapp et al., 2017), but these types of strategies can erode ecological integrity in many shrubland systems. ...
... As reflected in Appendix S2- Figure S2 The analysis of news coverage of California wildfires revealed a similar result, although with a smaller majority of coverage of forest fires over other forms of fire (57%). Forest fire science and management has benefited from a history of synonymizing fire with forests in the psyche and policies of the United States (Minor & Boyce, 2018). In addition, management of conifer forests is often supported by various incentives including the cap-and-trade market and timber industry (Daniels, 2010;USDA Forest Service, 2017;Dass et al., 2018). ...
Article
Full-text available
Aim Global change has spurred the escalation of megafires in California over the last 20 years throughout a variety of ecosystems. Here, we examine the spatial distribution of California wildfires and megafires from the last two decades (2000–2020) in relation to ecosystem types and biodiversity metrics. We offer insights into the prevalence of fire across vegetation types and its potential implications for biodiversity, and for fire and land management. These results challenge the prevailing discourse that wildfire in California is chiefly an issue of forest management. Location California, United States of America. Methods We calculated burned area across vegetation types from 2000 to 2020 by integrating fire perimeter and land cover data and compared this to a content analysis of coverage of wildfires by media and scientific research across California. We then compared the distribution of fire perimeters across biodiversity metrics (richness and endemism) for five terrestrial taxonomic groups (birds, reptiles, plants, mammals and amphibians) and against the distribution of the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Results Total burned area from 2000 to 2020 was highest in shrubland ecosystems (38%), followed by conifer (36%), hardwood (17%) and grasslands (9%). In aggregate, ecosystems other than conifer make up the majority (64%) of the area burned in wildfires over the last 20 years. Fires most likely to impact endemic species, overlap areas of high species richness or burn within the WUI occurred predominantly in non-conifer ecosystems. Main Conclusions Fires outside of forests have burned biodiverse areas critical to endemic species, but recent research and management in fire ecology continues to focus disproportionately on forests. Non-conifer forested areas in California represent an important gap in fire research and management. As fire regimes shift dramatically in the state, other ecosystem types must be part of the wider conversation on fire management and policies to better protect people and biodiversity.
... Over the last century, wildfire governance was centralized and decision-making authority concentrated in federal or subnational government agencies (Minor & Boyce, 2018;Somlai et al., 2018). These institutions are comprised of individual actors who draw from their professional training, and are influenced by the ways in which their institutions frame and understand problems (Busenberg, 2004). ...
... In wildfire governance specifically, individual and community involvement are increasing, making it both more participatory and decentralized (Mistry et al., 2016;Moura et al., 2019;Russell-Smith et al., 2013;Schumann et al., 2020). Despite evidence of this trend, the management of large swaths of fire-prone landscapes in the United States, Australia, Brazil, and Canada, are still focused on fire suppression organized by a centralized state bureaucracy (Arvai et al., 2006;Minor & Boyce, 2018;Parisien et al., 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Societies must learn to live with, and adapt to wildfire risk. Here we examine wildfire governance and policy in British Columbia (BC), Canada over the last two decades, to examine how policy lessons are drawn from wildfire events. We focus on independent reviews and their recommendations provided, lessons learned from abroad, and whether policy and governance has changed (or not). Jurisdictional and intercultural issues in BC's wildfire response are outlined in this paper, and opportunities for innovative solutions are examined. We then present a case study of the Tsilhqot'in Fire Management program to demonstrate how Indigenous Fire Management is being revitalized as a proactive solution to wildfire. Our intent is to reveal why policy learning and transfer from Indigenous peoples is increasing in this context, and we identify how this is occurring. Barriers to implementation are outlined, and implications for wildfire governance in BC and globally are discussed.
... Policies variously known as fire exclusion, suppression, or control are based on avoiding human-caused ignitions and adopting effective presuppression measures and hard-hitting suppression whenever fire occurs. "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires," the message conveyed by Smokey the Bear in the U.S. was instrumental and quite successful as part of the fire exclusion policy [9,16]. Firefighting operations under this policy are guided by rigid principles, regardless of the resources at risk and the conditions under which fire occurs, seeking to minimize burned area under the assumption that larger fires equate to higher losses; to attain a contained fire status by 10:00 a.m. of the following day was one of such principles [17]. ...
... Awareness of the wildfire paradox in the U.S. has grown over the last decades, as the annual area burned and the incidence of large and severe fires increased, despite escalating (and unsustainable) expenditures in fire suppression that delay fire only to make it worse [8,16,52]; area burned and fire suppression costs in the U.S. have increased by factors of four and 10 since 1985, respectively (Fig. 10.2). In the words of Ingalsbee [32] this stems from "anti-ecological human beliefs (e.g., the goal of controlling nature in the guise of attempted fire exclusion) (…) that conflict with the reality of living on a pyrogenic planet." ...
Chapter
This chapter presents and discusses the genesis, evolution and persistence of wildfire regulation policies, and how misguided approaches are self-reinforced without due consideration or understanding of the roots and dynamics of the problem to be tackled. Recommendations to replace fire exclusion policies with integrated fire management have been proposed over time, but their acceptance and degree of adoption have varied substantially. Persistence in seeing wildfire as a natural hazard and not as a multifaceted and complex social-ecological process shows how problem definition has a lasting influence on the decision-making process. A number of factors maintain the status quo of wildfire policies, mostly in the realm of social and political expectations and pressures, namely privilege given to short-term results, ignorance of risk management concepts, conflicting goals for resources management, institutional inertia or instability, and split responsibilities among agencies. Finally, general principles are presented for developing and implementing fire management policies expected to be more effective and sustainable.
