114: Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests
Guest Name(s): Jad Daley
Under Jad Daley’s leadership, the healthy forest movement is gaining momentum, and American Forests helps to grow and maintain our forests to sequester BILLIONS OF TONS OF CARBON to reduce the threat of climate change. Jad describes how American Forests is creating greener and more equitable cities too. Join the Trillion Tree movement!
Episode Audio Links:
ACC #114 – Jad Daley – A Climate Change with Matt Matern
You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got a great guest coming on the program – Jad Daley from American Forests. He is the CEO there for a number of years. American Forests has a storied history going back, what approximately 150 years, has been involved in the environmental movement movement, really from almost its inception in America, and has done some incredible work.
Right from the beginning of working with Teddy Roosevelt, to creating national park systems system, to up to the current day to providing forestry to cities and working with lots of cities around the country and around the world to improve the amount of trees that we have, particularly in now lower income areas, because we’re seeing that a lot of those areas are kind of under forested and, and they’re creating heat islands and in lots of cities, because there’s not enough green space.
And it’s kind of surprising and shocking how much the temperature at the surface level can change. Because of the lack of tree cover and green greenery in our cities. It’s, it’s pretty amazing. But I’m gonna let Jad, the expert, talk to us about that. Jad, thank you so much for joining us on the program and look forward to chatting with you.
Oh, thanks so much, Matt. I’m really excited to join you. This is an amazing moment for the forest climate movement, which I’ve actually been working on this issue now for about 15 years. And it just feels like in the last few years, we’re on this incredible upswing of societal support political support, some really transformational things are actually happening right now in this work. And so just really grateful to connect with your audience and hopefully get some more people involved.
Well, I always like to start with the origin story of everybody and and tell us a little bit about your origin story. And what what brought you to this work and and what keeps you doing it?
Yeah, well, absolutely. You know, I had a my kind of lightbulb moment, I grew up loving the outdoors and having the incredible privilege to spend a good amount of time on a small island in Maine that you can only access by boat – so a lot of nature access as a young person. But when I was in college, I took a semester off from college and I decided my self improvement project was going to be to read the New York Times every single day from the first page to the last page.
And this was 1988. And it was a time of incredible environmental crisis – to dolphins washing up dead on the shore, sort of revelations around nuclear waste, just all sorts of incredible things. But the one that really cut through to me was climate change. And so when I went back to college at Brown University, I changed my major and decided to devote my academic career and my life to working on conservation issues.
And, and in fact, in those final months there at Brown, I’ve read a book called The End of Nature by Bill McKibben. And if anyone here hasn’t read it, it was really there, it was kind of like the Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring of climate change. It was really the first book that that brought the crisis of climate change to really broad audiences, and had an incredibly powerful way of describing the urgency of this issue. And so for me, I said, you know, this is going to be the through line in the work I want to do in the environmental space and, and so it was just really exciting.
About 15 years ago, when as one step in this direction, I was able to found the first forest climate coalition in the United States called the Forest Climate Working Group, and just try to bring together everyone from all parts of the forest community even beyond the forest community to connect this thing I love – forests – with this issue I’m so concerned about – climate change – and make that kind of the, you know, the axis of of my career ultimately.
But amazing work and a great story and kudos to you for as a young person, kind of finding your your center there and working on it diligently for decades. It’s it’s great to, to hear that kind of thing. I guess I want to ask you a question about a Trillion Trees. It’s something that has cropped up in the common parlance over the last number of years. And where are we at in terms of that? And I guess why why is that an important goal? Is it going to really make a dent in climate change? Where do you stand on that?
Well, that I really glad you started there because I think in some ways that Trillion Trees movement is one of the best things that ever happened to forests and climate change. It’s also in some ways been one of the most challenging as well. And and I think that what has done with the Trillion Trees concept has done, and for anyone who’s not familiar with this, the vision is that by conserving, restoring and growing an additional Trillion Trees – so basically creating a net gain of a trillion trees .
That we could produce a profound gain in terms of the additional amount of carbon that we could capture and store in our forests. And some projections suggesting it could be more than 200 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, additional carbon dioxide, that would be captured by doing that. And that’s based on some some really important research that was done globally.
