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The “zero-fire” approach traditionally taken in modern welfare states is increasingly being challenged by the newer and more holistic “living with fire” paradigm, which is being increasingly used both as a research and a management objective (Brenkert-Smith et al., 2017; Górriz-Mifsud, Burns and Marini Govigli, 2019; Howitt, 2014; Otero and Nielsen, 2017). Schumann et al. (2020) describe the goals of this approach as “to maintain ecologically functional levels of wildfire on the landscape, while simultaneously reducing the losses of human lives and property”. In this thesis, however, we argue that the human and social dimensions to be considered to achieve a sustainable coexistence with wildfire go far beyond reducing the risk to human lives and properties and modifying fuel structure. In colloquial terms, that it goes over and above the mere act of “surviving” to wildfires. As a consequence, this research puts forward an approach that explicitly acknowledges wildfires as one of the multiple complex and interconnected challenges that the current context of global environmental change poses to our society. As a consequence of this, we align with the scholars that claim that tackling such issues calls for conscious individual and collective transformative action that deliberately seeks to transform socio-ecological systems in an ethical and sustainable way (O’brien, 2012). This transformative perspective as a response to global environmental change, has received significant less attention in the scholarly and policy circles in comparison to mitigation and adaptation, and the wildfire issue has been no exception (Pelling, 2011).
By combining socio-ecological systems (SESs) and resilience approaches (which are very often mobilized in the wildfire literature) with social innovation theory (which has been developed as a theoretical framework for examining societal transformations) this thesis provides with a socio-politically sensitive and territorially embedded perspective to wildfire research, on order to better understand and explore the necessary socio-ecological transformations that long-term resilient, fire-prone territories require.
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