- The Bezos Earth Fund on Monday announced a $400 million commitment to enhance green spaces in underserved urban areas this decade. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos launched the fund in 2020, promising to allocate $10 billion to climate solutions before 2030.
- The first $50 million in awards will support 24 urban greening organizations and six national organizations, focusing on efforts in five U.S. cities — Atlanta; Chicago; Los Angeles; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Wilmington, Delaware.
- The selected community organizations have missions including land reclamation, native plant and tree cultivation, green workforce development and urban farming support.
The value of urban green spaces is widely recognized. Not only have parks, trees and gardens been shown to improve nearby residents’ physical and mental health, but they can reduce local energy use and boost resilience in the face of extreme climate events such as heat waves and flooding.
The distribution of these green spaces, however, isn’t equitable. Due to a long history of segregation, exclusion and land dispossession, many communities live in “nature-deprived areas,” as a Bezos Earth Fund press release highlighted.
“Momentum is building to expand access to green spaces in underserved urban areas,” the press release says, citing $1.5 billion in federal grants funded by the Inflation Reduction Act to increase equitable access to trees and green.
However, it’s not always simple for cities to root their tree-planting aspirations in reality. “The worst outcome — which is what we see in a lot of cities with tree-planting programs that don’t have resources and community buy-in to sustain themselves — [is] you end up with dead trees all over the city,” Lincoln Larson, a North Carolina State University associate professor who researches equitable tree-planting, told Smart Cities Dive last month. “That’s a worse outcome than no trees for a lot of people.”
The Bezos Earth Fund is betting on grassroots organizations that have “expert knowledge of the communities they serve” to develop “urban greening solutions that best support them.”
“The Greening America’s Cities commitment is one of the largest-ever funding initiatives to put money directly into the hands of community organizations, where it can most effectively address urgent environmental and economic justice priorities,” the organization said.
Efforts in Los Angeles will receive the highest amount of funding at $12 million split among 13 grants. In Chicago, more than $10 million is split among nine grants, and in Atlanta, almost $8 million is divided among nine grants. Albuquerque and Wilmington each received seven grants, at $6.6 million and $5.5 million, respectively.