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27 October 2020

'WORLD: we got this' podcast is back, with new episode on wildfires

The WORLD: we got this podcast relaunches with a discussion on wildfires with Professor Martin Wooster.

Fire in the Amazon

This season, each episode of the podcast will feature an expert guest discussing their latest writing and research on a key global challenge, presenting new and unique perspectives on issues which affect us all.

In our first episode back we are joined by Professor Martin Wooster to discuss wildfires and, in particular, their impact on tropical rain forests. We spoke to Martin about how he and his team are studying the impact of fires around the world. Professor Wooster practices Earth Observation Science – using remote sensing to study earth’s environment via observation on the ground, on planes and via satellites.

As he points out – fires aren’t all bad, they occur as part of a natural process and are often required for ecosystems to function optimally. But it’s when fires are driven by human activity that we begin to see their detrimental effects.

Professor Wooster’s research in South East Asia illustrates how fires used for unnatural processes have distressing consequences for both humans and the natural environment.

In the 1990s many of Indonesia’s forests were cleared for agricultural and industrial development. These vast, formerly moist environments are now much drier tropical peatlands – areas in which the soil itself burns and acts ‘like a giant firelighter’. The prolonged smouldering these fires cause impacts air quality and results in negative health outcomes for its people.

So these smouldering peat fires really are optimally set up to affect air quality very badly. They produce huge amounts of particulate laden smoke and can do so for months

Professor Martin Wooster

But it’s not all bad news. Professor Wooster’s research has shown that it is possible to avoid the most damaging consequences of fire if governments possess the required political will. In the early 2000’s Brazil’s Amazon region was one such example of what effective policy making and legal enforcement could achieve.

Continue to learn about this global issue by listening to our full discussion with Professor Martin Wooster on season two, episode one of WORLD: we got this.

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