Dr Véra Ehrenstein
Department of Geography, University College London
The climate crisis has put trees and forests centre stage. Through photosynthesis, plants use sunlight and water to convert carbon dioxide into sugar. Trees need carbon to live and grow and the chemical element is the main component of their woody structure. Earth system models and large datasets indicate that the world’s forests, especially in the tropics, sequester large amounts of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. To respond to what might be the most critical environmental problem of our times, storing carbon in trees has come to be seen as a seemingly straightforward, albeit temporary, so-called natural climate solution.
In this talk Véra Ehrenstein will engage with the craze for tree planting and forest restoration by situating current discussions within a broader set of economic, political and scientific interventions that have taken «forest carbon» – the quantified mass of carbon sequestered in the woody tissue of trees in what the FAO would call a forest – as an object of value, debate and knowledge. The geographical focus is Central Africa, the second tropical forest biome after the Amazon, and research on the topic was carried out intermittently over the last decade, with examples ranging from a carbon offsetting reforestation project near Kinshasa, to a United Nations COP session, to remote sensing work in Gabon’s forests. The talk will aim to provide insights into empirical processes (e.g. How do countries reach global agreement? How are emissions reductions calculated? How do we know how much carbon is in a forest?) while raising questions for STS on issues of scale, nonhuman agency and postcolonial critique.
Join us in Zoom on June 17th, at 18:00!