Lauren R. Pearson
Fire, uneven development, historical geographies, violence, Southern Italy
In July and August of 2021, the dry scrubby hilltops of Southern Italy were set ablaze. Most of these fires were deliberate and collectively they destroyed homes, farms, forested and protected heritage sites across Sicily, Calabria, Sardinia, and Puglia while devastating the land. Set during the aptly-named “Lucifer” heatwave—where the scirocco brought record highs across the southern Mediterranean—the fires quickly overwhelmed defunded and understaffed fire brigades. As reported in the media, these fires were largely set by those who would benefit financially from the fires as the setting of wildfire has become a lucrative trade for the under-employed and unemployed who work as contract/part-time firefighters. While climate change plays a significant factor in warmer and drier weather patterns across the Mediterranean, the fires of 2021 reflect more so the ways in which social, economic, and political inequalities have been written into the lands of Southern Italy for centuries. This research will reflect on the dual phenomena of illegal fire setting and climate change, as they intersect with the uneven development of the “Mezzogiorno” and how these processes have produced the conditions for a new ‘climate’ emergency.
GSI: Global Developmemnts: Theory, History, Geography (Spring 2020, Spring 2021)
M.A., Art History, University College London
B.A., Art History, New York University