Are Australian men, women and households really as aware and prepared for bushfire emergencies as we think we are? This is one question that is explored in a topical new book by AUSCCER’s Dr Christine Eriksen.
In Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty, Dr Eriksen examines bushfire awareness and preparedness amongst women, men, households, communities and agencies at the interface between city and beyond.
“Bushfire is a constant and ongoing part of Australian history, ecology and culture. Yet, longer fire seasons and an increase in extreme fire weather days with climate change add both uncertainty and urgency to Australia’s ability to coexist with fire in the future,” Dr Eriksen said.
“The bushfire emergency in Australia is not just an environmental crisis. Rather, it has social, ethical and political causes, hidden in embedded vulnerability, social norms and institutional structures. These are critical obstacles to bushfire preparedness, response and recovery.”
The book, released this week, examines two regions where bushfires are common and disastrous, and where how to deal with them is a major political issue: southeast Australia and the west coast of the United States.
The book follows women’s and men’s stories of surviving, fighting, evacuating, living and working with bushfire to reveal the intimate inner workings of bushfire response – and especially the culturally and historically distinct gender relations that underpin bushfire resilience.
Bushfire is revealed as much more than a “natural” hazard – it is far from gender-neutral. Rather, bushfire is an important means through which traditional gender roles and power relations are maintained despite changing social circumstances.
The release of the book coincides with Dr Eriksen’s nomination as one of 25 World Social Science ‘Risk Interpretation and Action’ Fellows by the International Social Science Council.
Dr Christine Eriksen is a social geographer with the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research and the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong. Her research examines the role and place of local environmental knowledge in building resilience to natural disasters and maintaining sustainable land management practices.
You can follow @DrCEriksen on Twitter. Christine has also written several other posts for this blog, including ‘Reflections from the fire front and research in its ashen wake‘, ‘Living and Working with Bushfire‘, ‘Landscapes of Uncertainty in California‘, and ‘Mapping Amenity in Bushfire-prone Landscapes‘.