Narratives on cutting down trees on private property

Research Group of Sociology of Politics, Economy and Education invites to the seminar “Narratives on cutting down trees on private property. A comparative case study of urban and rural municipalities using the Q-deliberation method” presented by Professor Piotr Matczak (UAM) with comment by Professor Aleksandra Lis (UAM).

The seminar starts at 9:00, on Thursday, the 14th of October, 2021, and closes by 11:00.

Time: Oct 14, 2021 09:00 a.m.

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Meeting ID: 812 8894 2519

Passcode: 655521

Presentation will relate to the study by:

Piotr Matczak1, Krzysztof Mączka1,  Marcin Mielewczyk2, Patrycja Przewoźna3, Adam Inglot⁴, Piotr Wężyk5, Karolina Zięba-Kulawik5, Paweł Hawryło5

1 Department of the Study of Social Dynamics, Faculty of Sociology, Adam Mickiewicz University,
ul. Szamarzewskiego 89, 60-568 Poznan, Poland

2 Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, Faculty of Anthropology and Cultural Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University,
ul. Uniwersytetu Poznańskiego 7, 61-614 Poznan, Poland.

3 Department of Geoinformation, Faculty of Geographical and Geological Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University,
ul. Krygowskiego 10, 61-680 Poznan, Poland

⁴ Department of Geodesy, Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Gdansk University of Technology,
ul. Narutowicza 11/12, 80-233 Gdansk, Poland

5 University of Agriculture in Krakow, Faculty of Forestry, Department of Forest Resource Management, al. 29 Listopada 46, 31-425 Kraków


The increasing density of buildings, including single-family housing, involves decreasing trees’ coverage in urban space (Guo et al. 2019; Mincey et al. 2013). It reduces the essential ecosystem services (ES) that trees provide, undermines the quality of life, and contributes to social inequalities (Chen, Xet al. 2019). Also, in rural areas with developing infrastructure (new buildings, roads, power lines, irrigation), competition for space intensifies due to changes in agricultural practices and difficulties in tree management, planting, growing, and cutting trees (Suchocka et al. 2019a, Suchocka et al. 2019b).

In order to secure access to trees and green space, the municipalities’ authorities need to take into account trees in private land. However, managing trees in private land for the public good can violate the owners’ right to use their possessions.  

In this article, we address the above issues by investigating the inhabitants’ narratives about the removal of trees on private land in rural and urban areas. We understand narratives as stories told by different actors to describe an issue. We apply the concept of wicked problems (Defies and Nagendra 2017; Roe 1994, Rittel and Webber 1973; Ballint et al. 2011; Vasileiadou and Szafarzyńska 2010) to conceptualize the complexity, uncertainty, and dynamics of the tree removal issue.

We analyze the elasticity of these narratives in rural and urban areas to explore the extent to which a deliberation process can transform the narratives.

Basing on the Q-methodology we identified particular narratives that exist in two municipalities (Nysa and Racibórz). Moreover, building on previous research on stakeholder participation (Guimarães et al., 2015, Fishkin, 2011, Campbell-Arvai 2018), we applied the deliberation techniques to provide additional knowledge about the topic to the participants offer them a possibility to confront their narratives.

The analysis shows that before the deliberation, narratives were divided mainly around the question: Where is situated the right to decide? It was visible in both municipalities but especially in the rural one – Nysa. The division was simple and sharp, which can be linked to deeply shared values. After the deliberation, the narratives shifted and were divided mainly around the question: How to organize the decision-making process? It placed greater emphasis on criteria but changed the narrative hierarchy, while the urban municipality generally evolved with no hierarchy. Moreover, after deliberation, both municipalities become more similar in terms of the narratives. This may prove that, although wicked problems do not have clear-cut solutions, deliberation enables the management of the tree issue more reasonably.

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