If you email a tree, should you expect a reply? In Australia, the tree would apparently write back — in a matter of speaking. The Melbourne Urban Forest project gave email addresses to the city's trees back in 2013, and operates the accounts on the trees' behalf.
The city set up the email addresses to allow citizens to report damage to individual trees, such as broken branches or other tree health issues. Melbourne citizens, however, took it a step further, seizing the opportunity to strike up conversations with the trees via email, often complimenting them on their beauty and their usefulness.
Even more interesting is that the letter-writers will often get an email back from the trees — even if the reply is written and sent by city employees who take the time to respond.
So what kind of emails do people send? Some proclaim their love for the trees and praise their "radiant beauty." Other emails send condolences to city trees at the end of their life cycles. Some of the emails seem to come from other trees (or at least, their owners) from all over the world.
One email reads:
"My dearest Ulmus, As I was leaving St. Mary's College today I was struck, not by a branch, but by your radiant beauty. You must get these messages all the time. You're such an attractive tree."
Although the city never intended for the trees to receive these kinds of emails, Melbourne embraces the fact that so many people appreciate the city's greenery.
"The email interactions reveal the love Melburnians have for our trees," wrote Melbourne's Environment Portfolio, Councillor Arron Wood in an email to The Atlantic.
"The move toward the Internet of Things only encourages the sense that our objects are not actually just things but acquaintances," writes Adrienne LaFrance for The Atlantic. "This phenomenon isn't entirely new: The urge to talk back to devices and appliances dates at least to the broadcast era."
You can learn all about the program on the official Melbourne Urban Forest website, which gives a rundown on all the trees, along with maps of their locations — even providing information on what happens as trees grow older.