Paper Sessions 12A – 13

Paper Session 12A: Shifting Agencies and Human Relationships with Fire, Water and Ice

Friday, May 21: 11:00 AM PDT / 7:00 PM BST / 11:30 PM IST

Chair: Jonathan Eaton, University of British Columbia, Canada


    • “Feeling the Fireline: The Social Production of Embodied Environmental Knowledge in Wildland Firefighter Communities” | Jordan Thomas, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Abstract: Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork with wildland firefighters in California, this paper examines the role of embodied environmental knowledge in predicting fire behavior in contexts of extreme climate change. The lives of firefighters, communities, and ecologies often depend upon firefighters’ abilities to predict and manage the spread of flames, anticipating where, when, and with what intensity fires will move. These predictions are based upon interacting forms of environmental knowledge, but climate change is disrupting the material, sensuous baselines upon which this knowledge is built. I argue that attention to the senses provides insight into how people navigate extreme climate events.

    • “Ecologies, Lost and Found, in the Ethnography of Flood Control” | Stephanie C. Kane, Indiana University Bloomington, USA

Abstract: This presentation draws on my experimental ethnography of flood control in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a city set into a riverine confluence created by melting glaciers of ice age end. Modernizing the sedentary settler-colonial imaginary, flood control infrastructure forms the bones of urban habitus, a material blending of folk and expert knowledge. From geo-visualizations of unintentional riverine agencies and the urban imperatives of historical/geological spacetimes, I propose to wind my way into “an ecology-focused vision of the future” (Barry et al.).

    • “Ice as Infrastructure: Uncertainty and Unpredictability on the Northern Sea Route” | Alla Bolotova, Alto University, Finland

Abstract: This paper deals with relationships that various human actors in the arctic seas establish with ice as a dynamic and changing material environment. The round-the-year shipping on Northern Sea Route (NSR) depends on ice conditions and requires powerful icebreakers and developed coastal infrastructure. I analyse how distinctive physical qualities of arctic ice, such as uncertainty, dynamism and unpredictability are discussed and experienced by different groups of actors on NSR. I show how power, infrastructures, technological decisions and everyday practices of people are connected and intertwined; how perceptions of ice are shaped by different tasks, perspectives, backgrounds and technologies.


Session 12B: Urban Ecological Art in COVID-19

Friday, May 21: 11:00 AM PDT / 7:00 PM BST / 11:30 PM IST

Event description: In this roundtable, participants will discuss the process of creating and launching an eco-urban poetry journal, called SPROUT, during the pandemic. We will share some insights on commissioning and curating poetry in an unpredictable environment, and will reflect on processes of artistic production that reflect relationships between cities, people, and nature. The roundtable will feature readings and insights from contributors to SPROUT’s first issue, available open access. We will also speak to the journal’s relationship with The Nature of Cities as a creative and professional hub that invites reconceptualizations of urban ecology. Everyone is encouraged to read the first issue of SPROUT!

Chair: David Maddox, The Nature of Cities


    • Kirby Manià, University of British Columbia, Canada
    • Dimitra Xidous, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
    • Dylan Brennan, Poet, Ireland
    • Joanna Walsh, Author, Ireland


Paper Session 13: Managing Change Amidst Uncertain Environments

Friday, May 21: 12:30 PM PDT / 8:30 PM BST / Saturday May 22 1:00 AM IST

Chair: Karine Gagné, University of Guelph, Canada


    • “Relational Transformations: Living Political and Environmental Change in Nepal” | Sara Shneiderman, University of British Columbia, Canada

Abstract: How do we understand the relationship between political and environmental upheaval in shaping perceptions of transformation—and therefore responses to it—from citizens, states, and scholars? I explore these questions ethnographically through the experiences of community members in Dolakha, a hill district of Nepal, where over the past 25 years residents have experienced a civil war; a protracted process of post-conflict state restructuring; a devastating series of earthquakes; and an equally protracted process of state-led reconstruction.

    • “Freshwater Time Bomb” | Kristin C. Doughty, University of Rochester, USA

Abstract: Lake Kivu is internationally known as a “freshwater time bomb”: it contains dissolved methane and carbon dioxide that could release and suffocate the 2 million people living nearby. This risk scenario has been used to mobilize money, expertise, and political will towards methane extraction projects that generate electricity while reducing risk of a deadly eruption. Based on ten months of ethnographic work with methane extraction efforts between 2016-2020, I use this “dangerous lake” to consider the science, politics, and ecologics of un/predictability. I consider how scientific visual modelling of the lake correlates with the ruling logic of contemporary Rwanda.

    • “A Day at a Time: Converging Crises and Seismic Uncertainty in Vancouver, Canada” | Jonathan Eaton, University of British Columbia, Canada

Abstract: Large earthquakes are both reality and rare occurrence in the Pacific Northwest. Indigenous oral histories and geological analyses confirm that earthquakes have shaped the region for millennia. At the same time, devastating earthquakes tend to strike this region on timescales that far exceed human lifespans. Given the uncertain timing of such an event, plans for reducing seismic vulnerabilities in Vancouver, Canada must vie for political capital alongside many present crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate emergency, and affordable housing crunch. This presentation explores how Vancouverites’ responses to these converging crises contribute towards (re)making their neighbourhoods.