And so when that idea of a Trillion Trees, it’s a huge number, it’s it’s a giant kind of a moonshot type of an aspiration. When that idea was first advanced, and ultimately taken up by a coalition, that we’re very proud to be a leader within called 1t.org. You know, really picked up the mantle and said, How do we get everyone in from governments to Girl Scouts working on that vision? The great news was it was that it really rallied a lot of support, and got a lot of public interest.
The challenge is that I think people sort of got tunnel visioned in some ways, but some people misinterpreted the vision around a Trillion Trees. They thought it meant planting a Trillion Trees and kind of without any regard to what type of trees are where. I think they’re there also, because it’s a big global vision, and it’s been a big global analysis. Some of the finer scale and quite frankly, more clearly defined science around what we need to do, say, at the scale of the United States has gotten lost. And so it’s kind of become a little bit of a target for skeptics who feel like, not only are they not 100% sure about the science, which I promise you is very sound.
But second of all, I think sometimes people hear a Trillion Trees, and they’ve sort of been jumped to the conclusion that it’s somehow, instead of other things that we need to do on climate change. And there isn’t anyone involved with Trillion Trees who’s saying that. I mean, one of our organization’s foundational principles is we are the oldest forest conservation organization in the United States. We work every day to make forests and forest products, the biggest possible solution they can be to climate change.
And we will be the first one to tell you, we absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, solve climate change with trees and forests alone. I mean, it’s just absolutely no chance. But what’s really interesting is all the science shows, we absolutely can’t solve climate change without contributions from forests, as well.
And so, you know, sometimes I think people the Trillion Trees idea has kind of overwritten that, that fundamental principle that we and others in the forest community have worked so hard to say is, you know, let us help let us do our part.
And the Trillion Trees vision, and that is a metric of progress, is a really nice way to frame that ambition, and to bring a lot of folks in to do it. And again, I think 1t.org, this coalition that we’ve been proud to help support in concert with the World Economic Forum, and, and Salesforce, a number of other great partners, I think, has been one one valuable tool to rally the force climate movement.
Well, I think that from my study of the issue, it definitely requires interdisciplinary approach, and that there’s so many different things that we can and should be doing. I guess the question is kind of, where does the Trillion Trees fall in the top five or the top 10? Or is it useful to rate in that way?
And then a kind of a related questions, what’s the amount of carbon budget we have to spend? That’s something that comes up in conversation, before the tipping point of reaching our temperature levels increasing beyond 1.5 Celsius by 2030.
And where does where does this 200 billion metric tons get us in terms of giving us more time to kind of save planet, and save the climate? So where were we at on that front?
Yeah, well, if it’s okay, I’m going to answer your question. But I’d like to take in a slightly different direction, because I suspect it might be helpful for your audience to let’s bring this down to a scale where we can be a little more specific, and give people some some frame of reference that they can really relate to.
So here in the United States, we know based on very, very sound federal data that’s collected by the US Forest Service, and partners, and that is reported to the UN. Every year that US forests and forest products together are capturing and storing more than 16% of our carbon dioxide emissions on an annual basis right now, today.
That’s the starting point here at this juncture in the US. And we have great science showing that we could about double that if we undertake the right actions in our forests, which I hope we can get into later in the show, what those actions are, and so, and the beauty of it.
So right there I’m talking about, we can get to roughly a third of our carbon dioxide emissions being captured by our forests on an annual basis. But don’t forget, as those carbon dioxide emissions go down, due to all the work that we must do in the power sector, in transportation, and all these other areas. That percentage is going to get bigger and bigger. Because the amount of carbon we’re sequestering stays the same, the amount of emissions that we’re offsetting goes down.
And so that’s why, for example, the Obama administration projected in their mid century climate strategy, that we could maybe get half or more of our emissions ultimately captured and stored in our forests. So huge opportunities here. It’s a big part of the equation, I guess, not the whole thing. But that’s why we say, you know, you can’t want the forest alone, but you can’t win without either.
Well, that is that’s a big number. And I don’t think I’ve heard that number that we could go as high as a third or maybe even 50% of our total carbon sequestration handled by forests, that’s obviously puts forest up in the top two or three things that we should be focusing our energy on, at least in my humble arithmetic calculation there.
But we’re going to be back in just one minute, you’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests on the program. And looking forward to asking Jad more about these questions in the next segment.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Jad Daley, American Forests on the program. And Jad, we were just talking before the break about how much carbon can be sequestered in forests. Tell us about what some of those actions are that we can take to sequester more carbon in our forests, and what are kind of some of the ancillary benefits kind of downstream, if you will, for having a healthy forest in our country?
