Street Trees and Politics
Thursday 19 and Friday 20 September 2019
A conference responding to Sheffield's street tree crises with contributions from campaigners, academics, journalists, lawyers and more
Nature, wildlife and plants are generally considered as being non-political, but as anyone involved with design and management realizes is that they are highly political; this is none so more than with street trees. In modern history in the West trees have been planted along streets as part of improvement schemes since the seventeenth century, and they have continued to be planted increasingly from the nineteenth century onwards. Nowadays street trees are seen as an endeavour of public bodies, but this has not always been the case, even though the most comprehensive schemes were realized by local, regional and national authorities. In this they have not only aesthetic and directional, but also symbolic meaning. Trees need resources of water and soil; they need to be maintained and there are legal responsibilities. They also evoke emotion, of attachment, of love and hate. They additionally provide what we now refer to as ‘ecosystem services’, influencing the general climate, by clearing the air of pollutants, providing humidity, reducing dust, providing oxygen, biodiversity, etc. By thus moderating the climate of the urban heat islands street trees contribute to our health and well-being.
This puts street trees in a unique position; we need them, but as a result of their location immediately next to roads they raise all kinds of issues, of ownership, safety, shade, leaf litter, aphid droppings, and as a result they cost. In a period where public funds are more and more restricted, liability and maintenance can weigh heavily on public bodies, who like Sheffield City Council, may want to think creatively about how to reduce cost. Sheffield did this by letting a 25-year maintenance contract for its roads to Amey, which included care of the trees. The resulting policies, secrecy and obscurity as to the details of the scheme, resulted in the ownership of trees to be contested and questions about the political system, transparency and democracy, and led to public outcry and international reporting. This, however, is just one example of the merging of politics, policies and street trees.
The proposed conference explores the issue of street trees and politics in greater depth, from a multidisciplinary perspective, addressing the wide range of issues that affect street trees in urban environments.
Some of the general questions to be raised and discussed through case studies include:
- How have street trees been used to support political narratives?
- Who plants and owns street trees? What are the debates and narratives on responsibility, both historically and at present?
- How has the case for street trees been argued in the past, and at present? And how has that been translated into policy?
- What are the environmental and political issues about the ‘design’ with street trees, where they are planted and how?
- How is it possible that in a period where climate warming is one of the major issues affecting the survival of humanity that street trees are not considered as a vital part of the urban ecosystem, and thus integrated in the political debate?
Thursday 19 and Friday 20 September 2019
This international conference attempts to highlight these issues from a wide range of perspectives, with speakers including Charles Mynors, Paulina Ramirez, Nicola Dempsey, James Whitworth, Ian Rotherham, Matthew Flinders, Russell Horsey, Wybe Kuitert, Ross Cameron, John Henneberry, John Miller, Martin Conboy, Sonja Dümpelmann, Paul Elliott, Felicity Stout, Alan Story and Theodore S. Eisenman.
‘Trees even in their very roads’: Seventeenth-century perspectives on trees, streets, and politics
Felicity Stout, Tree Conservation Officer, Peak District National Park Authority and Honorary Lecturer, University of East Anglia
Sylvan Strife: Tree conflicts in Victorian and Edwardian towns
Paul Elliott, University of Derby
Counting and caring for urban trees: Street tree surveys and citizen protest in twentieth-century East and West Berlin
Sonja Dümpelmann, Harvard University, School of Design
The distinctions between advocacy journalism and source-based news (PR) contrasting Yorkshire Post and Sheffield Star
Martin Conboy and Minyao Tang, Department of Journalism Studies, The University of Sheffield
What street trees mean to us: Four types of cultural value
John Miller, School of English, The University of Sheffield
The political economy of street trees
John Henneberry, Department of Urban Studies & Planning, The University of Sheffield
Street trees matter, so what’s the matter with street trees?
Ross Cameron, Department of Landscape Architecture, The University of Sheffield
Axis powers and recognition: Japanese cherry planting in Berlin
Wybe Kuitert, Seoul National University, South Korea
‘More bums on seats’: why Green practitioners need to learn more about engineering and get political
Russell Horsey, Chartered Arboriculturist and director of Goetre Villa Ltd
The politics of urban trees as a lightning rod for local democracy and protest
Ian D. Rotherham, Sheffield Hallam University & Matthew Flinders, The University of Sheffield
Drawing trees: The role of a newspaper cartoonist and editorial design
James Whitworth, Department of Journalism Studies, The University of Sheffield
Streets Ahead or the Highway to Hell? Analysing Sheffield’s tree management strategies
Nicola Dempsey, Department of Landscape Architecture, The University of Sheffield
The political forces and regulatory systems that govern their planting, management and social impacts: a legal perspective
Dr Charles Mynors, Barrister, FICFor (Hon); Lawyer, Law Commission
The political trajectories of the Sheffield trees crisis: notes from an ecosocialist campaigner
Alan Story, Western Road, Crookes, Sheffield
Political and epistemological challenges of the contemporary street tree
Theodore S. Eisenman, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning
The Department of Landscape Architecture
The University of Sheffield
The Arts Tower
|Day 1 only||£55|
|Day 2 only||£55|
|Day 1 only||£30|
|Day 2 only||£30|
Please note: Bookings will close at 5pm on Wednesday 11th September, after which no further bookings will be accepted.