“What a friend we have in a tree, the tree is the symbol of hope, self improvement and what people can do for themselves.”
– Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the Green Belt Movement

Often when we talk about trees, we speak of the ecological services they provide. From trapping greenhouses gases, to treating runoff, to sustaining habitat for wildlife, there is no shortage of what trees can do to heal and fortify our planet. In addition to the environmental benefits trees provide, the mental, emotional, and physical respite they provide to us humans cannot be underestimated.

These benefits, however, are not equitably distributed across our communities. Did you know that diverse and low-income community members often live in areas with the lowest tree cover? Discriminatory housing practices like redlining helped fuel these inequities. Its damaging effects are still being deeply felt today.

Here are just a few of the ways that trees can improve the quality of life in our communities:

  • Neighborhoods with more trees have lower incidences of crime, regardless of socioeconomic status
  • The rate of childhood asthma is 29% lower for every 343 trees per square kilometer
  • Communities with the more tree canopy tend to have lower rates of unemployment
  • Trees reduce air temperature, lessening the effects of urban heat islands
  • Providing wood products and sustainable fibers for our households
  • Planting trees increases property values

Source: Vibrant Cities Lab

I encourage you to take time to appreciate the trees in your backyard, neighborhood, parks and streets this weekend. In what ways do these trees benefit you? How can we work to ensure that the communities we serve have equitable access to these benefits? If you are looking to add to your watch list, you can also check out these unbeleafably good videos and documentaries:

  • City of Trees on Amazon Prime (included with Prime) – During the recession, City of Trees follows three trainees and the directors of a stimulus-funded green job training program designed to put unemployed people back to work by caring for parks in DC.
  • Treeline – Follow a group of skiers, snowboarders, scientists and healers to the birch forests of Japan, the red cedars of British Columbia and the bristlecones of Nevada, as they explore an ancient story written in rings.
  • RECLAIMED – The Urban Wood Project – In this short video learn about The Urban Wood Project in Baltimore City, MD. Post-industrial cities face a suite of interconnected problems. Reusing urban wood can be viewed as a systems solution to a complex problem – a means by which to begin to renew and revitalize lives and communities as well.