Chaya Vaddhanaphuti (PhD) is a Lecturer at the Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. He is interested in the human dimensions of climate change, political ecology, the Anthropocene, science and technology studies (STS), and more-than-human geographies. He focuses on the cultures and histories of weather and seasons, haze pollution, and particulate matter, as well as climate change knowledge and policy in terms of justice and governance. He holds a PhD in Human Geography from King’s College London.


Governing a Voluminous and Volumetric Atmosphere: A Case Study of Forest Fires and Haze Pollution in Northern Thailand

Abstract: The seasonal forest fire/haze pollution events in northern Thailand have repeatedly reanimated experiences of hazy skies, invisible mountains, burning mountains, as well as breathing difficulties. The atmosphere in which we live is never empty. Rather, it is always a material and affective atmosphere. Over the past decade, the province of Chiang Mai has come up with various strategies to minimize adverse socioeconomic, environmental, and health issues. Many of these strategies are rooted in technological and territorial governance, from surveilling and controlling access to forests, banning and regulating burning, arresting those who break the bans, modelling and predicting pollution patterns, and issuing quotas for “hotspots.” While forests and the atmosphere have become a biopolitical concern to be regulated and politicized, evidence shows that these strategies have failed to govern human activities, fires, and the emissions of particulate matter, which continue to flow, leak, and seep vertically and horizontally. This article suggests a new understanding of forest and particulate matter as a “fluid-solid,” a leaky and affective materiality enveloped in the modern atmosphere, a voluminous and volumetric entity on which life is heavily dependent, but which is now more complex, fragile, and unstable. Governing a transboundary environment requires rethinking the materiality of forests and atmosphere.
Keywords: forest fires, haze pollution, Chiang Mai, governance, volumetric