As anybody who has ever sat under a tree has noticed, these tall, leafy plants provide shade. But what about people who live in neighborhoods without a heat-blocking tree canopy? They’re going to be a lot hotter and could possibly face worse health outcomes. A new study is raising awareness of shade disparity.

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Trees aren’t evenly distributed through neighborhoods. Poorer areas of cities, especially those where communities of color live, are often tree-deprived. This new report concludes that people need to plant 30 million more trees in urban areas of the U.S. in order to achieve tree equity.

Related: South Korea to plant 3 billion trees by 2050

Conservation organization American Forests recently released its first tally of tree equity scores, using a metric based on population density, existing tree cover, socioeconomic makeup and other relevant criteria. The study looked at 150,000 neighborhoods in 486 cities around the U.S. Current tree cover is about 10% short, the study concluded. Cities need to plant more than 31 million more trees to reach equity.

“We need to make sure the trees go where the people are. Tree Equity Score steers us in the right direction, and now it’s up to all of us to go beyond business as usual and take bold action,” said Jad Daley, American Forests president and chief executive officer, as reported by The Guardian.

The study proved that white people have tree privilege. Neighborhoods where the majority of residents are people of color averaged about one-third less tree canopy than predominately white neighborhoods. Very low-income areas, where more than 90% of people live in poverty, have 65% less tree canopy than the most affluent neighborhoods. Because trees remove fine particulates from air, they help people breathe more easily. From its research in Dallas, American Forests showed that heat-related deaths could drop 22% if the city planted more trees and added more reflective surfaces.

According to the study, some of the country’s biggest cities really, really need more trees. These include Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Fresno, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose and New York City.

+ American Forests

Via The Guardian

Image via Jay Mantri