A new report highlights a “startling lack of green spaces in communities of color” compared to predominantly white neighborhoods.
The Center for American Progress report (“The Nature Gap”) specifically notes Black Americans, Latinos, and other people of color are nearly four times more likely than whites to live in areas with limited access to nature. It examines the causes and consequences of this disparity.
Nationally, 78% of people of color live in census tracts considered “nature-deprived,” compared to 21% of white residents. North Carolina’s numbers are fairly typical: 74% and 24%, respectively. (For this analysis, “nature-deprived” indicates a higher proportion of natural area lost to human activities than the state-level median.)
These disparities reflect decades of systemic housing discrimination and biased placement of polluting industries. “This is the result of the legacy of centuries of putting energy development projects near communities of color, paving over neighborhoods of color and choosing to place parks in whiter and higher-income neighborhoods,” said Shanna Edberg, the Hispanic Access Foundation’s director of conservation programs and co-author of the report.
The limited trees and greenery in these neighborhoods, as well as the reduced opportunity to spend time in outdoor settings, are well documented to have adverse health consequences.
Observers agree these continuing disparities call for concerted efforts to provide more parks and green spaces in and near the communities of color and low-income neighborhoods that lack them. As in other arenas, public investment is imperative to solve our nation’s history of systemic racism.