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New OSU lecture series focuses on living with wildfire

National Parks Service

A new Oregon State University lecture series that begins Tuesday explores the future of living with wildfire. The series frames wildfires as something to understand and live with, rather than fear. And it focuses on adding an artistic perspective to a conversation that is often focused on science.

Visual artist Bryan David Griffith will be presenting one of the lectures. He says artists can create new dialogue and engage the public to have more conversations about wildfires.

“There’s a lot of great science being done out there and a lot of it is being done at OSU,” he says. “But how can we engage the public in a different way? How can we think about things in a different way as artists, that connects people to this issue?”

One of the stated goals of the series is to both complicate and clarify people’s previous ideas about wildfire. It features artists, firefighters, biologists and authors to provide diverse perspectives.

Julie Comnick is another visual artist who will be presenting one of the OSU lectures. She says wildfires have been more devastating in recent years because of the aggressive suppression tactics of the past.

“The objective of our work is essential to reverse the public perception trajectory as we provide, hopefully, a renewed appreciation for the necessity of wildfire towards sustaining the longevity of our shared landscape,” she says.

The series will also include prominent speakers such as author Jaime Lowe, who wrote Breathing Fire, a book about incarcerated women firefighters and Margo Robbins, the executive director and co-founder of the Cultural Fire Management Council. The lectures are meant to appeal to people who have been personally affected by wildfires and those who care about natural ecosystems.

The free Zoom series will air for 11 weeks on Tuesdays at 6 PM.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.