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And actually, many thanks, glad you brought the issue of forest health because, boy, there’s one thing that your listeners really need to know that as at this very moment that we’re excited about using trees and forests more strategically to capture carbon dioxide and to protect us from the worst of climate change.
Climate change is harming forest health, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Whether it’s drying out forests and weakening forests in the Western United States, in ways that ultimately lead to a catastrophic wildfire, or whether it’s massive pest infestations spreading, and diseases spreading more rapidly than ever before. And in the Eastern United States, and more variations I could get into. The bottom line is our forests are under assault, right at this moment when we need them the most.
And that’s why when your listeners think about this, I invite them to think about carbon offense and carbon defense, because what we need to do is for our forests to capture more carbon dioxide and actions that help make that happen. And then we also need to protect the carbon that’s already stored there from things like wildfire.
So let me start on the carbon offense side of the equation, and by far, the biggest pathway for increasing carbon capture in our forests is more trees. It is everything from urban forestry and agroforestry that weaves more trees on to ranches and farms, all the way to reforesting areas that were cleared decades ago for agriculture more rapidly reforesting burned areas and our forests, all of those things together.
Having more trees in the landscape in the right places, is a huge opportunity to increase carbon capture. The average tree in the United States, over its life – we’ve calculated this in partnership with the US Forest Service, based on our climate kind of tree species we have here – will sequester about 0.6 to 1 ton of carbon dioxide over its life.
And we created a tool in partnership with The Nature Conservancy – an invitation to your guests to multitask – it’s called the reforestation hub at reforestationhub.org. And you can go into the reforestation hub and you can see county by county across the United States, where all of these reforestation opportunities. There are more trees, if you want to think about it that way, opportunities are, and it actually even calculates how much additional carbon dioxide we could sequester in each of these places if we undertook these different types of reforestation.
When you add it all together, our tool shows the opportunity to reforest 148 million acres of land across the United States and these different ways that I described, and increased carbon capture in our forests on an annual basis by a little more than two thirds over current levels. So huge, huge carbon opportunity, if we’re able to take all of these different reforestation opportunities across the United States.
So that’s sort of a really classic example of the carbon offense side of the equation. Let me go to the carbon defense side of the equation, this gets a little more complicated, and a little more counterintuitive. The easy part of carbon defense is – protect the forest that we have from development, One of the major drivers of carbon losses when forests are converted, they’re cleared for agriculture, they’re converted for subdivisions, and other kinds of development.
And so we’ve been in an era for a very long time for decades in the United States of actually adding more forest than we’re losing, which might surprise people. But that’s starting to turn around. And so it’s really vital that we protect the forest land that we have and prevent.
Let me just stop you there for a second, then the if what you’re saying is that we we had been doing a good job of adding forests. And that now that’s changing?
It’s, think about, like if you threw a, you know, a ball up in the air, it’s sort of just at that point where it’s hovering, and starting to come back down. And the best way to think about is, if you looked at a map of the United States, 100 years ago, the Eastern United States had very little forest state like Vermont, for example, most of New England was 20%, plus or minus 30% forests. Those are not the most forested states in the country. 80 plus, 80%, or more forests.
So we’ve had this massive recovery of forest land in the Eastern United States. And so part of that is sort of a historical trend. But it’s also very real that you know, in the United States, our population continues to expand our our development footprint continues to expand. And so managing that driving development to places where it doesn’t clear forrests, avoiding agricultural development that clears forests – those are all things that can really help us keep the forest that we have.
And so it’s really important for people to hear, we’re not just talking about planting more trees doing reforestation of different kinds. It’s, we also must protect the forests that we have today. But then the other thing that’s that’s causing a tremendous amount of forest loss, millions of acres per year, is wildfire. And wildfire is fueled by forests that are in many cases either overcrowded. So actually, ironically, too many trees and or also in poor health.
So they’re forests that are being impacted by drought, that have pest infestations, and those kinds of things. And particularly in the Western United States, you have a lot of places where through a variety of management decisions about how we’ve excluded fire or how we’ve managed those forests. Combined with the increased stress of climate change, more drought, more pest infestations, are leading to an extent of wildfire and an intensity of wildfire that we haven’t seen in modern times.
