By Jad Daley, President & CEO of American Forests
*Updated September 6, 2019.
The American ideal of equal opportunity is being lost, and we must do better. It is unacceptable to see key equity gaps widen by income and race while our economy thrives. We need urgent action to level opportunity for all people, including the places we live. We can start with a new national commitment to achieve Tree Equity across America’s cities.
If you wonder how creating equitable tree cover across every neighborhood can help address serious inequities like public health, let me explain. Research continues to demonstrate that our health is profoundly impacted by the places we live. For example, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color generally experience higher levels of air pollution and suffer higher rates of related health impacts.
Trees can help address damaging environmental inequities like air pollution. America’s street trees and larger urban forests capture 822,000 metric tons of air pollution each year, a benefit needed most in where people are at greatest risk.
But far too often, the communities that most need this natural scrubbing service from trees don’t get it. That’s because, in cities across America, wealthier neighborhoods not only have less pollution but most often also have significantly more trees.
This pattern of tree inequity can also include communities of color, influenced by factors like “redlining” that have concentrated certain racial and ethnic groups by neighborhood. This analysis of Sacramento, California shows how gaps in tree cover sometimes closely correlate with race.
The solution is simple: we must create Tree Equity by dramatically increasing tree planting and tree care and targeting this investment so that every neighborhood can share in benefits like cleaner air, regardless of income or race.
The urgency to deliver Tree Equity becomes an even stronger moral imperative when you consider other benefits beyond clean air. This includes protection from hot weather, a health…