The Wood for the Trees: Ordinary Environmental Injustice and the Everyday Right to Urban Nature


This article explores the potential for a more ordinary sense of urban environmental justice. While great progress has been made over the last 30 years in connecting environmental politics to the everyday concerns of urban residents, this article claims that the urbanization of environmentalism has produced a very narrow sense of what everyday forms of justice may be. Drawing on a Lefebvrian‐inspired interpretation of everyday life, this article exposes a residual set of ordinary socio‐ecological injustices that persist in urban space. While rarely addressed in either environmental politics or urban policy, this article claims that these expressions of ordinary injustice have a significant impact on the capabilities of disadvantaged urban communities to live out a full life. Drawing on the case of the Black Country Urban Forest in the English West Midlands — the largest urban woodland project in the UK — analysis considers how the spatial location and scalar constitution of the project appear to draw attention to the spaces of ordinary environmental neglect in cities. Further analysis shows, however, that the desire to address simultaneously questions of social and ecological injustice, which is typical in such large‐scale urban greening initiatives, can actually compromise the ability of such schemes to resolve ordinary forms of urban injustice.