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Trees and parks add longevity to the most vulnerable communities

Trees and parks add longevity to the most vulnerable communities
Increasing urban vegetation, trees and parks, especially in areas with a shortage of green space, could add almost a million years to life expectancy throughout Los Angeles County.

For a long time, the most vulnerable communities have been left without the necessary green spaces, even though these are very important; The lack of trees and parks directly affects health, leaving communities without access to their benefits and shade. 

Research from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health found that increasing urban vegetation, tree cover and parks, especially in areas with a shortage of green space, could add almost a million years to life expectancy in all of Los Angeles County.

"When we did our statistical models, we consistently found that the more trees there are, the more life expectancy increases," said Michael Jerrett, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA, during a briefing held by Ethnic Media Services.

The also co-director of the Center for Healthy Climate Solutions at the Fielding School of Public Health, emphasized the importance of having parks distributed throughout the state to improve air quality, as well as the lives of residents.

"We started this collaborative project to be able to access the connection between life expectancy and green spaces, where the hypothesis is that life expectancy will have a positive reaction to the extent of green spaces," commented the UCLA professor.

He added that many of the oppressed neighborhoods are Latino and Afro-descendant, and with improvements in green areas it is estimated that there would be an increase of 122,700 years of life expectancy for the people who live in these spaces.

Websites like prevention institute They give clear information about park equity. 

Rachel Malarich, forestry officer for the city of Los Angeles, spoke of 4 pillars for the City of Los Angeles: planting more trees, maintaining them, preserving parks, and recognizing that people are a large part of urban forests , as well as the relationship and commitment that is formed between the communities.

?We are developing this urban forest maintenance plan. This has a guide to achieve the goals; We are going to take into account the opinions of the community and the neighborhood, we are seeing how we are going to improve the city with these benefits? commented Rachel Malarich.

For Malarich, community participation is essential, so in January there will be workshops in the neighborhoods to receive feedback from residents and there will also be a survey that will be available in several languages to listen to the community and obtain feedback. information that is needed.

"We are working together with Los Angeles County because we know we can do broader work and reach communities with meetings and campaigns," he said.

Finally, Malarich added that one of the great components of the plan is to address the issue of equity in areas and trees, where not everyone has access to green areas and walks.

Marcos Trinidad, Senior Director of Forestry TreePeople, said that in their association they have been working on these issues for 50 years, where they began with the idea of bringing people together to plant trees; Over time they managed to make more people understand their environment and the needs of the community where the most vulnerable areas have been prioritized.

"TreePeople is not just entering an area, it is giving more opportunities to the community, for education, work, with environmental awareness, and how to rebuild forest areas again," he added. 

For Marcos Trinidad, teamwork is the most important thing, generating a model that allows the creation of funds to support the community with employment and continue collaborating to generate more urban forests.

Bz Zhang, project director for the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, said that over the past few years, her association has created 30 parks and gardens that are serving nearly half a million people in Los Angeles.

"Non-white communities have less access to parks, we're talking 66 percent less," he added.

He added that its main pillars are: community participation, development design and the parks. He stressed that the parks are maintained by hiring the same neighbors to take care of these spaces, those people are the ones who make all of this successful.

Furthermore, he explained that the participation of young people in these programs is very important, since they are the future of the country. 

Jon Christensen, an associate professor at the UCLA Environment Institute, explained that it's great to plant trees, but that's not enough; organization, resources and planning are needed, something positive that associations are already doing. 

?We talk about programs in communities that help people improve their lifestyle, one more benefit of the investment that is being made with ecological infrastructure projects, since many of these investments are guided so that communities with more disadvantages be prioritized because they have not been considered before?, commented Jon Christensen.


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