Fabio Calzolari is a Lecturer in Human Rights Studies at Mae Fah Luang University.
An Ecocritical Analysis of Thai People’s View of Air Pollution in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai
Abstract: This paper analyses the perspectives of 24 adult-aged Thai people living in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai’s provinces on seasonal air pollution. The author adopted as an interpretative framework what philosopher John Passmore calls “problems in ecology” and “ecological issues,” with the former being anchored to scientific hypotheses of a phenomenon and the latter, though not wholly eschewing science, more linked to social/cultural assumptions. Results demonstrate that narratives concerning haze in Thailand move around human cultural values about stability and disturbance, especially the concept of fire. Based on the interview transcripts, the term reveals various meanings: natural element, condition to agricultural management, power over nature, and tribal rights. For the respondents, farmers adopt crop burning to accelerate harvesting. Allegedly, they do so to save money and because of the lack of infrastructure, with the government taking a “soft” approach toward their behavior. Besides, the practice is shared by hill tribe villagers, who consider it an element of their traditions. Despite choking from smog, according to the interviewees, most individuals in their country, especially older generations, have no incitement to completely free their thoughts from outlooks that historically have been the most favored ones: profit/economic survival and the superiority of cultural heritage over public needs. Consequently, society is burdened with seemingly intractable problems (anthropolitics vs. ecological realism).
Keywords: haze, Thailand, ecological realism, Anthropolitics, youth and young adults