Urban Environmental Stewardship and Civic Engagement : How planting trees strengthens the roots of democracy book cover
1st Edition

Urban Environmental Stewardship and Civic Engagement
How planting trees strengthens the roots of democracy

ISBN 9781138689558
Published April 27, 2016 by Routledge
132 Pages

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Book Description

Once considered the antithesis of a verdant and vibrant ecosystem, cities are now being hailed as highly efficient and complex social ecological systems. Emerging from the streets of the post-industrial city are well-tended community gardens, rooftop farms and other viable habitats capable of supporting native flora and fauna. At the forefront of this transformation are the citizens living in the cities themselves. As people around the world increasingly relocate to urban areas, this book discusses how they engage in urban stewardship and what civic participation in the environment means for democracy.

Drawing on data collected through a two-year study of volunteer stewards who planted trees as part of the MillionTreesNYC initiative in the United States, this book examines how projects like this can make a difference to the social fabric of a city. It analyses quantitative survey data along with qualitative interview data that enables the volunteers to share their personal stories and motivations for participating, revealing the strong link between environmental stewardship and civic engagement.

As city governments in developed countries are investing more and more in green infrastructure campaigns to change the urban landscape, this book sheds light on the social importance of these initiatives and shows how individuals’ efforts to reshape their cities serve to strengthen democracy. It draws out lessons that are highly applicable to global cities and policies on sustainability and civic engagement.

Table of Contents

1. Urban Environmental Stewardship and Civic Engagement 2. Several Million Trees: How Planting Trees is Changing our Civic Landscape 3. Digging Together: Understanding Environmental Stewardship in New York City 4. Seriously Digging: Why Engaged Stewards are Different and Why it Matters 5. Tangled Roots: How Volunteer Stewards Intertwine Local Environmental Stewardship and Democratic Citizenship 6. Implications for Urban Environmentalism, the Environmental Movement and Civic Engagement in America

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Dana R. Fisher is a professor of sociology and the Director of the Program for Society and the Environment at the University of Maryland, USA.

Erika S. Svendsen is a social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service and co-Director of the New York City Urban Field Station, USA.

James J.T. Connolly is an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University, USA.


"There is the tree in the cramped space of curbside seeking the warmth of intermittent sunlight surviving with great hope. And there are the local people who are making a difference and seeking a wider empowerment in their civic life. This book tells a most necessary, but often overlooked, story for our times."

William R. Burch, Jr., Yale University, USA

"Fisher, Svendsen, and Connolly have written an important and engaging analysis based on first-hand experience of the tree planting initiative in New York City. The book documents how the simple act of planting trees at once serves as an act of environmental stewardship, civic engagement, community building, and public-private collaboration in support of the huge goal of planting a million trees, and ultimately building a more sustainable city and planet. Those who seek best-practice examples of active stewardship will find this book highly useful, not just for its careful analysis of results, but also for its honest account of the challenges that such "hybrid governance" approaches must confront."

Kent E. Portney, Texas A&M University, USA

"Fisher, Svendsen and Connolly present a powerful testament to the catalytic function that environmental action can have to not just improve environmental quality but to galvanize the social interactions that shape the vitality and beauty of our cities."

Matthias Ruth, Northeastern University, USA

"Fisher, Svendsen, and Connolly’s rich and rigorous study of citywide tree planting in New York provides an indispensable window on urban environmental stewardship as a practical, scalable, and inspired form of collaborative governance among public agencies, nonprofits, and engaged citizens. Yes, we can and must invest in the resilience of our citizens and our cities simultaneously, especially in the face of climate change."

Carmen Sirianni, Brandeis University, USA