Soil Wunderkammer Protocol 01

We invite you to stroll the sidewalks in your neighborhood, attending to the area surrounding local street trees ("tree pit" or "Baumscheiben"). How is this “soil portal” a kind of “wunderkammer”?

Through this protocol, you will engage with a network of urban micro-commons in your neighborhood to get a better sense of the multispecies life worlds they support, creating a photographic archive of tree pits in your community. By the end of the protocol, you will identify two contrasting tree pits, and create a brief audio recording describing your experience. Further project background here.


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Participate: Soil Wunderkammer Protocol 01

Find a soil Wunderkammer. Begin outside, on a sidewalk in your neighborhood. Look for a tree that is growing along the sidewalk. Go to that tree, and touch its trunk with your hand. Look up, then look down. What do you see where the tree enters the soil?

This hole in the sidewalk is known as a tree pit, or baumscheiben. It is also a portal to the soil, a wunderkammer full of potential for multispecies life. Spend one minute looking down, observing. Squat or sit down to observe.

What draws your attention? Do you see any life here? What relationship does that life have to the soil, the tree, the sidewalk, you? Greet the life you see with a smile or a nod.  Then take a photograph of the tree pit. 

Stroll: explore a network of soil wunderkammers. Now that you’ve explored a single tree pit, go on a tree pit stroll, wandering the sidewalks of your neighborhood, searching out the many types of tree pits. Try to see as many tree pits as you can. Some might have dead trees, or no trees at all. Take photos as you go. 

Stroll Attunement Help: 

What draws your attention? 

Zoom in – Zoom out from the soil wunderkammer 

Use your eyes, your body posture. Smell, touch, listen.  

Sense the feelings and emotions that arise: Boring-Exciting-Messy-Blessed-Disgusting-Happy-Neat-Controlled-Has-Agency…

Review, describe, archive. When you finish your walk, review your tree pit photos and choose two that strike you as different from one and other. How do you feel about each one, emotionally, physically, socially, ecologically? Make a list of at least five terms (or sounds!) to describe each tree pit. Record each list as a separate voice memo on your phone.

Upload your first tree pit photograph below. Email your first audio recording (e.g. voice memo) to using this link. (include the subject line Protocol 01/Tree Pit 1).

Upload your second tree pit photograph below. Email your second audio recording (e.g. voice memo) to using this link. (include the subject line protocol 01/Tree pit 2)


  • Liven from Charenton le Pont, France
  • Liven from Charenton le Pont, France
  • Agoston, from Gellért Hill, Budapest
  • Agoston, from Gellért Hill, Budapest
  • Christine, Massapequa Park, NY
  • Christine, Massapequa Park, NY
  • Martina from Zurich, Switzerland
  • Martina from Zurich, Switzerland
  • Cosima from Frankfurt, Germany
  • Cosima from Frankfurt, Germany
  • Chris from Lenapehocking land, Brooklyn, NY
  • Chris from Lenapehocking land, Brooklyn, NY
  • andrea from Lenapehocking land, Brooklyn, NY
  • andrea from Lenapehocking Land, Brooklyn, NY, USA
  • Ellie, Mohican land, Troy, NY
  • Ellie, Mohican land, Troy, NY, USA

Further action

Urban Tree Canopy Cover and Environmental Justice

“Trees Grow on Money.” Does your city or town have equitable distribution of trees and other urban greenspace? Many recent studies have shown that urban tree cover is beneficial in many ways (physical and mental health, climate justice, pollution exposure). But tree cover is not distributed in an equitable way in many cities. Richer, whiter neighborhoods tend to have more tree cover. What is the reality in your city?

Learn More

Is your state fighting to control transportation-related emissions?

Global temperatures are on target to rise at least 3°C (5.4 ° F) by 2100. On March 31, 2020, while the country was in lockdown due to the Covid19 pandemic, the US EPA passed a rule relaxing fuel efficiency standards through 2026 (based on spurious science). Transportation related greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise as Americans get on the road again. While Federal agencies fail us, states are fighting to regulate emissions more aggressively. Twenty-two states have sued the EPA.

Is your state one of them?

U.S. EPA is trying to omit vital Public Health Data- Tell them what you think!

In early March 2020, the U.S. EPA announced further amendments to it’s “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” policy proposal, which has been dubbed the “Censor Science Rule” by the scientific community, as it disqualifies all anonymous medical data – effectively the data that measures the health impact of environmental pollution.  We now know that the respiratory illness caused by Covid19 has brought the unsettling correlation between death rates and the POC and immigrant communities most exposed to environmental pollution further to light. 

ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE PUBLIC COMMENTS: Due to continued pushback on this proposal commenting is extended until May 18th. Visit to give a public comment, search by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OA–2018–0259.

Sent a comment to the US EPA

Don’t let the U.S. EPA get away with using the pandemic as an open license to pollute

Good Air quality is key for both humans and nonhumans alike. On March 26th, 2020, the U.S. EPA released a letter titled “COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program”, announcing that it would not be enforcing its compliance regulations, giving industry a pass to pollute freely during this global health crisis. Former US EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, called it “an open license to pollute.”

TAKE ACTION: Sign the NRDC Petition

How are bird and multispecies communities being impacted by US EPA rollbacks?

This March the U.S. EPA gutted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which now no longer holds individuals or companies (for example real estate companies) accountable for the incidental killing of migratory birds. In New York City, 90,000 birds collide with buildings every year, many of these are migratory birds, as the city is located on a major migratory pathway. One more reason to stand up against massive real estate developments in the city! 

MAKE A PROTEST POSTER FOR YOUR WINDOW! And if you happen to live in a highrise, or any building with glass:

Use this Template to Help the Birds See the Glass

We want real climate justice policy! What Energy Policy would your Street Tree Endorse? 

In 2017 former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a notice proposing a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which requires utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The rule was replaced in 2019 with the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule which weakens emissions standards. The U.S. EPA, over the past 4 years, has rolled back over 95 rules put in place to protect environmental health, supporting the interests of the coal, gas, and oil industries, along with Big Agriculture. How has this changed the role and pressure we place on so-called green infrastructure? What kind of energy policy would street trees endorse? Read about the Red New Deal, and A Peoples Climate Plan for NYC.

Read the Peoples Climate Plan for NYC

 Almost ⅔ of Earth’s biodiversity is bacterial. How do we deconstruct and unlearn human supremacy?

The U.S. EPA endorses the use of powerful herbicides and pesticides like glyphosate (Round Up) and chlorpyrifos. In 2019, the U.S. EPA announced that it would not ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide that its own experts have linked to serious health problems in children, and farmworkers. Now more than ever our food supply depends on supporting and protecting farmworkers.

Visit Beyond Pesticides to learn more.

Tell Congress to provide essential benefits to essential workers