... 59, emphasis in situ). Three interrelated objectives -fire control through prevention and suppression -dominated this era and reflect the command and control fire governance model that prevailed across colonial North America (Smith et al. 2016;Minor and Boyce 2018;Nowell and Steelman 2019). ...
Article
Full-text available
The dominant command and control fire governance paradigm is proven ineffective at coping with modern wildfire challenges. In response, jurisdictions globally are calling for transformative change that will facilitate coexisting with future fires. Enacting transformative change requires attention to historical governance attributes that may enable or constrain transformation, including diverse actors, objectives, worldviews of fire, decision-making processes and power, legislation, and drivers of change. To identify potential pathways for transformative change, we systematically examined the history of fire governance attributes in British Columbia (BC), Canada (until 2020), a region that has experienced seven catastrophic fire seasons in the twenty-first century. By reviewing 157 provincial historical documents and interviewing 19 fire experts, we delineated five distinct governance eras that demonstrated the central role of government actors with decision-making power shaping fire governance through time, superseding First Nations fire governance starting in the 1870s. The emerging vision for transformation proposed by interviewees focuses on the need for increased decision-making power for community actors, yet legacies of entrenched government power and organizational silos between fire and forestry continue to constrain transformation. Although progress to overcome constraints has been made, we argue that enabling transformative change in fire governance in BC will require intervention by the provincial government to leverage modern drivers of change, including recent catastrophic fire seasons and reconciliation with First Nations.
... 100 General policy and public opinion proved difficult to shift, however, and not until 1978 was full reform effected in the fire policies of the US Forest Service. Prescribed fire policies were also instituted elsewhere, such as in South Africa, by the 1970s.The use of prescribed fire by fire technicians became an acceptable means to reduce fuel loads and prevent 96 Kosek (2006), Ch. 6.; Minor & Boyce (2018). 97 . ...
... Wildfire suppression became orthodoxy in the public discourse during World War II, when the USFS linked its message of fire prevention to the war effort [15]. Propaganda explicitly connected fire prevention with victory and educated the public through government-produced banners, posters, billboards, flyers, and campaign icon Smokey Bear [16][17][18][19]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past century, scientific understanding of prescribed burns in California’s forests transitioned from being interpreted as ecologically harmful to highly beneficial. The state’s prescribed burn policies mirrored this evolution. Harold Biswell, a University of California at Berkeley ecologist, studied prescribed burns and became a major advocate for their use during the 1950s and 1960s. Drawing primarily on archival materials from Biswell and the state government, this historical case study presents an example of how a scientist successfully contributed to integrating research into policy and practice through consistent and targeted science communication to gain allies among environmental organizations, local stakeholders, and governments. Though at first isolated by his academic peers for proposing that fire could provide environmental benefits in forests, Biswell continued conducting and sharing his research and findings with academic and non-academic audiences. Over several decades, Biswell engaged in conversations which ultimately advanced policy changes at the state level to expand the use of prescribed burns. Despite lacking a formal role in government, Biswell used his academic platform to promote the policy implications of his research. Current and future researchers can draw on these lessons to advocate effectively for other science-informed policies.
... Fire management is becoming more adaptive and decentralised (Mistry et al. 2016). Despite the prohibitions of settler governments (MacDonald 1929;Ritchie 2009;Minor and Boyce 2018), many communities have maintained localised fire management practices, applying fire at the right time of year for cultural revitalisation, hazard abatement, ecosystem health and livelihood outcomes (see Russell-Smith et al. 2013;Mistry et al. 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
After generations of fire-suppression policy, Indigenous fire management (IFM) is being reactivated as one way to mitigate wildfire in fire-prone ecosystems. Research has documented that IFM also mitigates carbon emissions, improves livelihoods and enhances well-being among participants. This study documents the goals of the Yunesit’in and Xeni Gwet’in First Nations as they develop a fire management program in central British Columbia, Canada. Drawing on goal setting theory and interviews, a qualitative coding and cluster analysis identified three general goals from fire management: (1) strengthen cultural connection and well-being, (2) restore the health of the land and (3) respect traditional laws. Sub-goals included enhancing community member health and well-being, improving fire management practices to maintain ‘pyrodiversity’ and food security and re-empowering Indigenous laws and practices. This community-developed framework will guide program evaluation and brings insight to a theory of IFM.
... At the same time, animal geographers increasingly investigate the manifold ways powerful actors govern non-human life, ranging from the control of infectious diseases and molecular life (Braun, 2007;Hinchliffe and Bingham, 2008;Hinchliffe and Lavau, 2013;Hinchliffe et al., 2012) to large predators (Collard, 2012;Rutherford and Rutherford, 2013) and fire-prone ecosystems (Minor and Boyce, 2018). Such findings are not merely interesting, but actually expand our view of government beyond "an anemic understanding of biopower" that emerges "if we look only at human life" (Biermann and Mansfield, 2014: 259). ...
Article
On 17 June 2015, an unprecedented series of rain events caused a wall of water to tear through an affluent urban neighborhood in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The flood damaged 700 homes, displaced 67 families, killed 19 people, left 3 more unaccounted for – while also leaving nearly 300 animals either drowned or killed as the flood destroyed the Soviet-era Tbilisi Zoo. Deadly and headline grabbing interactions among humans and non-humans continued surprising those in Tbilisi as diverse actors tried to control the precarious situation unfolding in this post-Soviet urban landscape, and survivors of all sorts roamed the streets. I illustrate these relationships by analyzing news coverage, government statements, technical reports, archival resources, and my own experiences as a participant observer within the events surrounding the flood. In doing so I extend arguments by Foucault and his interlocuters to present a case of more-than-human government, requiring the arrangement of non- human elements to maintain the life of a political population such as the Tbilisi citizenry. As I demonstrate, such governmental practices require not only calculations of what life to protect and what to destroy via sovereignty, discipline, and biopolitics, but also a constellation of other powers, including historically embedded regimes of truth and authority. From this perspective, the security of a human population may at times rely on its imbrication with the government of animals and infrastructure alike, and vice versa – by securing, disciplining, knowing, and at times destroying our material environments and companion species, however we may be related.