And so one of the things that, counterintuitive that might be, that can help us with carbon in our forests in the long term is actually to thin some of them out in these places where they’re diseased, and they’re most prone to wildfire – to avoid a catastrophic release of carbon when those forests burn, and instead to thin them out. So they come back to greater health. So they’re more resilient if wildfire does come through.
That’s it’s more rejuvenating than destructive. And those forests will actually, you’ll actually lose a little bit of carbon in the very short term, they’re going to actually sequester and keep more carbon over the long term.
And so that just kind of gives your folks a sense of the range of things we have to do from the very intuitive, you know, we need to plant more trees all the way to, in some places we actually need to take out, actually need to thin our forests, so that ultimately the carbon that is trapped there can be resilient and last into the future.
Well, certainly, in California, there was a tragic example of a forest that was too thick around paradise, California, where the ADA people I think it was that died in a massive forest fire and my understanding was that the forest was, as you said, too thick. And when it did go up, it created just a firestorm that was just impossible to control because of it being not particularly well managed.
I guess the question to that is, how do we cut back and manage these forests? Certainly when driving through areas like California, you’re talking about massive sections, hundreds of miles of forest, thousands, tens of 1000s, probably square miles.
How can we do that? What kind of budgeting needs to be done to to effectuate that? Are we getting the amount of money that’s necessary to effectuate those plans? Are those plans in place? What more needs to be done?
Yeah, those are all fantastic questions. And you really spoke to our organization’s heart when you mentioned the campfire that so impacted Paradise, California. That’s actually a place where we’re working right now on doing the post fire reforestation there, which is really important.
You know, in burned areas are not only a one of the places where we have the most urgency to restart carbon sequestration, but burned areas that aren’t reforested, like the campfire burn scar, can turn into incredibly deadly landslides and mudslides that add even more harm to local communities.
Watersheds can be damaged so that you know that water supplies, you know, won’t be filtered and protected if the forest isn’t replaced around streams and reservoirs in the mountains, and those kinds of things. So there’s just so much as lost in catastrophic fires that you mentioned beyond the incredibly tragic impact on people’s lives and property.
And so reforestation is the starting point for for coming back the right way. And I should say the one things we’re really proud of about that work in Paradise and around Paradise at the campfire burn scars that we’ve been using it as an as a globally significant laboratory for figuring out what the details are, the scientific details to plant those forests, in a way replant those forests in a way that they won’t just burn catastrophically again, because one of the things that the Paradise example is both an issue of a forest being overstocked.
But it’s also an example of a forest that had just gotten out of sync with how the climate has changed there, which has changed very substantially in that area. So it’s just hotter and drier than what that forest was was naturally attuned to.
And so as we reforest it, it’s vitally important that we use the right mixture of tree species genetics, planted in the right densities and ways so that that forest will actually be a resilient resource that protects the community instead of a danger in the future.
And so that’s really a big, that’s sort of actually part of how we’d have to think about protecting ourselves from wildfire in places like California, going forward is actually how we recover from the last one.
But then the last thing to say is just but there is also the issue of where forests haven’t burned already, as you were starting to allude to. Going in and doing thinning and prescribed fire at a scale that we’ve, as you said, that we’ve never seen before, and doing it in a way that we’re using science to really understand how much we need to thin these forests, how much we need to burn these forests and bring them back into balance.
So maybe after the break, I could talk about how we’re doing on funding and scaling up these activities, as you correctly asked about, to to get them to a scale that they can actually give us what we need.
Well, that would be great. And I know that your organization has been in the forefront of controlled burns for quite a long time. I think I saw on your website going back maybe 100 years or more. So it’s not something that is news exactly, to people who’ve been doing this.
Sometimes you’ll see, I see scrolling down the internet, somebody will say, “Oh, wow, this is this brand new thing we’re trying,” but it’s actually been around for quite quite a long time. And I guess the question is, how do we implement it more effectively going forward?
You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Jad Daley on the program from American Forest. We’ll be right back in a minute to talk about these issues.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, and I’ve got Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests on the program. Jad we were, before the break, we were talking about what it’s going to take to scale up these operations, and kind of create the supply chains and the funding that’s necessary to actually create the healthy forests that we need. And in terms of both sequestering the carbon, as well as creating nature space for, you know, our wild animals and cleaner water, and all the things that go with healthy forests.
