UK Treescape research: common guiding principles and a way forward

by Samyia Ambreen

The 2022 UK Treescapes’ annual conference was organised on the 22nd of September at the Imperial College London. Attending the conference was a valuable opportunity for me as it was a good way to learn about on-going research work on/with trees sponsored by UK Treescapes programme. UK Treescapes programme is designed to develop a holistic understanding about the role of treescapes in tackling climate change.  The programme funds interdisciplinary research to understand forms, functions, and values of the UK treescapes and their resilience to the climate change. To achieve these aims, six interdisciplinary projects spanning across environmental & ecological sciences, art & humanities and social sciences have been funded to advance and develop new approaches to treescapes management across the UK. These include:

  1. New LEAF (exploring how quickly trees can adapt to change in the wild and whether human intervention is needed to protect them)
  2. MEMRA (understanding memory of trees and role it plays for better resilience and adaptation)
  3. Branching out (developing new ways of mapping and communicating social and cultural values to support robust tree management)
  4. Voices of the future (Collaborating with children and young people to re-imagine future treescapes)
  5. Connected Treescapes (exploring the value of trees, including how trees can be beneficial for people’s well-being, cultural heritage, and wildlife). 
  6. Castor (understanding role of woodland along rivers and waterways in building a richer environmental landscape)

After listening to the presentations above on-going projects on/with UK treescapes, I believe that the research guides our understanding about the value of trees for human life through the following principles:  

  • Trees & humans both are active agents:  The first and foremost principle is recognising the collective agency of trees and humans when seeing and studying their relationship. Humans, and tree are considered active agents engaged in a collective relationship (Malone 2016).  We have heard about the value of trees as providing human a safe space to express and process difficult emotions (Goodenough, Waite, and Wright, 2021).  Nevertheless, after listening to MEMRA (understanding memory of UK Treescape), I realise that tree also holds memory and capacities to manage stress caused by their surroundings which involve both human and non-human species. In doing so, trees may not always be dependent on human intervention. I consider, this understanding of active stress memory and emotion management in trees and humans as a good example for-re-conceptualising relations between both as agentive and collective.   
  • Experiential encounter with nature:  Experiential encounters (Rousell and Mackenzie Knowles 2022) with nature is a call to all educators, practitioners, and policy makers to make a direct and accessible connection between the planet and people to equip young people with possibilities to attend to the planet.  Children and young people are aware of the world they live in. Young people do not only feel or think but are willing to act immediately to sustain a socially and ecologically just life for themselves and for others (Boxley,2022). Therefore, we must realise that the changes in children’s and young people’s consciousness will happen by providing them opportunities to be with nature by seeing and feeling it.
  • Pedagogical shift in teaching and learning about nature: Pedagogical shifts in teaching and learning about nature, environment, and climate change in educational institutions demands for the integration of knowledge across disciplines to make invisible and abstract curriculum as visible.  This involves typography of the curriculum by using provocative art and performative talks to disrupt institutional routines.  Educators are now encouraged to work towards creative participatory science (Wilson et al 2021) by embedding social values in the curriculum (Filho et al, 2019) and by engaging in dialogic analysis of the scientific content.   

I finished the day with this thinking that there is a real need now to work with a relational approach. We should consider individuals, communities and the environment twinned and interlinked with one another through a complex set of relationships. The lessons we get from the research showcase are about connecting different circles of social lives together as a network to drive a change for the common good. They give a hope to the community of practitioners, policy makers and individuals to go beyond the competing knowledge claims produced by experts only and to attend to deliberative processes of interdisciplinary knowledge co-production.  

 

References
Boxley, S. (2022) Striking in the City, Making Love in the Fields: Unsnarling the Wild Pedagogies of Earth Activism. Coreopsis: Journal of Myth and Theatre 10 (1).
 Goodenough, A., Waite, S., & Wright, N. (2021) Place as partner: material and
affective intra-play between young people and trees, Children's Geographies, 19 (2), 225-240, DOI:
10.1080/14733285.2020.1783435
Liguori, A., McEwen, L., Blake, J. and Wilson, M., 2021. Towards ‘creative participatory science’: exploring future scenarios through specialist drought science and community storytelling. Frontiers in Environmental Science8, p.589-856
Malone, K. (2016). Reconsidering children’s encounters with nature and place using Posthumanism. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 32(1), 42–56.
MEMRA (online). https://www.uktreescapes.org/projects/membra/
Rousell, D., Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A. 2020. A systematic review of climate change education: giving children and young people a ‘voice’ and a ‘hand’ in redressing climate change, Children's Geographies, 18 (2), 191-208, DOI: 10.1080/14733285.2019.1614532