Are Trees Always ‘Good’? Urban Political Ecology and Environmental Justice in the Valleys of South Wales


This article explores the potential of Urban Political Ecology analyses to reveal the nuanced relationships produced by nature and social relations in urban forests. A critique of the Urban Political Ecology forest literature, it focuses on the assumption in much of the literature that people in urban spaces perceive themselves to be advantaged by the presence of trees and disadvantaged by their absence. This critique leads to a call for an increased emphasis on the importance of different urban forest contexts and on the differential insights produced. The article constructs a narrative of the complex relationships, both historic and current, between communities, forest and the regulatory authorities in the governance of the urban forest of the valleys of south Wales. It then draws on recent research to reveal tensions in capitalist production and consumption relations, and identifies specific issues. Analysing these relationships and comparing the south Wales valleys case with other examples in Urban Political Ecology literature, the article seeks to promote the utility of Urban Political Ecology as a concept and to advance theoretically both Urban Political Ecology and, by extension, environmental justice.