A Statement from our Staff and Board of Directors
As an organization dedicated to improving our community and making it a better place to live for everyone, like many of you, Tree Pittsburgh stands against racism and condemns the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Antwon Rose II, as well as the many other violent acts against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
In response, we are taking this time to reflect upon our core values as well as our mission and purpose as an organization. We have formed a committee of staff and Board members to examine how we do our work and determine what immediate and long-term actions we can take to do better.
At times like these we’d all like to be able to change the world in an instant, but we know that achieving the kind of systemic change where equal justice is applied for all will take patience, hard work, and sustained commitment. Tree Pittsburgh is fully committed to doing that work for racial and environmental justice.
We commit ourselves to embracing our core values and doing what we do best – which is to grow, plant, and care for trees. Our commitment is to focus our efforts on the geographic areas that suffer from a lack of tree canopy. This work, undertaken with greater intention, is one way we can contribute to the broader movement for equity and justice.
Using tree canopy data as our guide we observe a marked difference in geographic areas along economic and racial lines. Recent studies expose how decades of systemic racism has resulted in communities with low tree canopy and blight. And where you see fewer trees, you’ll see other issues. A study by Vibrant Cities Lab has shown that the lack of trees in an area correlates with poor academic performance, increased crime rates, serious health issues, and more deaths due to poor air quality and extreme heat. Residents of these low canopy neighborhoods are more vulnerable to sickness and disease, as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our core competencies around planting, growing, and educating for the care and nurturing of trees give Tree Pittsburgh the platform to address these issues in a meaningful way. We can and will increase the tree canopy in these underserved areas and advocate for policies and practices that remove institutional and structural barriers to community greening.
To accomplish our goals we have added explicit actions to our current three-year strategic plan to support tree planting, maintenance, protection, and community engagement in underserved areas.
- Developing a strategy to increase awareness about the disparity in tree canopy along socio-economic lines including race, and the systemic barriers that exist to increase tree canopy in underserved communities;
- Creating a state and local advocacy agenda that addresses policies that perpetuate disparities in tree canopy;
- Utilizing tree canopy data and other health, socio-economic, and environmental justice indicators to identify areas of greatest need and direct resources to those communities;
- Setting diversity goals and including diversity as critical criteria in making hiring and recruitment decisions for both the staff and Board of Directors, as well as volunteers and partners; and
- Committing to staff and Board anti-racism education and training.
We know that it takes many years for a tree to grow to maturity; it is within that context that we undertake this work knowing that what we do now can and will have a lasting impact. We are here to be part of the change.
In the words of Wangari Maathai: “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.”
The Staff and Board of Directors at Tree Pittsburgh