Article
The modern person lives in the constant flow of visual messages and images that make their identification and perception more complicated. Against this background the actual issue is to search the ways of focusing on the certain information and attracting people’s attention due to the outrageous images creation. One of such ways is the implementation of the natural fire element into the design objects structure. The live fire as the contradictory meaningful image of the destruction and creation becomes the innovative means of visual language that activates the sensitive experience of the world cognition. In this regard, such huge changes in the visual communication design require the system analysis of the theory and practice of the integrated design systems, which are based on the physico-chemical properties of natural elements, especially fire.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Due to the recent predicted affinity of 13 novel 5-phenyl-5,6-dihydrotetrazolo[1,5-c]-quinazolines to the ribosomal 50S protein L2P (2QEX) by molecular docking, their ADME properties were calculated at the site SwissADME to predict their drug-likeness. Hence, substances 6, 10, and 12 appeared to be the leading compounds among all studied ones and are of definite interest for further in vitro antimicrobial activity investigation.
Chapter
Many people have called for Integrated Fire Management that effectively harnesses the power of fire to achieve land management goals. Often this includes using fire, and certainly, it involves managing both short- and long-term effects of fire informed by an understanding of both people and place. In eight case studies from around the globe, local experts describe successful variants of integrated fire management. Their stories illustrate innovative, proactive approaches to managing fires and the ecosystems, including people, in which those fires occur. Integrated Fire Management is different in each location, but it is always focused on long-term effectiveness in meeting strategic objectives, and the most effective practitioners are constantly listening, learning, and adapting while working with many different people. In this way, the case studies illustrate that effective fire management is informed by the scientific principles you’ve learned in prior chapters of our book, Fire science from chemistry to landscape management, but also depends on being flexible and adaptive to local and changing conditions. Such management uses fire as one of the tools to increase the benefits of fire while limiting the negative effects of fire in achieving social-ecological ecosystem goals strategically.
Article
Full-text available
Prescribed burning by Indigenous people was once ubiquitous throughout California. Settler colonialism brought immense investments in fire suppression by the United States Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE) to protect timber and structures, effectively limiting prescribed burning in California. Despite this, fire-dependent American Indian communities such as the Karuk and Yurok peoples, stalwartly advocate for expanding prescribed burning as a part of their efforts to revitalize their culture and sovereignty. To examine the political ecology of prescribed burning in Northern California, we coupled participant observation of prescribed burning in Karuk and Yurok territories (2015–2019) with 75 surveys and 18 interviews with Indigenous and non-Indigenous fire managers to identify political structures and material conditions that facilitate and constrain prescribed fire expansion. Managers report that interagency partnerships have provided supplemental funding and personnel to enable burning, and that decentralized prescribed burn associations facilitate prescribed fire. However, land dispossession and centralized state regulations undermine Indigenous and local fire governance. Excessive investment in suppression and the underfunding of prescribed fire produces a scarcity of personnel to implement and plan burns. Where Tribes and local communities have established burning infrastructure, authorities should consider the devolution of decision-making and land repatriation to accelerate prescribed fire expansion.
Research
This research was conducted in preparation for my Masters thesis discussing the origins of anthropomorphism in advertising in the United States.
Article
Full-text available
Expansion of the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and the increasing size and number of wildfires has policy-makers and wildfire managers seeking ways to reduce wildfire risk in communities located near fire-prone forests. It is widely acknowledged that homeowners can reduce their exposure to wildfire risk by using nonflammable building materials and reducing tree density near the home, among other actions. Although these actions can reduce the vulnerability of homes to wildfire, many homeowners do not take them. We examined the influence of risk factors on homeowners' perceived wildfire risk components using a survey of WUI homeowners in central Oregon (USA) and biophysical data that described wildfire risk as predicted by wildfire simulation models, past wildfire, and vegetation characteristics. Our analysis included homeowners' perceptions of the likelihood of wildfire and resulting damage, and examined how these factors contribute to homeowners' likelihood to conduct mitigation actions. We developed an empirical model of homeowners' risk perceptions and mitigation behavior, which served as input into an agent-based model to examine potential landscape and behavior changes over 50 years. We found homeowners' wildfire risk perceptions to be positively correlated with hazardous conditions predicted by fuel models and weakly predictive of mitigation behavior. Homeowners' perceived chance of wildfire was positively correlated with actual probability of wildfire, while their perceived chance of damage to the home was positively correlated with potential wildfire intensity. Wildfire risk perceptions also were found to be correlated with past wildfire experience. Our results suggest that homeowners may be savvy observers of landscape conditions, which act as "feedbacks" that enhance homeowners' concerns about wildfire hazard and motivate them to take mitigation action. Alternatively, homeowners living in hazardous locations are somehow receiving the message that they need to take protective measures. Mitigation compliance output from the agent-based model suggests that completion of mitigation actions is likely to increase over 50 years under various scenarios.
Article
Full-text available
Foucault and Lefebvre's writings have rekindled interest among geographers in territory–state relations, with recent work conceptualising territory as a state strategy to control space, and on the state as a socio-natural relation. However, what is lacking is how these debates intersect with post-human understandings of nature's materialities, and how the resulting ‘material territory’ mediates state periodisation. Drawing on a case study of Iceland, we address this issue to show how pre-modern territorialisation shaped state territorialities, and how state periodisation arises from political order imbricating with the materialities of territory. The originality of the work is threefold. First is to show how territory as a material category resists or reinterprets political ordering through longitudinal examination of a single case. Second is to reconceptualise state periodisation as an evolutionary material-political, as much as socio-economic, process. Third is to establish empirically the unacknowledged tensions between the state's use of territory to order ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ affairs. We analyse the implications of a material conception of territory for state periodisation and for wider understandings of contemporary statecraft. The state is revealed as a site of multiple territorialities in space, and territorial multiplicities over time.
