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The Białowieża Primeval Forest, straddling the border of Poland and Belarus, is one of the few remaining bits of the massive pan-forest that once covered the Great European Plain. The Forest is often cast in a role of an ancient relic of pre-civilized past. “The forests were first,” Robert Pogue Harrison emphasizes (1992) and for the longest time, forests have served as a green screen of sorts against which philosophers projected their accounts of history and understandings of temporality. Today, with growing anxieties around the future of our fevered planet, forests, as vital carbon pools and oxygen producers, represent its green lungs, epitomizing survival.
Thinking about forests, walking in them, breathing their woody, mossy scents, is an invitation to consider how sylvan natures participate in constructing entangled human-nonhuman worlds and imaginable futures against the background of environmental change and species extinction. Looking at intertwisted relations than ran between trees, climate, fungi, bark beetles, and humans we ask: How to imagine survival with forests? What kind of arbotemporalities unfold there?
Olga Cielemęcka is a Turku Institute for Advanced Studies postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Gender Studies, University of Turku in Finland. Her work brings together contemporary philosophy, feminist, and queer approaches into a reflection on environmental change. She published in Journal of Gender Studies, Somatechnics, and Theory, Culture, & Society. She is the co-editor of the special issue on “Toxic Embodiment” of Environmental Humanities (2019) and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience, “Plantarium: Human-Vegetal Ecologies” (2019). Her current research project focuses on the intersection of nature, nation, and gender in the Białowieża Forest in Poland.