Fire the Monster, the Teacher, the Gift

Speaker: Ghaleb Attrache

How do we become friends of fire in a society that mostly teaches us to fear it?

"Fire the Monster, the Teacher, the Gift" is adapted from Ghaleb's dissertation project on fire management and intentional burning practices in California. The dissertation explores the different ways that, through burning, fire practitioners from governmental, non-governmental, and tribal backgrounds understand and engage with fire as a living being, and how these
understandings inform their visions of responsible land stewardship. The talk uses this research as a basis for asking how all of us – and not just fire professionals – might become better friends and stewards of fire today. In asking this question, the talk seeks
to complicate the deep-seated idea that fire is only dangerous and destructive, and to open up ways of understanding fire's vital role in some of California's human and more-than-human ecosystems. The notions of fire as a monster, a teacher, and a gift, are offered to capture three defining ways that fire practitioners, policymakers, scientists, and citizens in California have related to fire in recent times. The framing of fire in these terms provides a means of tracing the history and evolution of fire management in California since the late 19th century, as well as how recent efforts to promote the widespread adoption of intentional burning fit into this framework. The hope is that students will come away with an appreciation for some of the challenges and possibilities that a commitment to planetary stewardship, here and now, necessarily entails.

About the Speaker

Ghaleb Attrache is a PhD candidate in the UC Berkeley Sociology Department. He has also studied sociology, politics, and spiritual ecology at UCLA, Cambridge University, and the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. Born in Syria and raised in the Bay Area, Ghaleb’s dissertation project about fire in California ties into an ongoing exploration of our relationships to land and how we care for it.

Suggested Audiences

Age: 6th - 12th grade and community college. 4th grade students might find the talk challenging, but interested teachers are welcome to reach out to the speaker for more information.

Preparation:   No preparation is necessary.

Courses: California History, World History, US History, Global Studies, Geography, Government; Literature (if the class is reading about fire or environment); Environmental History, Ecology.

Invite Ghaleb Attrache to Speak