Timon Singh

Are Green Spaces an Indicator of Social and Economic Inequality?

by , 05/29/12

tim dechant, green areas, parks, trees, per square mile, social divide, green parks, green design

Look out of your window. Can you see many trees or vegetation? If so, then you may be living in one of the more affulent parts of your city. That or you live in the countryside. Tim DeChant, of Per Square Mile, believes that the amount of green space a particular neighborhood has is directly connected to how rich it is.

tim dechant, green areas, parks, trees, per square mile, social divide, green parks, green design

West Oakland

tim dechant, green areas, parks, trees, per square mile, social divide, green parks, green design

Piedmont, Oakland

Essentially if a neighborhood is rich, it can afford more space for trees, as well as the costs for growing and maintaining them. By comparison, poor neighbourhoods are deprived of parks and green areas and are more likely to look like concrete jungles than anything resembling nature.

As evidence for this, DeChant referenced a study that was published a few years ago that showed a close relationship between an area’s forest cover and the per capita income. “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,” DeChant reported. “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. That’s a pretty tight correlation. The researchers reason that wealthier cities can afford more trees, both on private and public property. The well-to-do can afford larger lots, which in turn can support more trees. ”

In a more recent post, DeChant has wondered whether this inequality can be seen from space. Using Google Earth, he has compared poorer and more richer areas of Rio De Janeiro, Oakland, Chicago and other cities from around the world.

While many cities are attempting to plant more tress, the poorer the city, the less likely this is to happen. London has reportedly planted 20,000 new trees in the ground for the 2012 Olympics, but what about those areas that simply can’t afford it? Are their occupants doomed to live without the benefits of nature?

+ Per Square Mile

Via Tree Hugger

Images: Axel-D and Google Earth

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