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The Trees Shouldn't Follow The Dollar.

Today is World Re-Wilding Day (re-wilding is the process of restoring an area of land to its natural state).

But while the environmental importance of re-wilding is obvious, I also want to address the social importance.

As a native Houstonian, one thing that really stood out to me about my city was the location of natural environments. The most beautiful, tree-covered, nature-filled, re-wilded parts of the city also just happened to be in the wealthiest parts of the city.

It is not uncommon for people, those without access to AC, to die from the heat of Houston summers. And looking at the stark difference in heat between the shaded and unshaded areas in this picture, you can see why I say re-wilding is also a social issue.

Houston has done amazing work re-wilding parts of the city but the natural world should not only be available for the wealthy.

It should be available to all.

Houston is not alone in this predicament. In most urban communities around the world, it is the wealthy that can afford access to nature, forcing the lower income to deal with concrete jungles, polluted air-quality, or plastic-filled streets (sometimes a combination of all three).

Nature should be a human right.

Just like clean drinking water and food, being able to experience the beauties and wonders of the natural world should constitute as a basic human right.

But too often, the trees follow the dollar.

Re-wilding efforts are funded by wealthy individuals who want beautiful parks in their backyards or neighborhoods.

And while I completely understand that logic (if I am paying for a re-wilded forest, I want it close to me so I can experience it), equity has to be taken into consideration when re-wilding a community.

Who would benefit the most from access to maintained and protected natural spaces?

Which communities have the least access to re-wilded landscapes?

In Houston in particular, how does the lack of access to parks impact mental wellness, obesity rates, and general health in the poor, predominately Latino and black, communities?

My mom, a doctor in Houston, works heavily around social determinants of health in the black neighborhoods around the city. One of the big things she points out constantly is how few sidewalks there are in the neighborhood. With some of the highest rates of obesity, simply going outside to walk for 15-30min a day can do wonders for people's health. But if there are no sidewalks for people to walk on safely or no parks for kids and adults to play and exercise in, how can we expect obesity rates to drop in the community?

There are so many complicated social issues like the one above that go hand-in-hand with environmental conservation, and addressing them all can feel overwhelming and hopeless. But I think if we begin to re-wild the earth so that everyone can have access to restored nature, we will start seeing real change for the better.

If you want to learn more about conservation and how you can get involved, check out some of these people I follow on LinkedIn who are constantly sharing news, advice, and tangible action items to help re-wild Planet Earth.


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