The simple act of meeting up with friends and sprawling out on memorial glade is probably one of my favorite things to do at Berkeley. Being able to find a place to absorb the sunshine and relax with others re-energizes me to tackle the chaos of Berkeley student life.
Greenspaces also serve more purposes than providing college students a place to relax. With increasing temperatures, cities and metropolitan areas will become extremely hot. Cities and metropolitan areas are known as “heat islands” to many researchers because cities can be significantly hotter than the surrounding suburbs. This is because the materials in the city, like concrete and asphalt, retain heat while also lacking canopy. These heat islands will increase the strain on our natural resource consumption through spikes in AC usage.
A way to combat heat islands is by increasing green spaces in cities. This could be in the form of planting more trees to increase the canopy in cities, implementing policies to advocate for green roofs, or building more parks. Not only do greenspaces decrease the effect of heat islands, they also serve as a barrier to noise pollution, air pollution, and reduce the stress level of individuals around it.
However, greenspaces like the glade are not easily accessible for many people in our nation. According to a study published by The Trust for Public Land, parks in non-white majority communities are, on average, half the size and five times more crowded. Similarly, parks in low-income neighborhoods are around four times smaller than parks in high-income neighborhoods. With the increasing effects of climate change, not to mention the emotional toll of isolation and quarantine during Covid-19, access to parks are incredibly important and should not be based on socioeconomic status or the neighborhood people live in.
The lack of access to green spaces for BIPOC does not end in cities, but also extends to national and state parks as well. Before the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, black communities were not allowed into national or state parks. Even now, a study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife concluded that 70% of visitors to national forests, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges are white. This is despite the fact that 40% of the U.S population is BIPOC.
I am one of the BIPOC individuals that has the privilege of accessing the outdoors. More recently, I have become acutely aware of the fact that I can spend 3 days backpacking and not see another person that is non-white. However, the presence of BIPOC in green spaces should not be a rare sight — access to green spaces is a right, and the current inequality along racial and socioeconomic lines highlights an important environmental justice topic:
How can we increase access to green spaces for BIPOC communities?
What systemic injustices both past and present influence access to green spaces?
How can the environmental and outdoor recreation community develop more intersectionality in environmental spaces?