ISTF 2021 | Concept Note

Notice: The 2022 conference will now be held fully virtually given the evolving public health situation.

Concept Note

ISTF 2021 Concept Note

Timelines and Critical Junctures: Re-examining Crises as Opportunities for Change

Our world is in crisis. Headline crises of 2019 and 2020 include climate change, forest fires in the Amazon, Congo Basin and Australia, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Tropical forests are central to these ongoing, chronic crises that capture global attention. However, persistent local scale forest crises can fail to garner the same level of urgency and may be exacerbated by shifts in attention. The increased occurrence of acute events that further contribute to long-term, chronic crises are the result of years of tropical forest degradation, biodiversity loss, and socioeconomic and environmental injustice. We have witnessed, in the midst of global preoccupation with COVID-19, illegal deforestation in Indigenous Amazonian territories emboldened by the current political climate, resulting in unprecedented forest loss, and increasing fire risk and carbon emissions.

The crises facing tropical forests highlight the interconnected nature of society, economy and the environment while motivating efforts to mitigate future events. These crises serve as critical junctures to reflect and reshape priorities and policies impacting tropical forests and their sustainability. However, in order to seize this potential, we must recognize our past successes and failures in capitalizing on these moments in time.

Specifically, we frame the content of the conference around three areas of discussion:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly and dramatically changed the way we lead our lives. The degradation of tropical forests contributes to higher risks of transmission of zoonotic diseases. At the same time, the pandemic response in many countries shifted attention away from tropical forest management and is expected to have long-term impacts on forests. How has the pandemic changed thoughts and practices with regards to tropical ecology (e.g., research relationships, conservation funding, tropical forest communities, public policy)?

  2. Crises do not always receive the same attention. In tackling crisis narratives and responses, how do crises gain attention – and from whom? When do they lose that attention? We aim to understand how to balance the coverage of novel, emerging threats to tropical forests and crises that are chronic and cyclical.

  3. In considering the impacts of crises, what have we learnt from past crises? How can those lessons be translated into policies and actionable initiatives that prevent or mitigate future crises for tropical forests and the communities that rely on them? We seek to consider the influence of recent shifts in narratives of justice on our understanding of the climate crisis and other environmental issues in tropical forests.

The 2021 ISTF conference will bring together an international community of academics, practitioners, activists, policy makers, artists, journalists and community leaders to re-examine crises as opportunities for change. While the conference will unfortunately not be held in-person as per tradition, we hope that the online format will allow wider access and participation from attendees around the world, especially for participants and speakers that have historically faced difficulties with travel to the United States.