"Recent studies have shown the way assumptions about nature have blinded us to the classed and racialized morality of environmental activism and the deeply moral nature of our debates about the environment. Moral values and imaginaries that trust in the transformative capacity of nature to improve people, cities and society are ubiquitous in the urban context.
The growing urban gardening movement receives both the praise and critiques for being part of advocating for the goodness of urban nature. Yet how does a mundane practice such as gardening come to be imbued with the deep moral value of nature? By taking the case of Sweden’s emergent urban gardening advocacy, I investigate the moral valuations that turn a practice widely engaged in as a hobby or a form of pragmatic production into the locus of deeply engrained moral commitments.
Turning to a pragmatist theory of morality, I show the entanglement of moral and non-moral values and how valuations are produced and sustained through practice. The findings reveal the transformative capacity of playful and creative forms of action.
The moral valuation of nature that drives people’s engagement with urban gardening advocacy is anchored in practices that bring them into contact with soil, microbes, plants, vegetables, animals, and weather, as well as with each other and the environment of contemporary cities. I argue that urban gardens matter to advocates not because of an attachment to place in itself, nor a spirit of environmentalism or because they counter urbanization. They matter because of a moral commitment to nature forged and sustained through mundane yet powerful gardening practices."