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Nature Essays

Going to Seed

Questions of Idleness, Nature, and Sustainable Work

by (author) Kate Neville

University of Regina Press
Initial publish date
May 2024
Essays, Ecology
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    Publish Date
    May 2024
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    May 2024
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Winner of the 2023 Sowell Emerging Writers Prize

An abandoned place, a disheveled person, a shabby or deteriorating state: we describe such ruin colloquially as “going to seed.” But gardeners will protest: going to seed as idle? No, plants are sending out compressed packets filled with the energy needed to sow new life. A pause from flowering gives a chance for the seeds to form. In a time of urgent environmental change, of pressing social injustice, and of ever-advancing technologies and global connections, we often respond with acceleration—a speeding up and scaling up of our strategies to counter the damage and destruction around us. But what if we take the seeds as a starting point: what might we learn about work, sustainability, and relationships on this beleaguered planet if we slowed down, stepped back, and held off?

Going to Seed explores questions of idleness, considering the labour both of humans and of the myriad other inhabitants of the world. Drawing on science, literature, poetry, and personal observation, these winding and sometimes playful essays pay attention to the exertions and activities of the other-than-human lives that are usually excluded from our built and settled spaces, asking whose work and what kinds of work might be needed for a more just future for all.

About the author

Kate Neville is an associate professor in Political Science and the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto, where she studies global energy and resource politics, and community resistance. When not in Toronto, Kate can be found in a cabin in northern British Columbia, on the territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

Kate Neville's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Engaging and beautifully written, a field guide for our moment, both devastating and wondrous.” —Roo Borson, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Award

"[Neville's] message is urgent though not moralizing — the type of 'measured and rational response' that might just help us navigate this 'world of fuzzy edges.'"—Literary Review of Canada