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.