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Trees are a tool to fight Inequality

By: Matt Buland

October 1, 2016

I come to an abrupt stop, a complete standstill. I’m at that stark divide where the outstretched arms of the magnificent green giant above me can no longer reach. The cool dappled dark and light shades of the grays, greens and assorted colors are no more. Only near blinding brightness ahead. I shade my eyes and peer into the intense sunlight. I see shade. My muscles tense up and… BANG!!! I’m off, like a runner at a track meet, sprinting at peak physical exertion only slowing as I reach my finish line of cool, comfortable, shady relief.

This silly pattern of slowly walking, you might even say loitering, in the shade and then sprinting through the sun filled areas to the next shady spot was repeated daily on my walks home from school. Growing up in the quiet, safe and well tree’d neighborhood of River Park, my greatest troubles, for the most part, were those in-between shade times. My life revolved around my neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods and shopping centers that hug the American River. Rich soils and comfortable lifestyles led to a wonderful vegetated urban area. This was my Sacramento.

To my surprise, it wasn’t everyone’s Sacramento. I distinctly remember an emergency trip to the South Sacramento post office, the only one still open at that hour. As we zipped along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. I noticed a stark landscape. It was hard to call it a landscape at all. It was a hot, angular, and gray people-scape foreign to my understanding of place and space. My world further expanded with long bus rides on public transportation to Mira Loma High School. Some of the neighborhoods I came across bore more resemblance to the images of asphalt, brick, concrete and that I associated with dense urban cores like Los Angeles. This was not the city I knew.

This smacked of unfairness. Inequality. These communities did not have the feel of comfort I was used to. They felt harsh and unforgiving. So I headed off to Cal Poly to be a City and Regional Planning major with hopes of changing these communities for the better. We studied form and space and sought to define the principals that made a place into a community. It was in this discussion where I was able to put the pieces together and an ethic to merge and balance the natural world with the built environment developed.

It has been a long journey to find a place where I can apply that ethic. The Sacramento Tree Foundation has given me that avenue. I facilitate empowerment daily. I rebalance. I provide tools to find equality. It is exciting to see communities connect, unify, bond and strengthen around the common good of sturdy shades. Certainly trees couldn’t possibly solve each and every issue of inequality, but they are a great start. There should be no marathons, only short sprints to the next shade tree. BANG!!! We’re off.