By Sonya James
Posting in Cities
Tim De Chant uses satellite images to fight the lack of green in poor neighborhoods.
While pondering the striking correlation between wealth and forest cover, Journalist Tim De Chant asked, "Could I actually see income inequality from space?"
The answer? A resounding yes.
The following satellite images from Google Earth speak for themselves.
De Chant argues that trees should not be thought of as a luxury. While understandable in areas where street lights are being shut off and road and sewer maintenance is sluggish, the non-cosmetic benefits of trees should be taken seriously:
They shade houses in the summer, reducing cooling bills. They scrub the air of pollution, especially of the particulate variety, which in many poor neighborhoods is responsible for increased asthma rates and other health problems. They also reduce stress, which has its own health benefits. Large, established trees can even fight crime.
Wealthy cities are taking action - New York City is trying to double the amount of trees to 1 million, London is aiming for 20,000 new trees before the Olympics, and over the course of the last twenty years Chicago has planted over 600,000.
But what about the areas that need more trees the most? De Chant says the non-profits are underfunded and hyper-local, remaining largely unnoticed by the federal government. The U.S. Forest Service's urban and community forestry program has a laughable $900,000 in the bank to disperse in grants.
"The study’s authors tallied total forest cover for 210 cities over 100,000 people in the contiguous United States using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s natural resource inventory and satellite imagery. They also gathered economic data, including income, land prices, and disposable income.
They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent. But when income dropped by the same amount, demand decreased by 1.26 percent.
The correlation is undeniable, but it has also been known for a number of years.
Here's hoping the power of the image will insight new action.
May 29, 2012
This pointless exercise continues to show the problem of a lack of trees in urban areas is all about poor urban planning and less to do with the amount of money earned by the residents. Look at the urban density in the POOR pictures. There is no room for trees to be planted. The buildings are on top of each other. Poor zoning laws or the complete lack of zoning enforcement leads to this condition. Neighborhoods with undesirable living conditions cannot ask for high rents. Low rents draw poor people into areas with bad living conditions. It is a long known pattern of urban migration. But wealth does not guarantee trees. Pull up a sat photo of Beacon Hill in Boston. It looks nearly identical to Ball Square in Somerville for tree density. And trees do not guarantee wealth. The very liberal Boston Globe recently called Lawrence QUOTE??? The City of the Damned - and - the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts ??? Yet most of the city has a tree density comparable to neighboring wealthy North Andover. http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/2012/02/city-of-the-damned-lawrence-massachusetts/
For the most part, it's the density. In that case, it is actually wealth related, because the wealthier people have large lots with very old trees. It's interesting that one goal of environmentalists is increased density... we can see negative environmental impact here.
..."women, children & minorities hardest hit". And it's completely non-sequitur. In my city, it's the opposite; the "poor" neighborhoods have the most dense tree cover, mainly because the inhabitants cannot afford adequate tree trimming services.
The wealthy can afford to buy where the property is zoned for larger lots. The poor migrate to where rents are lowest. Which tend to be th most crowded areas. In nearly 100 percent of the cases, poor urban planning resulted in those crowded areas being in such bad shape.