Re-placing soils in cities – the living world beneath our feet and urban infrastructure

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I’ve recently had an article published talking about the importance and under-acknowledgement of soil in cities.

Unless you’re an avid gardener, you might not think much about soil in cities. It’s often covered over with concrete or maybe it’s the veneer of grass, trees and plants that hide it. But it’s there, beneath your feet and teeming with life and other stuff.

Why do we need to think more about soil in cities? Soils provide ecosystem services – filtering water and nutrients, storing carbon and enabling plant and animal life. Soil health is vital to the success of urban greening and food growing initiatives. And as I write in the article, ‘structures [e.g. our houses] not just plants dwell’ in the soil.

But not all soil is just soil. In the underground of cities are things we’ve left behind (waste, toxins), and living things (e.g. worms, microorganisms, plant roots) that help healthy soils to function.

My PhD research found there’s potential in human engagements with soils in cities to reorient our relations with nature – both in the ways we live in them, but also how we design our homes.

Drawing on work in geography that argues for attention the the lively mattering of plants or ‘planty mattering’ 1 2, the article puts forward the idea of ‘soil-planty mattering’ to re-place and enliven soils in cities and in urban development as living and alive.

You can read the article’s abstract here.

If you’re interested, you can read a free copy of the article here: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/A4GZPJAFEFM5PEFY9ETY/full?target=10.1080/00049182.2020.1785135