Book
Full-text available
Flame and Fortune in the American West creatively and meticulously investigates the ongoing politics, folly, and avarice shaping the production of increasingly widespread yet dangerous suburban and exurban landscapes. The 1991 Oakland Hills Tunnel Fire is used as a starting point to better understand these complex social-environmental processes. The Tunnel Fire is the most destructive fire—in terms of structures lost—in California history. More than 3,000 residential structures burned and 25 lives were lost. Although this fire occurred in Oakland and Berkeley, others like it sear through landscapes in California and the American West that have experienced urban growth and development within areas historically prone to fire. Simon skillfully blends techniques from environmental history, political ecology, and science studies to closely examine the Tunnel Fire within a broader historical and spatial context of regional economic development and natural-resource management, such as the widespread planting of eucalyptus trees as an exotic lure for homeowners and the creation of hillside neighborhoods for tax revenue—decisions that produced communities with increased vulnerability to fire. Simon demonstrates how in Oakland a drive for affluence led to a state of vulnerability for rich and poor alike that has only been exacerbated by the rebuilding of neighborhoods after the fire. Despite these troubling trends, Flame and Fortune in the American West illustrates how many popular and scientific debates on fire limit the scope and efficacy of policy responses. These risky yet profitable developments (what the author refers to as the Incendiary), as well as proposed strategies for challenging them, are discussed in the context of urbanizing areas around the American West and hold global applicability within hazard-prone areas.
Article
Full-text available
Increased forest fire activity across the western continental United States (US) in recent decades has likely been enabled by a number of factors, including the legacy of fire suppression and human settlement, natural climate variability, and human-caused climate change. We use modeled climate projections to estimate the contribution of anthropogenic climate change to observed increases in eight fuel aridity metrics and forest fire area across the western United States. Anthropogenic increases in temperature and vapor pressure deficit significantly enhanced fuel aridity across western US forests over the past several decades and, during 2000-2015, contributed to 75% more forested area experiencing high (>1 σ) fire-season fuel aridity and an average of nine additional days per year of high fire potential. Anthropogenic climate change accounted for ∼55% of observed increases in fuel aridity from 1979 to 2015 across western US forests, highlighting both anthropogenic climate change and natural climate variability as important contributors to increased wildfire potential in recent decades. We estimate that human-caused climate change contributed to an additional 4.2 million ha of forest fire area during 1984-2015, nearly doubling the forest fire area expected in its absence. Natural climate variability will continue to alternate between modulating and compounding anthropogenic increases in fuel aridity, but anthropogenic climate change has emerged as a driver of increased forest fire activity and should continue to do so while fuels are not limiting.
Article
Full-text available
Around the world, debates over how to manage and adapt to bushfires (or wildfires) are increasingly prominent as more and different people, many of whom have little or no experience with landscape fire or land management, inhabit fire-prone environments. But bushfire events represent only the most visible aspect of complex entanglements which operate across huge temporal and spatial scales and over which humans have very limited control. In this article, we focus on how Australian landholders of settler or migrant heritage understand scalar complexities and agency and control within human/landscape fire entanglements. In view of the fact that the learning styles of landholders new to rural areas have been developed in different environments with very different challenges, we also ask whether immersion within rural, fire-prone environments influences ways of ‘knowing’ land and fire.
Article
Full-text available
Fire is a force that links everyday human activities to some of the most powerful energetic movements of the Earth. Drawing together the energy-centred social theory of Georges Bataille, the fire-centred environmental history of Stephen Pyne, and the work of a number of ‘pyrotechnology’ scholars, the paper proposes that the generalized study of combustion is a key to contextualizing human energetic practices within a broader ‘economy’ of terrestrial and cosmic energy flows. We examine the relatively recent turn towards fossil-fuelled ‘internal combustion’ in the light of a much longer human history of ‘broadcast’ burning of vegetation and of artisanal pyrotechnologies – the use of heat to transform diverse materials. A combustion-centred analysis, it is argued, brings human collective life into closer contact with the geochemical and geologic conditions of earthly existence, while also pointing to the significance of explorative, experimental and even playful dispositions towards energy and matter.
Article
Full-text available
This article proposes a framework for considering materiality in the field of geopolitics: assemblage and complexity theories. Drawing on literatures beyond the field to imagine a posthuman geopolitics, this article argues for a relational ontology that emphasizes the complex interactions among the elements of an assemblage. These interactions produce emergent effects which themselves reshape the assemblage's elements. This has implications for understandings of agency, subjectivity, and systemic change. The article concludes by highlighting the methodological and ethical challenges that such a project would face.
Article
Full-text available
Vulnerability-in-production is offered as a theoretical construct to highlight two interrelated aspects of vulnerability: a process where landscapes are altered and developed in a manner that retains their productivity for property owners and other stakeholders and a recursive and relational process that is always in production and inscribed unevenly over time and space. The 1991 Oakland Hills (Tunnel) Firestorm remains the largest conflagration—in terms of numbers of dwellings destroyed—in California's history. Using the Tunnel Fire as a starting point for analysis, this article argues for the dedicated application of spatial history analysis to vulnerability. A first spatial history section highlights how land development strategies from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s contributed to the production of vulnerable conditions in Oakland. A second section describes how conservative homeowner politics and state tax restructuring spanning the 1950s to the 1980s further generated vulnerabilities throughout the city. A third spatial history section reveals processes that undergird and connect uneven patterns of affluence and vulnerability within Oakland. Collectively, these sections enhance our epistemic commitment to the study of vulnerability through spatial–historical analysis that uses diverse data, visualizations, and analytic techniques; our understanding of vulnerability as a recursive and relational process; and our appreciation for the political ecological nature of vulnerability—where affluence and levels of net vulnerability are highly uneven yet also deeply intertwined in their production.