Yeah, absolutely, Matt. And as you alluded to, you know that the urgency is incredible, because there’s so many public values at stake, and the scale that we need to do this at, particularly in the West United States, where I mean, we have forest climate issues, needs, and opportunities all across the country, let me be very, very clear about that.
But there is an urgency of these issues in the Western United States, because we’re seeing such destruction in our forests from climate change, it’s kind of the leading edge of, you know, a forest climate, the forest climate crisis is in the Western United States. And so that just means all those public values that are at stake, and a lot of carbon is at stake, depending on on how we manage that.
And so I think they’re two things, that’d be really valuable for your listeners to know. The first is that if you want to implement any of these actions, whether it is doing a lot more prescribed fire and thinning, or whether it’s what I was describing before the break about how to scale up climate informed reforestation. So we’re actually reforesting millions and millions of acres more land. And we’re doing it in a way with specially selected tree species that have a particular genetic composition, and are planted with a particular understanding of the landscape, not just, you know, pines and lines.
You have to think about that, like a supply chain. And so take reforestation, for example, you know, you have to have the right seed to grow the right seedling. That has to then be go to a project that’s going through all the right pre approvals where the site has been prepared the right way – a lot of steps before you actually get to someone planting a tree in the ground.
And then with this work, whether it’s planting, you know, reforesting burned areas, or whether it’s doing, you know, prescribed fire, it’s not like you do these things, once. You know, you have to stay on top of them, because these forests are constantly changing, Climate change is constantly throwing us curveballs. And so you have to have this sort of ongoing adaptive management in place to do this work the right way and to get sustained results.
And so that’s really what organizations like ours are working on, and many, many other nonprofits, our partners in 1t.org, that coalition I mentioned earlier. Incredible work by federal agencies, like the US Forest Service, state governments, tribal partners, local governments. Kind of everyone’s involved right now in the sort of supply chain exercise of a lifetime, where you know, whether it’s wildfire figuring out, you know, how do you get enough people out who can do that thing that you were describing, have the right skill are trained and have the right skill to do that prescribed fire – which is a very specialized skill.
Whether it’s folks in the middle of the chain, who are scaled up, and you have the aircraft and the personnel to go out and do wildfire response in the right places at the right times, or whether it’s, you know, massively ramping up the seed and seedling supplies so we can do that reforestation. By our estimates, it might have to be as much as fourfold overall, nationally, you know, that you have to scale up seeds and seedlings to to keep up with this opportunity.
I mean, all those things, you have public and private sector partners out there, right now. I’m kind of assessing the status of these supply chains of people and material and actions, and then organizing, you know, a whole new way of doing this work at a totally different pace and scale.
And all at the same time, trying to not just do more of it, but actually do more of it in this really climate smart, you know, really deeply science-based way. And it just makes it into quite a Rubik’s cube for everyone involved. But I can just speak for our part, for example, doing this work with the US Forest Service, in particular around reforestation and reforesting burned areas and other damaged areas and national forests. It’s been a really, really incredible partnership. And we’re seeing people being willing to kind of plan and organize and innovate together in ways that we never have before.
Well, that’s great to hear that because it’s something that I’ve read about is in the past, we we probably didn’t reforest in in an ideal way, as you said kind of pines and lines, is not is not really replicating a natural forest. We’ve got to have multiple species, maybe 10s of different species in a forest and, so we kind of are beginning to understand that I guess my question next is, well say we need a fourfold increase in seed and seedlings we need all these supply chains. We need all the scaling up. Are we meeting the challenge in terms of funding, in terms of manpower, in terms of organization? What’s kind of the report card of where we’re at? And where are the things that we as citizens should be focusing on in terms of talking to our elected representatives to help push the needle in the right direction?
Yeah, boy, thank you for that question. That is exactly the right next question. And, and so I have some really good news to share with with folks, I wish this weren’t news. But the I literally just tweeted about this earlier today. I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about the progress we’re making on getting government funds invested in this work. And, and really starting to ramp it up in ways that are both very encouraging, and will also lead to my offering request for assistance from folks who want to add their voices.
So first of all, in the bipartisan infrastructure law, and the Inflation Reduction Act, between those two pieces of legislation, there is about $20 billion to invest in forest climate activities – $20 billion, That’s the largest investment of its kind in world history – in trees and forests as a climate change solution. It’s everything from tree equity and cities, which I hope we’ll get to in the next segment, all the way to all this work that we’re talking about related to wildfire.
