A Multispecies Collective Planting Trees: Tending to Life and Making Meaning Outside of the Conservation Heroic Meaningful work outside of the conservation heroic

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Laura McLauchlan


To what extent do our narratives support the work of ecological care? While working in anti-extinction conservation requires paying careful attention to the realities of precarity and ambiguity, this is not necessarily reflected in our public narratives of such work. Instead, as is typified in Jean Giono’s 1953 short story ‘The man who planted trees’, many conservation narratives are pitched in heroic modes, framing conservation labour as working to secure an obvious ‘good’ in perpetuity. In this paper, I think with practicing Buddhist and volunteer tree planter, Errol Greaves, and his work organising and working with dedicated humans helping to regenerate native forest on Te Ahumairangi Hill at the edge of Wellington City. Aiming to create a flourishing native habitat to support the endangered kākā (Nestor meridionalis), Errol’s work is largely in line with mainstream anti-extinction conservation goals in Aoteaora/New Zealand. However, his labour is framed by distinctly non-heroic narratives emphasising cooperation, ambiguity and precarity—emphases more closely related to the comedic, a mode of narration which Joseph Meeker identifies as better allowing for both ecological accommodation and responsiveness. In this paper, I consider the resources offered by various relational ontologies and non-heroic narratives for both responding well to ecological realities and sustaining work for a flourishing world, particularly in our current times of radically apparent precarity.

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Extinction (Peer Reviewed)