What Durham's Tree Canopy Tells Us About Its Racial and Class Divides

Two stories this week have brought attention to another inequity marking a racial and class divide in America: Trees.

Reports published in National Geographic and the New York Times both presented satellite images showing stark differences in tree growth among urban communities, arising from specific government policies benefiting the planting of trees in wealthier neighborhoods. 

Both stories also presented evidence that this is not a marginal aesthetic issue: The presence of trees are a compelling indication of community health, with temperatures differing significantly between the poorer neighborhoods and the wealthy ones filled with green canopies to cool the residents.

Durham is not immune to the issue, as Duke professor Robert Korstad found in 2017 when he coordinated a project called Bull City 150: Reckoning with Durham's Past to Build a More Equitable Future.  The effort was a civic education initiative of the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity that coincided with the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city in 2019.

In the video above, Korstad discusses the findings of the project in Durham. For more about the project, visit the Bull City 150 website.