May we demand the presence of trees? Despite their secret importance, the appearance of trees in American cities corresponds with wealth, Per Square Mile reveals:
Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover. They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent.
It’s easy to see trees as a luxury when a city can barely keep its roads and sewers in working order, but that glosses over the many benefits urban trees provide. 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.
Fortunately, many cities understand the value trees bring to their cities. New York City is aiming to double the number of trees it has to 1 million. Chicago has planted over 600,000 in the last twenty years. But those cities are relatively wealthy. It’s the poorer ones that probably need trees the most but are the least able to plant and maintain them.