The Summer of Tree Reckoning in the Media

A convergence of two connected elements in 2020 and 2021 is causing an outpouring of news stories this summer, covering tree equity and the role and impact of trees as a means to reduce heat impacts in all neighborhoods across America, not just some. The racial inequality and reckoning that the United States experienced in the summer of 2020 and the unbelievable heat waves in this summer of 2021 have prompted journalists, writers, urban planners, and science writers from major media such as National Geographic, The New York Times, TIME Magazine, and many more to address the unequal distribution of heat due to lack of tree cover.

Below are stories that dominated headlines in June and July 2021 that highlight equal tree cover distribution throughout all parts of cities for everyone and the significant role they play in reducing heat effects. The coverage is due in part to the project and program American Forests unveiled in November 2020, the Tree Equity Score. The Tree Equity Score indicates whether a neighborhood has Tree Equity, defined as the right number of trees so all people experience the health, economic and other benefits that trees provide.

Summer 2021 Heatwaves and Tree Equity Make the News

National Public Radio tells the story of Cleveland, Ohio neighborhood’s blatant tree cover disparity.
Published June 23, 2021

National Public Radio shows Washington D.C. as breaking the mold, receiving a high Tree Equity score.
Published June 23, 2021

The New York Times created an interactive map displaying 10 different cities, highlighting the disparities between wealthy and low-income neighborhoods in the same city.
Published June 30, 2021

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Climate Reporter, Tom Di Liberto writes, “Over a four-day period, June 26-29, daytime high temperatures skyrocketed to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, setting all-time records at dozens of locations.” This record-breaking temperature extreme further caught the world’s attention.
Published June 30, 2021

National Geographic highlights a comparison of trees in wealthy versus unwealthy areas in Los Angeles on the front cover of the July 2021 issue. The feature story covers the policies implemented nearly a century ago that have shaped unequal distribution of tree cover, which is leading to hotter areas with fewer trees today.
Published July 1, 2021

The New York Times tells the story of Des Moines, Iowa investing in tree and green infrastructure in its city because of extreme heat from climate change and lack of healthy tree cover in all parts of the city.
Published July 2, 2021



Pew Trusts Stateline details the critical need to reclassify trees as vital urban infrastructure.
Published July 6, 2021


TIME Magazine interviews the first-ever Heat Officer, Jane Gilbert, who wants to institute more tree planting in all areas of Miami, not just areas in wealth.
Published July 7, 2021


Nature Magazine reports how scientists are mapping correlations between race, poverty, and heat in cities, and suggesting solutions to reduce the dangers.
Published July 14, 2021


 Header Image by brotiN biswaS from Pexels

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