You know, by some counts, maybe nearly 10 billion of that, in fact, that could touch the wildfire work in one way or another. So a huge huge investment of federal funds that is being deployed out into the field right now. And, you know, organizations like ours are, are forming totally unprecedented new agreements with the Forest Service, for example, and other government agencies to be partners in helping to mobilize those dollars, helping to be kind of quick start staffing capacity to get get things happening out on the ground, and provide science inputs, and all sorts of different things.
One example of of these measures that we’re really excited about is we worked on for about five years on a bipartisan piece of that puzzle called the Replant Act, and great support from a California members such as Representative Caneta, Representative LaMalfa, were actually two of the lead sponsors in California, tremendous leadership from Senator Stabenow and Senator Portman – the original lead co-sponsors in the Senate.
And this is a piece of legislation that part of the infrastructure bill that that basically gave the 10 fold and permanent increase to reforestation dollars to the US National Forest System, with a particular emphasis on helping to overcome the backlog of reforestation around burned areas and, and other damaged areas in the West.
And so essentially removes an outdated cap on something called the reforestation Trust Fund and said, Hey, all the dollars that are flowing into that, from tariff receipts on imported Woods can go straight to the US Forest Service to get on a multimillion acre backlog of reforestation need that has built up on our national forest systems system over time.
So that’s just an example of the kind of funding that, and that’s a permanent change, that particular one. So it’s a permanent funding fix. So the Forest Service can catch up and keep up with reforestation of these forests that are under stress from climate change and do it at a scale everything from the seed in the seedling piece of the equation all the way to to doing reforestation out there on the ground.
That’s the kind of fix that we’ve been able to get in the infrastructure bill and the and the Inflation Reduction Act. And and that’s matched by some other really historic efforts by state. California, huge, massive $14 billion in total, that Governor Newsom and state of California committed to wildfire response state of California or state of Washington, excuse me, huge, massive, you know, commitment to funding fully funding a comprehensive wildfire strategy.
I could go to states all around the country that have put really, really meaningful money on the table as well. And then lastly, what you’re seeing are our corporate partners stepping up and in amazing ways. I mean, the work that I described for you at the campfire burn scar. Salesforce came in as a leading company that is made a key part of its climate strategy to fund partnerships with groups like ours.
Salesforce, underwrote, developing the climate informed reforestation strategy for the burned area for the campfire burned scar helped them fund restarting nurseries to grow the right seedlings and ultimately to plant replant the campfire burn scar in a climate informed way. So that is the kind of private sector investment that we’re starting to see scaling up to match what we’re seeing from governments, as well.
And so I think that the key thing I would say to your listeners is, I think most people aren’t aware of this incredible investment, public sector investment that’s being made, for starters. And, you know, we need our members of Congress and the administration to know that we appreciate these investments that we value them that people see the impact that we’re having, and communicate, communicate that support.
And when new measures come up to renew that funding, we’re going to need people to come in and say, that’s what we should be using our tax dollars, and other kinds of funding to do. But furthermore, these companies that are really stepping to the fore to be champions of this work. It’s really important that you know, people support them as well. And recognize that it’s a voluntary action on these companies part. And and we ought to be looking as consumers to support the companies that are getting out there at front and making forest part of it, part of the climate solution.
Well, absolutely, and I kudos to all those federal and state officials that are doing the right thing and investing our finance funds, our tax dollars, into what is the most important problem facing our country, which is climate change.
And I guess one of the questions I have coming after the break is, do we have kind of the boots on the ground in terms of the workers necessary to do this work, and to effectuate these changes? Because the money is important, but we we paid the people to actually do the planting, do the work.
To get this done, as you said, there’s massive amount that we’re behind in terms of replanting after wildfires and the like. So we’ll talk to talk to you about that after the break. This is Matt Matern. This is A Climate Change, and we’re speaking to Jad Daley. And we’ll be right back in just one minute.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Jad Daley from American Forests on the program. Jad, just before the break, we’re talking about people doing the work. You know, I like to have you also talk about tree equity before we jump off and, and also what people can do going forward? What our listeners can go out and do to help be a part of this process? Either to work with your organization, or other organizations around the country to reach out to their legislators and city council members, or whoever that they can have some influence with, to help solve this problem.
