Lighting Fires in a Burning World

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By M.R. O’Connor

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$38.00 CAD



  1. Hardcover $30.00 $38.00 CAD
  2. ebook $17.99 $22.99 CAD

A work of on-the-ground reporting into the science of, and cultural ideas around, wildfires and fire management that challenges the ethos of the conservation movement, offering a hopeful vision of the connection between humans and our environment.

In a riveting investigation of the science and ecology of wildfires, journalist M.R. O'Connor ventures into some of the oldest, most beautiful, and remote forests in North America to explore the powerful and ancient relationship between trees, fires, and humans. Along the way, she describes revelatory research in the fields of paleobotany and climate science to show how the world's forests have been shaped by fire for hundreds of millions of years. She also reports on the compelling archeological evidence emerging from the field of ethnoecology that proves how, until very recently, humans were instigators of forest fires, actively molding and influencing the ecosystems around them by inserting themselves into the loop of a natural biological process to start “good fires.”

As she weaves together first-hand reportage with research and cultural insights, O'Connor also embeds on firelines alongside firefighters and “pyrotechnicians.” These highly trained individuals are resurrecting the practice of prescribed burning in an effort to sustain fire-dependent forest ecologies and prevent the catastrophic wildfires that are increasing in frequency and intensity as a result of global warming. Hailing from diverse backgrounds including state and federal agencies, scientific laboratories, and private lands and tribal nations, these fire starters are undertaking a radical and often controversial effort to promote, protect, and expand the responsible use of fire to restore ecological health to landscapes. At the heart of Ignition is a discussion about risk and how our relationship to it as a society will determine our potential to survive the onslaught of climate change.


On Sale
Oct 17, 2023
Page Count
368 pages
Bold Type Books

M.R. O’Connor

About the Author

M. R. O’Connor is a journalist who writes about the politics and ethics of science, technology, and conservation. Her work has appeared online in The Atavist, Slate, Foreign Policy, The New Yorker, Nautilus, UnDark and Harper’s.  Her first book, Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things (St. Martin’s Press, 2015), was one of Library Journal and Amazon’s Best Books of The Year. Her second book, Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), is an exploration of navigation traditions, neuroscience, and the diversity of human relationships to space, time and memory. Its writing was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan’s Program for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology, & Economics. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her partner and their two sons.

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