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The broken windows theory suggests that crime gets attracted to opportunity. When you walk through a neighborhood in disrepair, the idea is that you can judge how much of a problem people in the area have with safety.

When looking at urban tree distribution in the United States, a clear shade imbalance occurs when comparing wealthy areas with poor ones.

Since urban trees provide more benefits beyond shade, one of the best ways to improve the mental, physical, and social well-being of residents is to plant more of them.

That’s the opposite of what many cities had done since the 1930s when tree coverage was treated more like weeds you’d have in a garden.

Does a Lack of Trees Contribute to Hardship?

Although happiness and hardship aren’t always linked, they can be in urban environments where trees don’t flourish.

The neighborhoods in America’s top cities with the fewest trees also tend to have the highest stress levels and least amount of outdoor exercise.

Although some trees must get removed for traffic safety or ADA compliance, those traits contribute to health and well-being detriments.

That’s why many advocacy programs are starting to push for more planting opportunities in today’s poorest U.S. neighborhoods and cities. From the Houston Area Urban Forest Project to the Environmental Protection Agency, the goal is to reduce residential costs and water runoff while making life better.

Shade should not be an amenity that money buys. When trees are a public resource that we can share equally, life gets better for everyone.

Scott Larson