Yeah, fantastic. Matt. Thanks so much. And this is so exciting. We’ve touched on so many important issues for our country that I think need more attention. And they need more climate activists, whether you’re a forest climate activist, as a climate activist to understand how important this work is, to our overall success in climate change and to make supporting these forest actions, part of folks overall advocacy and involvement, for getting it right on climate change.
And so look, I want to talk about one part of getting it right on climate change, which is absolutely essential, which is what about trees and cities? Well, here’s a cold reality that a map of trees in any city in America is a map of income, and it’s a map of race in ways that transcend income. In fact, we proved it another permission to multitask moment for your audience.
Check out treeequityscore.org. We mapped every urban neighborhood. American Forests mapped every urban neighborhood in America to show this systemic inequity of trees, by income and by race in ways that transcend income. And we have a neighbor-by-neighborhood, 150,000+ neighborhoods across America, when you average it together, the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of low income people have 36% less tree cover, and are six degrees hotter as a result. Because trees can cool your neighborhood in total by more than 20 degrees, it’s a critical tool for keeping neighborhoods cool.
Neighborhoods with the highest concentration of people of color, have on average 45% less tree cover and are nine degrees hotter. And that you know that trends and income part is a reflection of historic practices like redlining and ongoing patterns of bias and investment, disinvestment in our communities that track on race in ways that transcend incomes. And this is life or death implications.
Duke University did a study that showed that over 12,000 people per year die from extreme heat in America today. By the end of the century, that’s going to be nearly 100,000 people per year. And here’s the thing, it’s not going to be in leafy neighborhoods where everyone has platinum health care, and great air conditioning. It’s going to be in those neighborhoods that are so much hotter, nine degrees hotter, that makes 102 into into 111. It’s going to be in those neighborhoods that are made hotter by other lack of trees, and where people already in many cases have less protection in the form of health care and air conditioning, and other kinds of defenses.
So this is just the frontline issue for climate justice, we must create treee equity in our cities, and invest in it. Like it really matters as part of a strategy to ultimately bring cooling equitably to every neighborhood and protect all of our all of our citizens equally.
Really, truly shocking. I mean, we need to underline that underscore the importance of this. We’re talking about 12,000 people a year over 10 years. That’s 120,000 people dying, because of effectively discrimination. Please tell me that we’re doing something to improve this radically and immediately.
Yeah, well, it’s actually even worse. I mean, so from 12,000 to 100,000 per year. So we’re talking an additional 88,000 per year, people per year potentially dying in a in a hotter, climate impacted world going forward. That’s what that Duke University study shows that’s why this is truly a life or death issue.
Well, we are doing something about it. And I want to give incredible thanks to US Senator Cory Booker, as well as US Senator Debbie Stabenow, and the late representative Don McEachin, who actually tragically passed away – an incredible climate justice leader – tragically passed away a number of months ago.
And they worked to put $1.5 billion in the inflation Reduction Act for grants to cities, frontline organizations, churches, other partners, nonprofits like us, to go out and do this work of planting trees in the neighborhoods that are systemically underserved, and so much hotter as a result. And to do this work together in collaborative ways to to not just plant more trees, but to improve tree care and stewardship in those neighborhoods, to work on things like tree ordinances that better protect the existing trees that are there.
So just take a very holistic approach to growing and protecting the tree cover that we have in these neighborhoods that lack it and are therefore so much hotter. And by the way, also have higher levels of air pollution because of the role of trees in reducing air pollution. And the great thing about it is this funding is not only focused on this issue of tree equity, and reducing climate threats, through the work of equity.
It’s not only available to everyone from frontline organizations ,and churches, to mayor’s offices, and trying to encourage them to work together. But it can be used for things like workforce development programs that help the people who need the jobs the most, doing that work to get into careers in this work of urban forestry. We did a study that showed that we can create 25.7 jobs, direct, indirect, and induced jobs for every million dollars that we invest in this work of tree equity.
Now, the majority of the work where this is majority, the neighborhoods where this work is taking place are most foundationally economically underserved. That’s what’s driving the housing inequities, the health inequities, that are exacerbating the threats from extreme heat that we’re trying to address. And so we’ve just feel as a moral imperative that if we’re going to invest $1.5 billion in creating tree equity, we must address the underlying economic inequity, which is such a such a key part of this equation.
And so, develop workforce programs that affirmatively help people learn about these career opportunities, get the training to come into them. And so we know that a part of this funding is gonna go into programs like the career pathways partnerships that we’re building, with local organizations and cities all across the country. Places like Detroit and Phoenix, where we’re helping folks, you know, from under resourced neighborhoods, find new careers and doing this work and, and you know, solve climate change with with a new kind of green jobs.
