Amazon founder Bezos Earth Fund recently announced a $400 million initiative to create green spaces in underserved urban U.S. areas. Greening America’s Cities project will award the total sum primarily to community justice organizations through 2030.
This year, it will allocate $50 million to support community projects in five cities: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Wilmington, Delaware. The money will go to 24 urban greening organizations and six national organizations providing technical assistance.
“We’re excited to help green underserved communities throughout the U.S.,” said Jeff Bezos, executive chair of the Bezos Earth Fund. “Working together, we can bring nature and its many benefits to every corner of our cities.”
Photo Courtesy Bezos Earth Fund
The Bezos Earth Fund was established to fight climate change and protect nature. It committed $10 billion to be used by 2030, which aligns with the date set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The fund points to evidence that adding parks, trees, and gardens in urban areas can improve local residents’ physical and mental health. Greening also helps to make cities more resilient to extreme climate impacts such as heat while enhancing air quality, physical activity and promoting stress reduction.
“Historic systems of segregation, exclusion, and land dispossession have led to many communities living in nature-deprived areas,” the fund states on its website. “Consequently, these communities often do not benefit from nature’s benefits, like air and water purification, climate mitigation, or biodiversity.”
The grantees’ organizations will play a critical role in devising greening solutions with this funding. Some actions will focus on land reclamation, native plant cultivation, farming support, and other communal projects.
Photo Courtesy Bezos Earth Fund /DOI
Recent greening initiatives in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Albuquerque include the work of GreenLatinos, an organization that helps equalize the spread of green areas in the urban Latino/a/x communities.
In Wilmington, Delaware, the fund partnered with New Castle Prevention Coalition to expand youth access to parks and other green spaces. Thanks to the funding, it restored eight neighborhood parks on over 300 acres in a community.
Further, the organization will work on expanding community gardens, tree canopies, and native plants to help reduce the effects of heat and pollution. It also plans to add recreational nature trails and educational exhibits and fund 20 to 30 youth jobs for parks and entrepreneurship.
In Atlanta, the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network and its partner Urban Sustainability Directors Network plan to engage the City of Atlanta to provide additional staff to work with local organizations on greening projects. More specifically, they will give skill-building, training, and coaching. Also, the partners will measure the impacts of community greening projects, such as their fulfillment of local needs, social and economic inclusion, workforce development, and knowledge.
“Access to nature is deeply unequal, and the importance of green spaces to underserved communities is often overlooked and unaddressed,” said Lauren Sánchez, vice chair at the Bezos Earth Fund. “Green spaces make a city more beautiful, livable, healthy, and joyful, but studies show that they also lower extreme summer temperatures, reducing heat stress.
She added that this helps improve “the mental and physical health of communities and even improve students’ academic performance. This $400 million commitment will impact communities across the country, making a tangible difference people can see.”