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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 16(3)

Problems, paradoxes, paradigms: triangulating fire research*

Stephen J. Pyne

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, PO Box 874701, Tempe, AZ 85287-4701, USA. Email: stephen.pyne@asu.edu
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Wildland fire research has historically orbited around a physical paradigm of fire. This strategy has yielded remarkable results, yet increasingly it cannot speak to the core issues that concern fire management. Two additional paradigms are needed. One would build on fire’s origins in the living world. The other would evolve out of fire’s significance to humanity, and humanity’s unblinking importance to fire’s presence on Earth. Note that each paradigm is coherent in itself, that each is capable of absorbing the others, and that each is insufficient on its own. It is unlikely that a master synthesis of these conceptions will emerge, and is not necessary. The need is to sustain research that addresses how fire really exists, not how select sciences can handle it. This essay sketches what the resulting fire-research triangle might look like.

Keywords: anthropogenic fire, biology of fire, culture of fire, fire modelling.

* Portions of this essay were delivered in a lecture to the V International Conference on Forest Fire Research, Coimbra, Portugal, November 2006 and are contained on the CD-ROM of its proceedings.
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