In 2022, Reed, Trefny and two other students formed the FireGeneration Collaborative, a group that advocates for centering Indigenous knowledge and bringing more young people into the wildfire space.
As wildfires are transformed into year-round challenges, the carbon they release only further contributes to emissions from other sources, making it that much more difficult to halt rising temperatures.
In 2019, intense fires sprung up on every inhabited continent on the planet. In just one year, 250,000 fires across the world resulted in almost 40 million hectares of land being burnt.
The tropical savannas of northern Australia are among the most fire-prone regions in the world. On average, they account for 70% of the area affected by fire each year in Australia.
But effective fire management over the past 20 years has reduced the annual average area burned – an area larger than Tasmania. The extent of this achievement is staggering, almost incomprehensible in a southern Australia context after the summer’s devastating bushfires.
We live in fire country as taught through fire lore, this is how I understand what is happening across country. These times are hard for us first peoples, so often we are ignored.
The fire – which we have used in our homes for over 400,000 years – remains the most versatile and sustainable household technology that humanity has ever known. The fire alone provided what we now get through a combination of modern appliances such as the oven and cooking hob, heating system, lights, refrigerator, freezer, hot water boiler, tumble dryer, and television.
One of the key tools the Karuk have long used to maintain this natural wealth is fire, something I’ve learned about in my time as a research collaborator and consultant working for the Karuk Tribe. Indeed, fire records obtained from studies in California clearly indicate that Native land management has shaped the evolutionary trajectory of the region for at least 12,000 years.
Combining traditional knowledge with modern science and technology could reduce loss of property and human life from out-of-control blazes.
Using selective logging and controlled burns, Ashland has reduced fire risk on thousands of acres in the forested watershed that provides the city’s drinking water. The partnership that made it happen could be a model for other fire-prone communities.
It’s now widely understood that a century of misguided – but well-intentioned – policies over the past 100 years produced forests that are too densely packed with small trees and too vulnerable to possibly catastrophic fires. Water supplies are also a concern, because the forests are nature’s water-storage sponges.
There are real solutions being modeled out there and we need to remove the political obstacles and financial shackles that keep them from being implemented at the scale that will provide real benefit to people and planet.
Although located on opposite sides of the world, Australia and southern African countries share colonial histories in which newcomers prevented indigenous people from employing age-old practices of using fire to manage their lands.