Article
Full-text available
The concept of marginalization, which is central to studies in political ecology, can be strengthened by incorporating a focus on the mutually constitutive concept of facilitation. Facilitation connotes how privileged groups are provided institutional forms of security in their pursuit of private gain, contributing to deleterious social and ecological outcomes. This paper builds on the concept of marginalization by outlining its application in previous studies. Next, it demonstrates how a dual focus on marginalization and facilitation can help strengthen understanding of the political ecology of risks, hazards and, disasters based on the case of urban wildfire hazards in Arizona's White Mountains. It concludes by discussing implications for understandings of differential risk and hazard vulnerability. In a world where privileged people are increasingly harnessing resources of state and market institutions to externalize risks and capitalize on environmental opportunities, facilitation offers a conceptual complement to marginalization and broadens the political ecology frame. Keywords: hazard, vulnerability, risk, marginalization, fire, forest, landscape, Arizona
Article
Full-text available
This article makes the case for addressing nonhumans as actors in geopolitical processes such as boundary making and enforcement. The challenge of this line of argumentation is to account for nonhumans as actors without enacting dualistic ontologies that locate the natural and social in separate realms. To address this methodological challenge, I present a posthumanist political ecology. I elaborate my argument and methodological approach in relation to my research on the environmental dimensions of U.S. border security. Specifically, I examine how deserts, rivers, Tamaulipan Thornscrub, and cats inflect, disrupt, and obstruct the daily practices of boundary enforcement, leading state actors to call for more funding, infrastructure, boots on the ground, and surveillance technology. As my research illustrates, taking nonhumans seriously as actors alters explanations for the escalation of U.S. enforcement strategies.
Article
Full-text available
At their worst, fires at the rural-urban or wildland-urban interface cause tragic loss of human lives and homes, but mitigating these fire effects through management elicits many social and scientific challenges. This paper addresses four interconnected management challenges posed by socially disastrous landscape fires. The issues concern various assets (particularly houses, human life and biodiversity), fuel treatments, and fire and human behaviours. The topics considered are: 'asset protection zones'; 'defensible space' and urban fire spread in relation to house ignition and loss; 'stay-or-go' policy and the prediction of time available for safe egress and the possible conflict between the creation of defensible space and wildland management objectives. The first scientific challenge is to model the effective width of an asset protection zone of an urban area. The second is to consider the effect of vegetation around a house, potentially defensible space, on fire arrival at the structure. The third scientific challenge is to present stakeholders with accurate information on rates of spread, and where the fire front is located, so as to allow them to plan safe egress or preparation time in their particular circumstances. The fourth scientific challenge is to be able to predict the effects of fires on wildland species composition. Associated with each scientific challenge is a social challenge: for the first two scientific challenges the social challenge is to co-ordinate fuel management within and between the urban and rural or wildland sides of the interface. For the third scientific challenge, the social challenge is to be aware of, and appropriately use, fire danger information so that the potential for safe egress from a home can be estimated most accurately. Finally, the fourth social challenge is to for local residents of wildland-urban interfaces with an interest in biodiversity conservation to understand the effects of fire regimes on biodiversity, thereby assisting hard-pressed wildland managers to make informed choices.
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the causes and consequences of wildfires in forests of the western United States requires integrated information about fire, climate changes, and human activity on multiple temporal scales. We use sedimentary charcoal accumulation rates to construct long-term variations in fire during the past 3,000 y in the American West and compare this record to independent fire-history data from historical records and fire scars. There has been a slight decline in burning over the past 3,000 y, with the lowest levels attained during the 20th century and during the Little Ice Age (LIA, ca. 1400-1700 CE [Common Era]). Prominent peaks in forest fires occurred during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (ca. 950-1250 CE) and during the 1800s. Analysis of climate reconstructions beginning from 500 CE and population data show that temperature and drought predict changes in biomass burning up to the late 1800s CE. Since the late 1800s , human activities and the ecological effects of recent high fire activity caused a large, abrupt decline in burning similar to the LIA fire decline. Consequently, there is now a forest "fire deficit" in the western United States attributable to the combined effects of human activities, ecological, and climate changes. Large fires in the late 20th and 21st century fires have begun to address the fire deficit, but it is continuing to grow.
Article
Full-text available
Under current conditions of accelerated socioenvironmental change in the Mediterranean forested landscapes, fire is one of the most critical and difficult risks to tackle within the region. This article summarizes the lessons learned from a project based on the participatory integration of qualitative local stakeholders' knowledge with expert GIS fire simulations carried out in the County of El Bages, Catalonia, Spain. First, in this article, a theoretical model--the forest fire circle--is presented in order to explain the reasons for the rise in the damage and frequency of forest fires in this Mediterranean area. Second, it describes the methodology developed and the stages followed during the project. Results show that: (1) the advocacy of old forest reactive management paradigm assumptions and practices based on uncontrolled forest succession can put vast wooded areas of the Mediterranean basin at critical risk; and (2) forest fire management approaches that ignore the crucial role of long-term prevention and local capacity building strategies have failed. In the final section, the content and the specific dimensions of the old reactive paradigm that has characterized forest fire risk management in Catalonia are discussed and contrasted with the possibly emerging preventative paradigm.
