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Special Project | 2021


LENS.cast is a new podcast from UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies. The show tells stories about environmental art, activism, policy, and imagination, with a focus on questions of justice and coexistence. How do built and natural environments embody histories of oppression and possibilities for change? How do different communities value and protect the nonhuman beings they live with? How do artists and activists push us to think differently about our more-than-human relations? Who benefits from ‘green’ investment? How can communities push to ensure that marginalized people and places are at the center of plans for ecological futures? In our first season, we explore these questions through stories about the trees of Los Angeles, a struggle for a new kind of sustainability in Little Tokyo, and encounters with LA’s lions, lawns, cats, rats, and coyotes.

In the first episode of LENS.cast, we explore the history and future of Los Angeles’s remarkable trees. California is more than palm trees: it is, according to University of Pennsylvania historian Jared Farmer, an incredible arboretum—a collection of species from all over the world—and an “heirloom of conquest.” Trees record the history of colonial destruction in California, but they could also be an important part for a more just, resilient future as LA faces the realities of climate change. We speak with Farmer, with Rachel Malarich, LA’s first City Tree Officer, and with Maria Adame and Miguel Vargas of the nonprofit group TreePeople, about the many meanings of LA’s trees. 

Listen to episode 1—”Heirlooms of Conquest: Trees + Justice in LA”—below!