Assembling risk or security?: governing wildfire risk in the age of climate change.

Authors: Adeniyi Asiyanbi*, University of Calgary, Conny Davidsen, University of Calgary
Topics: Canada, Cultural and Political Ecology, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: Wildfire, Risk, Climate change, Forest, Canada
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We analyze attempts to govern public wildfire risk in Canada and particularly in the Western Canadian province of Alberta, through a focus on the flagship programme FireSmart. We draw on a Foucauldian understanding of security as a general approach to social risks and problems to analyse fresh empirical evidence from in-depth interviews, ethnographic visits and policy documents. We suggest that FireSmart is a security apparatus, a political technology assembled through a multiplicity of actors, knowledge claims, practices and objectives. This political technology is underpinned by one central rationalizing discourse of risk individualization by which FireSmart seeks to render wildfire risk thinkable and actionable in particular ways. We argue that while FireSmart’s claim to efficacy lies in its power to responsibilize and mobilize individuals and local communities, it also, by the same token, contributes to a fundamental redefinition of questions of risk, responsibility and security. We show how these dynamics assume greater significance when analysed within a wider neoliberal terrain of public-private shifts in responsibility for security, a potentially catastrophic climate change and a certain anti-carbon sequestration politics that obscures the vision of forests as a space of opportunity for climate change mitigation particularly in Alberta. We reflect on what these mean for governing the climate-forest interface in Western Canada and beyond.

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