Chapter
This essay deals mainly with the possibility for a further development of Marxist political theory that has been stagnating in West Germany since the end of the so-called ‘state derivation debate’. It presents a very abridged version of the propositions and results of my book Der Sicherheitsstaat (1980), which combine the structuralist categories of ‘state derivation’ with a theory of the historical development of capitalist society. This combination has enabled me to proceed from general (and therefore abstract) political theory to a concept useful for the analysis of actual changes in the political apparatus, essential for the political usefulness and relevance of theory.
Article
Through the case study of the contested British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, this paper contributes to discussions on ‘territorial volumes’ by exploring the role of the ‘elemental’ in the protracted sovereignty dispute between Spain and Gibraltar. Drawing on scholarship by Elden, Adey, McCormack and others in political and cultural geography, the paper highlights the value of foregrounding the elements of rock, water, air and fire (in the form of the sun) in attempts to understand the tensions between Gibraltar and Spain whilst also demonstrating the significant intersections between the elemental and the human body. Whilst avoiding the snares of environmental determinism, the paper makes the case for an elemental ontology that functions through and with the proclivities and molecular specificities of the elements in order to better understand the construct of the territorial volume, the relationship between elemental and bodily volumes, and the site specific geopolitical realities, fractures and possibilities that are laid bare as the elements are unearthed.
Article
Corresponding author at: Land Use Planning Group at Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Article
This paper explores US Department of Homeland Security surveillance programs in the United States/Mexico borderlands, with an emphasis on the quotidian role of a dynamic more-than-human landscape in frustrating the department’s enforcement practices and ambitions. The paper is based on several years’ ethnographic research in southern Arizona, archival research, and semi-structured interviews with current and former government personnel. By unpacking the quotidian challenges confronted by Homeland Security personnel, the paper contributes to a post-humanist theory of terrain, shifting the focus of geographic inquiry to the ways that the qualities of certain spaces, objects, and conditions may resist or impede everyday navigation, centralized vision or administrative practice. Yet, as the long saga of Department of Homeland Security surveillance initiatives would suggest, the impediments of terrain are by no means final or determinant. To think through this indeterminacy and its implications for the geographic composition of state practice, the paper proposes that the latter be approached “metabolically,” with state security and surveillance practices continuously animated by a dynamic exterior as agents and agencies seek to overcome tactical and strategic limitations by incorporating, digesting and subjecting ever-greater kinds and volumes of objects, bodies, landscapes, and data to centralized legibility and control.
Article
Swidden is an agroforestry system in which woody vegetation is regenerated after a period of annual cropping. Associated with most forested areas of the tropical world, swidden is often blamed for deforestation but it also plays a role in forest conservation. Here, we examine the contemporary milpa, a type of swidden agriculture common to Latin America and historically used by the Maya people of the lowlands of southern Mexico and northern Central America; we focus on one group in particular, the Lakandon people of Chiapas. One element of milpa agriculture that receives a considerable amount of criticism is the burning of cut vegetation after clearing. Fire can have negative effects on ecosystems but swidden cultivators are often sophisticated managers of fire. Among the benefits of fire use in this setting is its contribution to nutrient flow and to long-term soil fertility in the form of biochar, charcoal produced by low-temperature pyrolysis in agriculture. When properly managed, the milpa cycle can result in long-term carbon sequestration and an increasingly fertile anthrosol (soil that has been greatly modified by long-term human activity) and enriched woodland vegetation.
Article
This article investigates why and how efforts to control Desert Locusts in Northwestern Africa became a strategic concern for the French Resistance during the Second World War. I analyze the record of a 1943 conference convened to discuss on-going locust plagues in Northwestern Africa. The analysis suggests that the "locust problem" provided a field for technocrats to innovate and re-present new modes of government. More specifically, French authorities in exile prioritized organizing against the Desert Locust in part because the spatial extent of the insect's biophysical specificities provided an ideal field to reinvent and re-present the spatiality and legitimacy of the French Empire as a transnational and constructive federation of techno-scientific benevolence, uniting all its colonies against common enemies. The work provides a different perspective on the questions of 'fit' between institutions and ecosystems by highlighting the dynamic relationships between material demands of object(s) of management concerns, scientific knowledge about said object(s), and strategic imperatives of authoritative legitimacy. The paper highlights how the relationships between (1) the selection and stabilization of ecological problems and solutions, (2) their adoption within the logic and imperative of institutions, and (3) the emergence of specific apparatus of rule together bear on why and how given socio-ecological dynamics become "seen" and adopted as mandates by agencies, how they are represented, and what particular technological or institutional arrangement is favored for (and by) their management.
Article
In this paper we construct an object-oriented approach to power and politics. Building on the work of Graham Harman, we argue that objects are engines of power, able to fully shape the contours of existence through the production of difference and affectivity in the world. We present four key points to underpin our argument. First, we define an object by expanding on the Heideggerian idea that objects are split between their ‘present qualities’ and ‘absent qualities’. Second, we discuss why objects are irreducible to scientific naturalism or social relativism. Third, we contend that the world is ‘policed’ by objects that act as phenomenological viruses. And finally, we explain that such policing is never exhaustive and autonomous forces are constitutive of new commons. We conclude that a speculative metaphysics is vital for building new geographic understandings of objects and power, and a politics of action – one brick at a time.
