Working towards environmental and social justice among environmentally stressed communities.
TreePeople is dedicated to building climate resilient communities by focusing its resources on communities in which Black, Indigenous and people of color have the lowest tree coverage, carry the heaviest burden of pollution, endure increased heat-related illness and death due to urban heat, and suffer the worst environmental impacts as a result of systemic racism and historic disinvestment.
To be supportive partners in these communities, many of which are facing ongoing economic and environmental stressors, we thoughtfully engage in understanding their unique needs and work alongside them to achieve our shared goals. That is why TreePeople’s community organizing approach is guided by the understanding that building climate resilient communities requires long overdue investments that are directly informed, guided and led by community members. These efforts must be supported by cross-sector and multidisciplinary partnerships aimed at addressing the economic, environmental and health issues these communities face.
TreePeople’s mission will not be done until those that suffer the most adverse impacts of pollution, lack of trees and climate change have access to fresh air and clean water, to safe open spaces and shaded streets, to healthy food and green jobs.
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Extreme heat causes more deaths in the United States than all other weather-related causes combined. In Los Angeles and in communities throughout Southern California, low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with older buildings, low tree cover, more heat-retaining surfaces, and limited access to coping strategies such as air conditioning. As extreme heat increases in Southern California, the three groups expected to see the largest increases in mortality are the elderly, Black Americans, and Latinos. TreePeople actively engages communities most impacted by extreme heat in planting thousands of trees each year and advocating for solutions that are proven to save lives.
Public and Mental Health
A healthy urban forest has direct impacts on community health. Exposure to poor air quality and extreme heat does more than just pollute the environment and choke our natural lands — it directly affects the people that live there, making them much more susceptible to asthma, cardiovascular disease, and other life-threatening illnesses. Economically and environmentally stressed areas often have higher rates of mental health issues and an increased likelihood of exposure to trauma. These issues are exacerbated by the low amount of trees and green spaces, which increases anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. The nature-based activities and other community-driven practices that TreePeople employs hold great promise in prevention and early intervention for both physical and mental health improvements that are evidence-based. Research has shown that increased vegetation and access to green spaces within one’s community can decrease mental and physical diagnoses while promoting social interaction and community building.
Green spaces in Southern California communities are far and few between, and the amount of trees is minimal. That is why we work with local communities to plant thousands of trees each year to combat extreme heat and pollution, advocate for equitable water and green infrastructure investment, promote access to local natural spaces and provide environmental education to our youth.
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