When you travel to different parts of a city, various features of the environment tend to change. Those features may be styles of architecture, road signs, or even foliage. These differences in neighborhood characteristics often denote the class or financial differences of those who live there.
However, what is the weight and significance of these differences between neighborhoods and communities regarding discrimination? Namely, in those neighborhoods with meticulously manicured greenery, or those that are somehow barren of any signs of residential plant life, why do trees matter?
There's a reason why most urban and inner-city environments have a distinct lack of trees, especially neighborhoods that are predominately Black and Brown.
The unequal distribution of trees is not just an issue of aesthetics or environmental concern. It is a form of environmental racism that disproportionately harms Black and Brown communities. Trees are valued for their positive impact on the environment, such as providing shade, cleaning the air, and reducing the effects of climate change.
However, the distribution of trees in most American cities and towns is not equal, with predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods having fewer trees than predominantly white neighborhoods. This leads to a range of negative impacts on the health and well-being of these communities.
The absence of trees contributes to a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect, which affects Black and Brown communities the most. The concentration of buildings in urban areas without vegetation results in increased temperatures in Black and Brown communities, leading to heat exhaustion, energy consumption for cooling, and contributing to climate change.
There is already a high level of pollution in Black and Brown communities, and the absence of trees only exacerbates it. Trees are crucial for removing pollutants from the air, and without them, Black and Brown communities are more exposed to harmful toxins from traffic and industrial pollution.
The lack of trees also has detrimental effects on the mental health and quality of life of Black and Brown communities. Access to green spaces is crucial for improving mental health and reducing stress levels. However, due to redlining and other discriminatory policies, predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods have been deprived of green spaces, leading to poorer mental health outcomes and higher stress levels.
The root causes of environmental racism intersect with other forms of systemic oppression, such as economic inequality and racism. The abolition and dismantlement of these systems will improve the lives of Black and Brown communities in virtually every way, and improve the quality of life of our planet.
To view the distribution of trees in your neighborhood, please visit TreeEquityScore.org.