Saturday, May 25, 2024

Bezos Earth Fund Commits $400 Million to Greening Underserved Urban Communities Across the U.S.

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The Bezos Earth Fund has pledged a $400 million initiative to amplify the verdancy of urban spaces in marginalized communities across the United States. it kicks off with five cities.

The project, titled “Greening America’s Cities”, inaugurates with a $50 million investment in five cities — Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Wilmington, Delaware —and anticipates further expansion throughout the decade as part of the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund (BEF).

The announcement was made by Lauren Sánchez, Vice Chair of the BEF, alongside an illustrious cohort of political, community, and environmental leaders at the Pacoima Wash in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Pacoima Beautiful, a local non-profit, is one among 30 organizations slated for support in the first phase of this initiative.

“Access to nature is deeply unequal, and the importance of green spaces to underserved communities is often overlooked and unaddressed,” Sánchez said in a statement. “Green spaces make a city more beautiful, livable, healthy, and joyful, but studies show that they also lower extreme summer temperatures, reducing heat stress. They support 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.”

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Atlanta is one of 5 cities in the first urban greening project from the Bezos Earth Fund | Photo courtesy Ian Schneider

Jeff Bezos, Executive Chair of BEF, expressed his excitement, adding “Working together, we can bring nature and its many benefits to every corner of our cities.”

Grantees of the 2023 Greening America’s Cities initiative will spearhead these transformative projects, fostering community engagement, purchasing land, overseeing design and construction, and ensuring long-term maintenance of the green spaces.

Congressman Tony Cárdenas commended BEF’s efforts and the significant investment in Pacoima Beautiful. “This $3.5 million investment in the Pacoima Wash will allow them to do so much more to better the lives of Valley families,” he said.

“My community has long been on the front line of the climate crisis,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Growing up in Pacoima, the air quality was so bad that we were prevented from playing outside. Today, even as circumstances have improved, residents not only endure poor air quality, but also extreme heat and drought. Fighting the climate crisis requires all hands on deck. I commend the Bezos Earth Fund for investing in our community and communities like Pacoima across the country. Pacoima Beautiful has a track record of supporting our residents, cleaning up our neighborhoods, and helping them adapt to a changing climate,” he said.

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Treepeople will plant more than 4,000 trees with funding from the Bezos Earth Fund | Courtesy

Popular Los Angeles-based environmental nonprofit TreePeople will receive $1.9 million. It will plant more than 4,000 trees in underserved LA communities.

The initiative resonates with the current drive to enhance green spaces in marginalized urban neighborhoods. The Inflation Reduction Act already committed $1.5 billion to bolster equitable access to nature and uphold the Justice40 initiative. The advent of green spaces holds promises of improved physical and mental well-being, reduced energy use, and heightened climate resilience.

However, the nation’s historic exclusion and dispossession of certain communities have resulted in unequal access to nature’s benefits. The Greening America’s Cities project, building on BEF’s previous $300 million funding to climate and environmental justice groups, aims to rectify this imbalance.

The announcement follows a $50 million pledge to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest last month. That commitment came amid a gathering of Brazilian government leaders and delegates of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council in Brasília. The Funds will be fully allocated by 2030 in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

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