WHAT IF local and national companies could buy carbon+ credits from tree projects (preservation projects and planting projects) in Atlanta, thereby investing private money efficiently and reliably into local projects that help keep Atlanta green, equitable, and livable? (Guess what, they could buy such credits, if we were willing to do the work to make it happen.)
WHAT IF Atlanta were to secure funding for urban forest preservation and replanting from the $53,087,000 recently allocated by the Environmental Protection Agency to Georgia for infrastructure projects to protect surface water and drinking water? (All we have to do is to do the work to apply for that grant money.)
WHAT IF there were urban forestry programs that cities like Atlanta could opt into, such that major health insurance companies would agree to slight reductions in insurance rates for policyholders located in those communities who are participating in the programs? After all, there is more and more scientific evidence that tree canopy protects and promotes human health, especially in urban and rural counties with the lowest socioeconomic status. (This is a tough one, because it’s not being done yet anywhere, but in principle it should work.)
WHAT IF Atlanta taxpayers were offered a “treebate” on their water & sewer bills for planting a tree, as is done in Portland? (No-brainer.)
WHAT IF Southern Company were to follow the lead of the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, which provides ratepayers up to 10 free trees per customer and over 30 varieties to choose from? (Because this is Georgia, not California? That’s not an acceptable answer.)
WHAT IF we actually used the tools available to us to measure and record the tree cover on each tax parcel in our city? Might that information be useful to devising rebates and tax breaks for support of land use that optimizes ecosystem services to Atlanta? (Is it laziness or lack of interest or lack of imagination or what?)
WHAT IF we were to take the time necessary to actually sit down and actually think about how to link healthcare funding, public health funding, infrastructure funding, and all other potential streams of money to the one thing we can be sure will help prevent our children and grandchildren from suffering through entire months when the air is too hot and too dirty to go outside?
Good resource: The Nature Conservancy, “Funding Trees for Health: An Analysis of Finance and Policy Actions to Enable Tree Planting for Public Health“