So that says, I think really encapsulates, you know, the urgency of this work, the kind of incredible political leadership that we’re seeing. And total kudos to the White House administration has been amazing partners and driving this true equity work forward with this with this new funding. And then what it ultimately looks like in communities of different people and kinds of organizations coming together to do the work, turning it into economic opportunity, as well as environmental progress.
I mean, it’s no wonder we did a poll recently, that showed 89% of Americans across party lines support this solution of using trees in our cities as a way to protect us from climate change and slow it down. So I think you know, that that sort of shows, I think we’re this part of the work can fit, where forest climate work can fit into into a climate movement in America that has has a place for everyone.
Well, that’s great news. To hear that we’re taking action, I guess, the question is whether or not the actions that we’re taking are sufficient at 1.5 billion sounds a lot, like a lot. But I also know, based upon the money that’s spent for lots of other programs around the country, that 1.5 billion doesn’t buy quite what it used to.
And the question is, what, what kind of resourcing are we going to really need to solve this problem of getting, kind of trees, in lower income areas and income in areas where people of color are living? And particularly, I was thinking, as you’re talking about Phoenix being kind of what I understand it’s getting to the point where it may be almost unlivable in the summers, maybe touching on that as another point.
Well, Phoenix kind of encapsulates so much about this work and incredible, you know, kudos, you know, to the city, you know, just incredible leadership there. The city actually voted to achieve true equity by 2030. And so Mayor Gallego and city council have have the city in an absolute pivotal leadership role, working towards tree equity, driven first and foremost by the heat threats in Phoenix., but all the other benefits this provides for people in Phoenix.
And very importantly, working in concert with other things to eat ready, Phoenix is doing to cool the city down, so not trees alone, but trees work in concert with other solutions. And there are more than 50 organizations in Phoenix working together in an urban Phoenix, urban forest roundtable that we helped to organize. Groups like the Arizona Sustainability Lions and Chispa, great frontline organizations, that are making sure this is from the bottom up and the top down all coming together. It’s just an all in, you know, solution in Phoenix.
And again, treating it like a life or death issue, because it is it truly is, you know, because of the kinds of dire threats that you talked about, and making sure that trees are part of how the city is addressing extreme heat. But I really hope that you know, your listeners talk about the level of funding that we need in sustaining this. I gotta tell you, when we first started talking about billions of dollars for true equity and cities, you know, we took a couple of hits, we had some folks come after us, you know, like this was some woke fever dream as opposed to life or death climate justice for our cities.
And, you know, we’re we really need more voices, more climate leaders to come out. More climate activists to come out and say, “hey, this is a serious part of this work. Everything we’ve discussed here is a very, very serious part as work.” And this needs to be funded at a billion dollar level, this kind of work needs to be funded at the billions of dollars level into the future, because we’re going to need to sustain these investments in some cases, even ramp them up going forward.
So I hope that folks can visit the websites that I’ve mentioned: reforestationhub.org and treeequityscore.org. Please visit the American Forests website (americanforests.org). We have an action center where there are links to legislation that you can take a position on different ways that you can get involved.
And and I just want to lastly say there are lots of ways to get involved in your community as well. I hope you’ll get involved these national issues, hopefully get involved with organization like US national statewide issues, but in your own community, I promise you, there are volunteer opportunities. There are local organizations that are doing work with trees and forests, as a climate change solution, as a climate justice solution. And I really encourage you to find those opportunities right in your own backyard, right in your community, to help be part of this solution.
But Jad, thank you so much for being on the show, Jad Daley of American Forests, the CEO. Incredible work that you’re doing.
Please, everybody check out his website and 1t.org – For a Trillion Trees. See, and go out there and be the change that you want to see in the world.
So everybody, we’ve all got to do our part. Go out there and plant a tree in the coming days coming weeks. Donate to these organizations. Also encourage your local officials, your national officials to be involved and to push this process forward as quickly as possible, because we don’t have time to sit around and wait for somebody else to do it. So you’re listening to A Climate Change.
Tune in next week, and we’ll have great guests on the program next week. Until then, go out there and do some work related to helping these problems.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
Help Us Combat Climate Change by Subscribing to our Newsletter!