Gratitude for and to nature: insights from emails to urban trees

Publication Name

Social and Cultural Geography


Gratitude goes to the heart of discussions about ethics, care, and responsibility in a more-than-human world. Surprisingly, gratitude remains peripheral to geographical considerations of human-environment interrelations and sustainability. Moving beyond questions about whether gratitude to nature is sensible, we develop an understanding of gratitude that is relational, emotional, and practical (or enacted). We argue that focus on gratitude draws attention to a kind of attachment thus far neglected in geography, as well as enabling a new lens for what people value about their everyday lives, the labour of nonhuman-others in fostering a ‘good life’, and efforts to recognise and reinforce human-nonhuman interconnection. Drawing on emails written to trees in Naarm/Melbourne, we illustrate gratitude to trees for: support of life, aesthetic pleasures, moments of distraction, and solace in difficult times. Whether tantalisingly short or in-depth narration, individually and collectively, the emails demonstrate how people conceptualise and practice gratitude to nature in their everyday lives. Through attending to the power of small, embodied, emplaced gestures of thanks to trees, our analysis also suggests new ways of understanding people’s commitments to nature and possibilities for securing better futures for urban forests.

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