buypositively: Income inequality, as seen from space May 24,…

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Income inequality, as seen from space

Last week, I wrote about how urban trees—or the lack thereof—can reveal income inequality. After writing that article, I was curious, could I actually see income inequality from space? It turned out to be easier than I expected.

Below are satellite images from Google Earth that show two neighborhoods from a selection of cities around the world. In case it isn’t obvious, the first image is the less well-off neighborhood, the second the wealthier one.

Click here for full story + more cities from Google Earth

When the law changed and you could get trees planted without the building owner’s permission, a lot of people were organizing in North Brooklyn to get trees planted. With all of the industrial waste in our soil, and the truck traffic, and the oil spill, there’s a significant air quality issue and the area is something like third-to-last on the underplanted list. The administration distributes all this material about how trees are so good, and they mention how they raise property values—and that’s why trees aren’t an unqualified good thing.

If trees get planted in your neighborhood, and it’s mostly a rental population—considered “transient” by urban planners even if your family has been there for generations—they can speed up gentrification. Suddenly the neighborhood looks nicer. Property values go up, rents go up, buildings get sold, they get torn down for “luxury housing,” and the community gets displaced.

This is a serious consideration on the Southside of Williamsburg, and in parts of Bushwick. (The areas I am familiar with, as far as local politics.) I don’t know how to fix it. I do know that the community has every right to say “We don’t want your trees,” and it’s not because they’re uneducated about the benefits. It’s because they know who gets to enjoy those benefits.

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