This essay was presented at the Toward a New Way of Being with Plants conference on June 18, 2021. See the presentation here.

Trees and plants are receiving renewed attention in both the sciences and humanities, pointing towards recognition of their intelligence, agency, and relationality. Trees have a dramatically different expression of livingness than humans, and the ethical stance in the Western philosophical tradition is founded on a hierarchy with plants at the base, allowing for unimpeded use. In this essay, I will address rights for trees, specifically proposing that trees may have a right to place based on the…


The following reflections appear in my forthcoming dissertation, Arboreality: Revisioning Trees in the Western Paradigm.

Redwood Trees in Berkeley, CA

How do you approach a tree? Walking up to the redwood, as unassuming as a redwood can be behind some brambles in a local forest parkland, I attempt to clear my mind of my preconceptions about this entity. This is an intentional clearing, setting aside and suspending as best I can ideas and conceptions to see what emerges in the interaction. The entity remains in place, so I must walk to them, advancing from the path just a few short steps on a springy bed…


Written as part of my proposal for my forthcoming dissertation, Arboreality: Revisioning Trees in the Western Paradigm.

Earth Altar from a Morning Altars workshop in Oakland, CA

As a study of trees in the Western paradigm, this dissertation enters into the conversation with thinkers in plant studies or critical plant studies. Plant studies draws comparison to animal and multispecies studies and engages thinkers across diverse disciplines. Key voices in this nascent field are Matthew Hall, Michael Marder, Luce Irigaray, and Monica Gagliano among others.

Of course, thinkers have been addressing trees, forests, and plants throughout the history of the written word. However, in the recent past, there has been a…


Below is the abstract for my forthcoming doctoral dissertation, expected graduation spring 2019.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing which stands in the way… As a man [sic] is, so he sees. -William Blake

Trees are pervasive phenomena. Our arboreal neighbors are both larger and older than humans with a dramatically different expression of livingness. Trees are intertwined with imaginative, mythological, social, and economic systems across cultures and throughout history. The Western philosophical lineage has encouraged a paradigm of viewing trees and other non-human beings as merely…


Introductory Thoughts

Trees are pervasive phenomena. They exist in our imaginations, grace long tracts of the forested landscape worldwide, and emerge as obvious and surreptitious partners throughout our lives. In the United States alone, the ratio of trees to people is above 200 trees per person.[1] Trees are beings which are both older and larger than humans, yet their prolific generativity has been used and overused throughout human history. Humans often view trees as nothing more than a resource for board-feet of lumber or as unwanted guests on valuable land. This stems from a paradigm in which only humans inhabit…


[This writing is a selection from my comprehensive exam in anticipation of my doctoral dissertation.]

Introductory Thoughts

Consciousness was thrust upon the Western psyche with its first use in the late 17th century. Since that time, the word has continued to circulate among philosophical and lay writings, yet often with more ambiguity than clarity. Consciousness in contemporary meaning goes far beyond the common definitions of perception, reflection, awareness, or an awareness of being aware. The multiple and complex meanings encoded in evolutionary and emancipatory philosophers’ use of the term deserves further study. This comprehensive exam will focus on definitions of…


Dangerous Women: Hypatia and Future Philosophy

It’s dangerous to be a woman with ideas. Women have never been seriously considered as part of the Western philosophical lineage, which is wrapped up with suppression of feminine power, and have too often been forcibly removed from intellectual circles. To provide context, I am a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, middle class woman in the United States of America. I am also a philosopher, thinker, and writer with something to say. …


I love the covers of books. The feel of their softness, or smoothness, or rough paper under my fingertips. The way the cover promises all that’s within. The cover of the book I’m holding is a shiny plastic veneer over the proclaimed title, the letters subtly raised, catching my hand as it grazes the surface. The pages of the book also have their own feel under the glide of my hands, soft, yet barely reminiscent of the pulp where they originated. The familiar pieces — title page, publication, contents, preface, chapters — mean the same to my sensible awareness flitting…


I enjoy being the type of almost-30- year old woman who climbs trees. On a gently sunny Sunday, I stopped by a beautiful little park overlooking the bay. I sat for a time on the verdant grass where I could best see the buildings and structures that make up the peninsula and the misty marine layer covering the bay. In the distance, Mt. Diablo rose like a mirage on the eastern horizon. Eventually, I decided to climb a tree.

After taking my time alternately writing and lying in the grasses, I noticed that the children who had postponed my thoughts…


It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories. ~Donna Haraway

Paradigms are illusory. Just as fish likely do not recognize the water that sustains them and we swim through the air unthinking about its properties, paradigms, the underlying currents of our cultural thoughts, are the often unseen and unthought movers of our world. Although humans rarely consider paradigms, they structure our lives…

Laura Pustarfi

Writer, Creative, and Integral Ecologist

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