Article
This paper argues that we may now speak of a ‘new Foucault’ with more to say to contemporary human geography than might at first be suspected. A number of recent publications – notably the collected and translated Collège de France lecture series – paint a picture of Foucault that arguably departs from presumptions of him as the chronicler‐theorist of discursively constituted, totalising power. The paper has two objectives: first, to offer a synoptic introduction to the lecture series, spotlighting the geographical resonances; and secondly, to thread an interpretative line through these materials demonstrating Foucault’s concern for the vital problematics of lively bodies and unpredictable populations, always threatening to over‐spill different forms of power (sovereign, disciplinary, biopolitical, governmental, pastoral, psychiatric). An attempt is made to address Nigel Thrift’s non‐representationalist critique of Foucault, and to propose that the gulf between Thrift and Foucault is not as great as the former may imply – a finding of value when identifying future possibilities for critical‐geographical inquiry.
Article
Despite the historical importance of fire as a savanna land management tool, much controversy still surrounds discussions on anthropogenic fire utilization and the sustainability of indigenous land management practices in African savannas. This controversy is arguably a result of a discord between official fire policies and actual indigenous fire practices – a discord based on a gap in existing knowledge of, and a lack of informed literature on, the importance of fire for socio-economic and environmental survival in savanna environments. Addressing a continuing lack of research on the political ecology of fire, this study investigates the historical and present day socio-economic, environmental and political frameworks that affect anthropogenic burning regimes and land management in the Kafinda Game Management Area and Kasanka National Park in Zambia. A series of participatory research activities revealed the continuing importance of fire to rural livelihoods, but that a mismatch in desired burning regimes exists between local stakeholders. The paper argues that local power relations are preventing the local communities from adopting burning regimes that would be more environmentally sustainable and more in line with present day farming systems.
Article
A century of wildfire suppression in the United States has led to increased fuel loading and large-scale ecological change across some of the nation's forests. Land management agencies have responded by increasing the use of prescribed fire and thinning. However, given the continued emphasis on fire suppression, current levels of funding for such fuel management practices are unlikely to maintain the status quo, let alone reverse the effects of fire exclusion. We suggest an alternative approach to wildfire management, one that places less emphasis on suppression and instead encourages managers to balance short-term wildfire damages against the long-term consequences of fire exclusion. However, any major change in wildfire management, such as the one proposed here, will shift the costs and benefits of wildfire management, inevitably raising opposition.
Article
Fire is a powerful symbol of chaos, often marking the destruction of order in both the social and the natural worlds. Fire fascinates the eye and appeals to the imagination, yet forest fires in the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca-in southern Mexico-have all but disappeared from popular memory. Why should something so apparently memorable be unknown to so many people? This article reconstructs the history of the forests of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca, and describes how local memories of forest history have been partially suppressed as a result of the struggle between forest communities and logging companies, to claim control of the forest, starting in 1956 and continuing until 1982. In the 1950s, government officials blamed forest destruction upon the local indigenous communities. Fire, as a symbol of disorder, became the target of state control and the subject of a state-sponsored discourse of environmental degradation. Over the following fifty years, the forest communities gradually mastered and modified this discourse, and reallocated blame to outsiders in order to claim control of their forests. As a result, past forest fires are little remembered today. This story can help us understand how local and extra-local people can struggle over environmental discourse in order to claim control of the natural environment. These conflicts over discourse are carried out not only in the realm of narratives and language, but through political organization and popular mobilization as well as the more mundane practices of logging and fighting forest fires.
Article
Through time primeval Europe was transformed into a landscape where managed woodlands (forestis) became repositories for resources and wild woods (silva) were seen as being occupied by wild men, the savages. The importation into the New World of these attitudes resulted in verdant North America being classified as 'wilderness'. It was generally assumed that the worlds of the past were essentially unaltered by hunter-gatherer activities. By the twentieth century, forest management practices in North America, supported by the myth of the primeval past, encouraged old growth forests through fire suppression. The fallacy of the unmanaged forest of prehistory is now being challenged. In its place are put forward models of forests as managed sustainers of a wide range of resources. In such models, fire is an essential management tool, not an ecodisaster.
Article
In this paper I argue that geographies of religion are fundamental to understanding governance and social order in contemporary urban space. More specifically, I show how Foucault’s notion of governmentality characterizes regimes of power beyond the state apparatus, positing that religion and churches also produce and maintain the knowledges, truths, and social order associated with governmentality and self-regulated governance. By considering the geography of religion literature within the context of Foucualt’s work, I illustrate the importance of religious and spiritual practices to contemporary urban space, and the roles they play in producing and maintaining governance and socio-political order. My purpose is not to suggest that governmentality has been misapplied as a theoretical tool for understanding the state and political power, but to show how the term actually describes power more generally, including spiritual moments in addition to political ones. Drawing from my case study in Fortaleza, Brazil, I substantiate my theoretical argument using empirical examples, showing how governmentality is produced through religion and churches and the relationship between spiritual practices and governance in everyday space.
Article
The wildland–urban interface (WUI) is the area where houses meet or in-termingle with undeveloped wildland vegetation. The WUI is thus a focal area for human– environment conflicts, such as the destruction of homes by wildfires, habitat fragmentation, introduction of exotic species, and biodiversity decline. Our goal was to conduct a spatially detailed assessment of the WUI across the United States to provide a framework for scientific inquiries into housing growth effects on the environment and to inform both national policy-makers and local land managers about the WUI and associated issues. The WUI in the conterminous United States covers 719 156 km 2 (9% of land area) and contains 44.8 million housing units (39% of all houses). WUI areas are particularly widespread in the eastern United States, reaching a maximum of 72% of land area in Connecticut. California has the highest number of WUI housing units (5.1 million). The extent of the WUI highlights the need for ecological principles in land-use planning as well as sprawl-limiting policies to adequately address both wildfire threats and conservation problems.
