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Published: 2024-05-23

Unraveling the forest debate: a lecture by Klara Härgestam

NEWS On 7 May 2024, the Forest Social lecture series hosted a successful lecture at Umeå University that brought together a diverse audience with students from both SLU and UMU, as well as researchers and representatives from public authorities and companies. The lecture was delivered by Klara Härgestam, a Doctoral student in Rhetoric at Örebro University, who presented her ongoing doctoral project on people’s relationships with the forest and its impact on the forest debate.

Härgestam’s research goes beyond the commonly highlighted conflict lines in the forest debate, between production and conservation, which often overlooks the deeper aspects of people’s experiences. In her lecture, she pointed to the effects of calling a debate “polarized”. As Härgestam put it in the lecture: “Calling a debate ‘polarized’ changes people’s possibilities for dialogue from the outset. But missing out on perspectives also means missing out on solutions.” Härgestam’s study is based on fieldwork among various groups connected to the forest: landowners, forest industry workers, and people engaged in protecting forests. She argues that the positions in the Swedish forest debate arise not merely from rational, distanced reasoning but are deeply rooted in people’s embodied relationship with the forest.

Härgestam’s research interest lies in studying polarization and finding ways to shift the dialogue to a more nuanced tone where the people involved feel validated, heard, and understood. She emphasized the importance of understanding and acknowledging the personal and emotional connections people have with the forest. In conclusion, Härgestam’s lecture shed light on the often overlooked emotional and personal aspects of the forest debate. It highlighted the need for a more nuanced dialogue that validates and understands the diverse relationships people have with the forest.

Forest Social is Future Forests’ lecture series that primarily targets students at SLU and Umeå University, but everyone is welcome to join. The lecture series aims to inspire transdisciplinary perspectives on the forest and explore the connections between the forest and society.