The field of so-called “futures research” provides researchers and stakeholders in a given subject area or system a way to map out and plan for alternate possible scenarios of the future. A recent research project supported by the Joint Fire Science Program brought together futures researchers and wildfire specialists to envision what the future holds for wildfire impacts and how the wildfire community may respond to the complex suite of emerging challenges. The consensus of the project’s foresight panel suggests that an era of resilience is ahead: but that this resilience may come either with a very high cost (after some kind of collapse), in a more systematic way (that is, if the wildfire community plans for, and fosters, resilience), or something in between. In any projected future scenario, the panel suggests that the end of the fire suppression paradigm is imminent and that a new paradigm— one that fosters natural resilience of the system, along with natural wildfire—is arising. A central question emerges from this work: How will the wildfire community respond to this tipping point?
Image Source: Joint Fire Science Program