Chapter
Anthropogenic fires dominate Africa, where they have long shaped landscapes and livelihoods. Humans evolved in Africa’s fire-prone grasslands and savannas, eventually taking ignition into their own hands. This chapter reviews current knowledge about and concerns over lire in two African countries. Mali and Madagascar. Vast areas of land burn in both countries each year as people light fires to shape vegetation communities for a number of often overlapping and sometimes competing reasons, ranging from pasture and game management, to crop field preparation, to pest and wildfire control. In Mali, hunting and agropastoral fires shape vegetation zones along the gradient between the dry north and the more humid south. Their anthropogenic nature removes much of the interannual variation common in fire regimes elsewhere—they are a regular, predictable feature of the landscape. In Madagascar, fires prepare and maintain the vast pastures of the interior, and enable farmers to cultivate farther into the few remaining stands of forest. Although rural populations rely upon fire for numerous livelihood activities, they sometimes struggle to control fire. Policy makers have long criticized the fires for reducing tree cover and contributing to land degradation, raising the specter of desertification in Mali and deforestation in Madagascar. As a result, colonial and independent governments have periodically tried to eradicate—or at least minimize—landscape burning. These efforts wax and wane with the political context, with drought cycles, and with periods of international concern. Government fire restrictions are frequently perceived by rural residents as an imposition on their way of life, and enforcement has led to animosity against government agents. Given people’s resistance, as well as fire’s inevitability in wet-dry grassy landscapes, fire management is largely at a standstill. Some form of co-management is likely the only viable solution, yet in order for this to work, governments will have to accept the usefulness and inevitability of many fires.
Article
Madagascar has a fire problem: despite a century of anti-fire repression and rhetoric, farmers and herders continue burning about half of the island’s grasslands and woodlands annually. The state criminalized burning due to concern that fire destroys the island’s natural resources and blocks development. Many peasants, however, rely on fire to maintain pastures and woodlands, prepare cropfields, control pests, and manage wildfires. The resultant conflict over natural resource management provides a convenient window into questions of peasant protest and resistance, and into strategies of power in resource management. Peasants have succeeded in continuing to burn unimpeded, leading to a century-long stalemate over fire, by taking advantage of first, contradictions and hesitations within the state, second, the natural character of fire (its inevitability, easy anonymity, and self-propagation), and third, the ambiguity between fire as explicit protest and fire as a livelihood technique used at politically opportune moments. This research demonstrates that models of domination (or criminalization) and resistance used to understand peasant-state relations in natural resource management are incomplete without, first, a consideration of the complex and ambiguous spaces between domination and resistance, between state and peasant, between protest and livelihood practices, and second, attention to the political-ecological context including resource ecology, rural livelihoods, and political discourse.
Article
The book is an attempt to rethink human social life through our ongoing immersion in and engagment with earth processes. It responds to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the threat of abrupt climate change, recent outbreaks of wildfire in Australia and other events which remind us just how volatile our earth can be. While attentive to the current environmental predicament, it locates the issue of human-induced change in the broader context of dwelling on a planet which the natural sciences are discovering is more turbulent and unpredictable than most of us had previously imagined. Recognising that human lives are inherently vulnerable, Inhuman Nature also suggests that there is a vast reservoir of experience "inscribed in communities, bodies, landscapes, stories and objects" that is to do with making it through the variability of earth processes. As well as conversing with the earth and life sciences, the book taps into some recent themes in social theory and philosophy about the agency of more-than-human things, and about care, responsiveness and hospitality. The introduction has been provided.
Article
Long considered both best friend and worst enemy to humankind, fire is at once creative and destructive. On the endangered tropical island of Madagascar, these two faces of fire have fueled a century-long conflict between rural farmers and island leaders. Based on detailed fieldwork in Malagasy villages and a thorough archival investigation, Isle of Fire offers a detailed analysis of why Madagascar has always been aflame, why it always will be aflame, and ultimately, as Christian Kull argues, why it should remain aflame.
Article
Abstract Despite long-standing calls to rethink the state ‘as a social relation’, reified understandings that view the state as a differentiated institutional realm separate from civil society are notably persistent in academic and political debate. By contrast, this paper focuses on the myriad ways in which everyday life is permeated by the social relations of stateness, and vice versa. The paper reviews the conceptual difficulties in defining ‘the state’ and suggests that these can be addressed in part through a focus on the mundane practices that give rise to ‘state effects’. It considers how the concept of prosaics, based on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, might provide a fruitful approach for studying such practices, their geographies and the geographies of state effects. A case study of the governance of anti-social behaviour in the UK is used to show the potential application of this approach in empirical research. The paper concludes with some reflections on possible future avenues of research.
Article
Wildland fires constitute a major crisis in American environmental policy, a crisis created by a longstanding policy failure. This article explores the political processes that generated and reinforced this policy failure over time. The concepts of bounded rationality, punctuated equilibria, and self- reinforcing mechanisms are applied to study the evolution of American wildfire policy between 1905 and the present. This study finds that a self-defeating wildfire suppression policy was established in the period 1905 through 1911, and subsequently reinforced for more than five decades. This policy did not include a complementary program to counteract the gradual accumulation of flammable organic materials (fuels) that occurred in many ecosystems when fires were suppressed. The resulting fuel accumulations have greatly increased the risk of damaging, high-intensity wildfires in a range of American wildlands. A combination of fire suppression and fuel reduction programs will be needed to manage this risk in the future. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2004..
The true story of Smokey Bear. USA: Western Publishing Company
  • Ad Council
Ad Council. (1960). The true story of Smokey Bear. USA: Western Publishing Company. http://www.wvforestry.com/comicbook.pdf. (Accessed 8 August 2016).
Our-Campaigns/The-Classics/Wildfire-Prevention
  • Ad Council
Ad Council. (2016). Wildfire prevention 1944-present: Overview. http://www.adcou ncil.org/Our-Campaigns/The-Classics/Wildfire-Prevention. (Accessed 8 August 2016).