A Statement from our Staff and Board of Directors

 In Blog

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.

These include:

  • 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

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