9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Open Session III Building I, 2E4

Forested commons, community, state and territory? How to limit damage from fire in forested areas, when «taskscapes» are increasingly more and more merely landscapes or natural areas?

Forest fires are a common threat, across Europe, especially in southern areas, as it was shown with last years' fires in Greece, and those happening almost yearly in Portugal and Spain. Thus fire risk is an increasing potential hazard for most rural areas, and also those in the fringes of cities. Human and land desertification gave way to a forested landscape, that is both an important carbon sink, an environmental «necessity» as it is a "highly fuelled risk". This presentation aims at showing how a local commons system, a community, a territory and a state bureaucracy, at national and European levels, combine together to bring about a higher level of risk and uncertainty, such as that which stems from forest fires. The ongoing PhD research draws on a case-study of a community, where different layers of conflict exist (i.e. limits, cutting, grazing and state vs. people management), in what comes to their local commons. The local community is trying to sort out ways of coping with the alien reality of a forest and the resulting financial «surplus», since it was implemented in 1950, but simultaneously with its own changes - human and land desertification - and processes, such as client-patron networks and political conflicts. However, it was expected that the community would have been able to present interesting ways to cope with fire risks and events, nevertheless, neighbours may not speak about fires, even when they could gain insight on the ways to manage and limit damages (e.g. a fire-fighter lives nearby, and a farmer will not ask for help in controlling a slash and burn operation). Also, conflicts, that may «prevent» fire prevention, on the other hand, may also ensure and enforce the all-important face-to-face, and direct surveillance of the «taskscape» in the periods of higher risk. We have to understand that the major risk these populations express is not fire, but that one already written in their landscapes, since unhurriedly and silently it seems there are only but landscapes and nothing more...