Atlanta’s Urban Forest and Urban Blight, Implications for Justice

Authors: Cassandra Johnson Gaither*, USDA Forest Service, Dudley Hartel, USDA Forest Service, Eric Kuehler, USDA Forest Service, Ebenezer Aka, Morehouse College, Wayne Zipperer, USDA Forest Service
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Environmental Perception
Keywords: urban forest, environmental justice, Atlanta
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Bourbon Room, Astor, Mezzanine
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This study examines the environmental justice implications of Atlanta’s urban forest by assessing both the distributive and procedural dimensions of environmental justice for sub-sections of Atlanta, GA. Distributive justice is operationalized by an air pollution removal estimate associated with the city’s urban forest, provided by the Urban Forest Effects Model. Procedural justice is measured with a scale developed by the authors to assess residents’ engagement with trees at both the household and community scale and with an assessment of neighborhood blight. The blight measure is included to account for neighborhood context. People’s interest and participation in efforts to establish and maintain city trees are mitigated by aesthetics and physical conditions in their immediate milieu. Less engagement is expected in city areas with higher blight scores.

Results indicate air pollution removal is greatest in both Southwest Atlanta, a predominantly African American section of the city and in North Atlanta, a mostly middle and upper income White sector. As expected, bivariate analyses indicate that blight and procedural justice are negatively correlated. When included in OLS regression models, results indicate that blight is a significant predictor of procedural justice at the community scale. Homeowners and those with greater than a high school education are more likely to articulate procedural justice; whereas African Americans are significantly less likely to do so. Results have implications for downtown-proximate communities on the city’s south side experiencing significant gentrification pressures. Implications of these trends for urban forest access by lower and moderate income African Americans are discussed.

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