Tree shortages affect health and quality of life in Latino neighborhoods in the United States

National experts say that the scarcity of trees in Hispanic neighborhoods in major US cities compared to neighborhoods of other groups is negatively impacting the health and quality of life of Hispanic families due to increased heat and air pollution in those neighborhoods.

Specifically, Latino neighborhoods in 486 metropolitan areas in the United States have fewer trees covering open spaces, parking lots, sidewalks and other grounds than trees in comparable spaces in white neighborhoods, reveals a report from the American Forest Environmental Organization released in June. This week for the west of the country.

Using a formula called the Tree Equality Score (TES), which relates the presence of trees to demographics, age, health, income, population density, and average neighborhood temperature, the organization found that the more minorities there are, the higher the neighborhood poverty level, the more Reduce the number of trees planted on the site.

To come to this conclusion, American forestry experts analyzed about 150,000 neighborhoods in all American cities with populations greater than 50,000.

“The Equity Tree Score is an innovative tool that provides a narrative focused on social justice, and a directed path to action in favor of tree equity for the advancement of our communities,” said Mark Magana, founder and president of GreenLatinos, in Washington, DC. .

inequality

For example, the American Forest Report reveals that in Austin, Texas, Hispanic neighborhoods have 20 percent fewer trees than neighborhoods with a majority of whites, the largest disparity in the country. In Los Angeles, California, the disparity is 10 percent, and in Denver, Colorado, and San Francisco, California, it is 7 percent.

At the same time, if the disparity in the number of trees in Hispanic neighborhoods in Memphis (Tennessee), Boston (Massachusetts), Columbus (Ohio), and Charlotte (North Carolina) disappeared, the average temperature in those neighborhoods would drop by 5.5 degrees. Celsius (10.6 Fahrenheit), and it would be 12 percent lower than it is today.

And if enough trees are planted next to parking lots, the asphalt surface temperature could drop by as much as 20 degrees Celsius (36 Fahrenheit), according to data collected and released recently by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

In fact, according to Chris David, vice president in charge of scientific data for American Forests, “the reason we created the TES equation is because historically and nationally, trees have not been planted evenly in many cities.”

For example, Latino neighborhoods in Commerce City (the northern suburb of Denver) had a TES score of 25, indicating fewer trees in an area with 84 percent Hispanics and 67 percent disadvantaged families. Just 15 miles to the west, in the city of Broomfield, with 12 percent minorities and 8 percent poor, a TES score is 95.

And in Denver’s affluent Cherry Hills Village neighborhood (a city of about 700,000 residents is 30 percent Hispanic), 100 percent of residents own trees, compared to just 3 percent in the Latino neighborhood of Sun, Valley in western Denver.

Similar cases are repeated in 20 major cities in the country, including Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles. Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and San Diego, says the US Forestry Report.

Big benefits

To reverse this situation, about 522 million trees should be planted across the country, which, in addition to health and quality of life benefits, will create 3.8 million jobs and allow the absorption of about 9.3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of 92 million cars.

According to Judd Daly, president of American Forests, the report “shows us exactly where the problem lies, where we need to focus our investments to solve the problem, and where we need to bring people together, all kinds of people and organizations.”

In concrete numbers, the problem is that neighborhoods with a majority of Hispanics or African Americans have 33 percent fewer trees than white neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with a majority of the poor have 41 percent fewer trees than those in the affluent.

But the solution would be costly (billions of dollars) and long-term (at least a decade), according to a North Carolina State University study (April 2021).

He notes that an initial investment of $17.6 billion would be required to benefit the 42 million people most affected by lack of trees, which is only a quarter of the 167 million people living in urban areas without sufficient trees.

Ian Thomas Tavoia, GreenLatinos Representative in Colorado, said at a press conference, when analyzing the effect of variance in trees in this state’s major cities.

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