How do we equalize the way people experience and relate to fire in their environment? Fire does not need to be experienced only as fear and foreboding of the future. I believe place-based learning and nature journaling practices may be one answer.
French philosopher Gilles Deleuze defined immanence as - a life- a desubjectivized "living" as such- that opens a relational understanding of consciousness to subject-object creation within a transcendent field. Thus creating a sense of identity that could be more closely integrated with an ecological sense of place.
Indigenous peoples have had a deeper ecological sense of place, and fire, although that relationship, in many places, has been strongly altered with landownership and government regulations. Today, many people originated elsewhere and move often, overlaying different values, uses, and a sense of place not synced with the role and relationship of fire in that place.
It's no wonder that the many fire education and communication programs still feel lacking when the foundational experience and relationship with place is disconnected. Imagine if the fire information coming out through communication and education channels could resonate with people who have a sense of place that is equalized and synced closer to the nature of fire in their local landscape. We know that resilient people need relationships with other people, but what about a relationship with place? If we want fire resilient people and places, I believe we need to develop an appropriate ecological sense of place. How do we do that? We use place-based learning and nature journaling practices that teach those skills and help make those connections.
Let me give you an example of nature journaling and sense-building approaches and how they are different from most fire education efforts.
The image to the left is a screen capture from a lesson plan from the FireWorks program. It is really good, and has children gather materials from the field, but it misses the sense-building (sensory and emotional experiences) and guidance on how to journal and communicate visually while in the field. This is just one close up of a page and there is much more information and guidance in this lesson plan, but the integration of nature journaling techniques would make this more personal and help connect fire information to the human-ecosystem sense of place building.
This nature journaling example by Julie Tennis, below, integrates the sensory experience and can be expanded to include the emotional journaling exercises. Another effort within the nature journaling practice/teaching is demonstrating approaches, tips and tools for capturing field information using a mix of words, numbers and pictures.
There are endless ways to use nature journaling to help enhance the fire/ecosystem sense of place and I hope to explore this with friends and partners of the year.