An Oregon State University remote lecture series starting in January will host speakers who will discuss what living with wildfire looks like in practice, both as individuals and as communities.
“Lookout: Envisioning Futures with Wildfire” is presented by the Spring Creek Project and the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative within OSU’s College of Liberal Arts. The Spring Creek Project works to meld environmental science with arts and humanities to better understand the relationship between people and the natural world.
The series aims to “complicate and clarify” people’s understanding of wildfire so it’s not just something to fear, said Spring Creek Project manager Carly Lettero.
“Of course ecosystems need to burn and fire is a natural element. But we’re interested in people who are asking the question, ‘What does it mean to live with wildfire?’ It’s not an easy thing to imagine doing,” Lettero said.
The free 11-week series, starting Jan. 4, includes lectures by artists, firefighters, biologists and more. Prominent speakers include Margo Robbins, co-founder and executive director of the Cultural Fire Management Council, who will discuss “Climate Change and Native Knowledge” on Jan. 18; and Jaime Lowe, whose 2021 book “Breathing Fire” follows the lives of incarcerated women fighting fires in California, on Feb. 1.
The Spring Creek team started working on the series during Oregon’s devastating wildfires in September of 2020.
'Broadening the conversation'
“There’s a lot of science on wildfire, which is so important, but we are also committed to bringing the conversation to life a little more with the arts and humanities and helping to make meaning out of what’s going on,” Lettero said. “We wanted to contribute something new to the conversation and bring together a speaker lineup that kept broadening the conversation and bringing new perspectives to it.”
Organizers hope the series draws people living on the front lines of wildfire country, as well as those farther away who have been affected by heavy smoke in the air, and those who care about the ecosystems affected by fires.
“What I’m really hoping is that we, as audience members, are asking, ‘How can we take care of each other and how can we best take care of the land?’ because we know fires are going to keep happening,” Lettero said.
The Zoom series begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 4 with “Art on Fire” by Bryan David Griffith and Julie Comnick, and continues with lectures at 6 p.m. every Tuesday through March 15. It is free and open to everyone but registration is required; links to register are listed on the “Lookout” website. Carly Lettero, email@example.com
This series is sponsored by the Spring Creek Project and the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative at OSU, and co-sponsored by OSU’s Center for the Humanities, Arts and Education Complex and Sustainability Office. Individual lectures are co-sponsored by the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library; Grass Roots Books and Music and the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at OSU.