Each year between February and April, northern Thailand experiences what is broadly described by residents as the region’s "haze crisis". In recent decades, broad shifts from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture and increased volumes of agricultural biomass burning have reportedly exacerbated air pollution in the form of haze—an airborne mixture of pollutants that includes gasses, fine soot particles, and carbon dioxide. Once a quotidian phenomenon of relatively little concern, today seasonal haze has become a social and political crisis that frequently canvases the headlines of national and regional media. Our presentation draws on mixed ethnographic, quantitative, and geospatial methods to examine the key drivers in the social production of haze and by which mechanisms such pollution comes to be constituted as a "crisis". By social production, we refer to three set of factors: first, the various practices of biomass burning and their incentives (either economic or cultural); second the uncertainties related to measurement of haze and the way they are creating debates among civil society groups; third, the multiple narratives of the causes of haze, the blame they place on specific social actors (often smallholders farmers who have recently entered into new market relations) and the way they are endorsed, or not, by regional policies.
Paper co-authored with: Mary Mostafanezhad (University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA)