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The Politics of Wildfires: A Comparative Study of Norms, Power and Conflict in the Global South

Project description

A closer look at the political triggers of wildfires

Wildfires are worldwide phenomena that have been shaping the environment and life on Earth for millions of years. The global increase in the magnitude and spread of wildfires has inaugurated what experts call a ‘new era of fire.’ In this framework, fires have been couched almost exclusively as ‘natural disasters’ to be mitigated or suppressed. Yet wildfires are much more than that. The ERC-funded FIREPOL project will study fire as a political phenomenon: it will conduct a comprehensive cross-continental investigation into the political triggers of wildfires with a focus on the Global South. FIREPOL will integrate fire policy data, remote sensing, qualitative case studies, and ethnographic research. The aim is to explore the complex interplay of political factors, institutions, power dynamics, and social struggles influencing wildfire distribution, societal impacts, and public narratives.


Extreme wildfires have been on the rise across the globe due to climate change and other human actions. Despite the abundant literature on fire ecology and a recognition of the linkages of wildfires to global warming, a patchy understanding of the relationship between fire and anthropogenic actions and their political drivers persists. Social sciences scholarship has mostly focused on fire mitigation and management in the Global North, while complex relationships between societies and fires in the Global South remain broadly unexplored. These two gaps in the academic literature in terms of scope and geography are reflected in a narrow public understanding of wildfires as ‘risks’ and ‘natural disasters’.

FIREPOL goes beyond the state of the art by leading the most rigorous, cross-continental study of the political drivers of wildfires in the Global South. Through a radical multi-methods approach and a comparative perspective, my team and I will combine and analyse newly compiled fire policy and remote sensing data with qualitative case studies and ethnographic research. The aim will be to understand and explain how a range of political factors linked to formal policies and institutions, actor-driven power dynamics, and social contention shape the geographical distribution and social impact of wildfires, and public narratives about them.

FIREPOL is an ambitious, high-risk/high-gain project that will deliver a new framework to understand and explain the connections between politics and wildfires, at a timely moment when wildfires have been identified as crucial socio-ecological challenges within the global climate change agenda. It will develop a new theoretical framework around the concept of ‘wildfire commons’ as a way of engaging the academic community, policy stakeholders and the general public in the co-production of alternative pathways for the sustainable, equitable and politically engaged management of wildfires.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 209 993,84
10124 Torino

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Nord-Ovest Piemonte Torino
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 209 993,84

Beneficiaries (2)