Vice President asks NASA if it can ‘track’ trees in different neighborhoods to combat racial inequality

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GREENBELT, MD — In a perfect “can’t see the forest for the trees” moment, Vice President Kamala Harris interrupted a NASA presentation at the Goddard Space Flight Center to ask a seemingly odd question about trees.

Harris, who serves as chair of the National Space Council, was clearly focused on Earth instead of space during the Flight Center’s presentation on Nov. 5.

She seemed to suggest that certain privileged neighborhoods have more trees than other areas and that race is a factor in the disparity of foliage.

Harris asked a NASA presenter:

“Can you measure trees — part of that data that you are referring to, [and it’s an issue of] EJ, environmental justice — that you can also track by race their averages in terms of the number of trees in the neighborhoods where people live?”

The NASA presenter replied:

“We have had success mapping trees with Landsat data, but folks will actually fly planes over to get finer resolution data, and we we work with our commercial partners also to get that final resolution.”

Harris was widely mocked for the question, which allegedly was in response to an article published on Sept. 6 by The Guardian, which frequently writes about climate change issues.

The Guardian article had focused on how global aid was being diverted to fossil fuel projects instead of pollution-reduction studies, resulting in deadly consequences:

“African and Latin American nations have more than 500,000 deaths a year because of air pollution, and that number is rising. But they receive just 5% and 10% of aid funding respectively, the [Clean Air Fund] report found.”

The article also suggested that funding for air quality projects reflected a bias against certain countries:

“Funding for air quality projects is also heavily skewed towards middle-income Asian countries, with African and Latin American nations receiving just 15% of the total, despite having many heavily polluted cities.

“For example, Mongolia, which had an estimated 2,260 deaths related to air pollution in 2019, received $437m (£316m) from 2015-2020, while Nigeria, which had 70,150 early deaths because of air pollution received just $250,000.”

Clean Air Fund’s Executive Director Jane Burston told The Guardian:

“When you see the incredibly and chronically low levels of funding on the one hand, and the chronically high levels of public health impacts on the other, it becomes quite obvious that more funding is needed.

“Air pollution is a massive health crisis, but a lot of the projects that would reduce pollution also help limit climate change, because they’re about reducing fossil fuel burning.

“There can be massive wins for equity too, because the poorest communities are often the most affected by air pollution, wherever you are in the world.”

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Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera echoed a similar sentiment, saying Western countries caused the climate crisis and should take responsibility and reverse it.

In an opinion piece published by The Guardian, Chakwera wrote that while Africa is the world’s least electrified continent, richer countries are imposing unfair restrictions against poorer ones:

“To compound this, wealthy countries are also imposing energy transition on Africa that risks doing great harm.

“Several governments and multilateral lending institutions are banning funding for fossil-fuel infrastructure – and encouraging others to follow suit.

“This may sound logical on paper, but it rules out transitioning through natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel. And in practice, it only applies to poor countries, while richer countries face few bans on developing or importing gas.

“Africans have a right to electricity. But renewables cannot yet fully service their needs and aspirations.

“Storage technologies are not advanced enough to make solar, wind and other intermittent energy sources dependable.

“Access to electricity – one of the UN’s sustainable development goals – means more than charging a phone through a solar panel. It is about the on-demand, sustained and intensive energy needed to power industrialization, build infrastructure, create jobs and ultimately lift citizens from poverty.”

Clearly, pollution is a global issue with hefty consequences for each nation. However, Harris’ focus on trees seemed to suggest an overly simplistic solution to a very complex problem.

While planting more trees is a noble idea and one that is good for the environment, it cannot stem the tide of worldwide pollution.

Harris’ question also lacked any consideration for simpler reasons why some neighborhoods lack trees.

Some areas are urban centers filled with pavement and countless buildings and do not have the space or ground conditions needed for city reforestation.

Other areas lack trees due to neglect or poor management by people.

Missy Crane, who was born in Detroit, provided a personal example of tree neglect in a city:

“A lot of cities, like Detroit for example (where I was born) used to have amazing trees and lovely canopies.

“However, residents severely neglected the trees, and they caught diseases and died.

“It’s not so much ‘racism’ or ‘environmental justice’ as it is poor management by the city (usually run by Dems) and residents who didn’t have the means or desire to care for a lot of trees.”

Crane also pointed out that Detroit residents did not trust the nonprofit that was seeking to impose it plan to reforest the residents’ city:

“And speaking of Detroit, they actually started a non-profit that was working to reforest the city and bring back the canopies, but the residents rejected it because they didn’t trust the local government which always was screwing them over.

“In addition, they didn’t like the way white liberals treated them.

“The residents felt like the white liberals decided ‘you need trees’ and just came to plant them, never once asking residents, ‘Hey, you’ll be the ones caring for these trees and cleaning them up, is it okay if we plant them here? Do you want them?’”

Crane also criticized Harris for linking the lack of trees in some neighborhoods to overt racism:

“Trees are now ‘racist,’ apparently. Not really, but that’s what it sounded like.

“While many people are growing more and more tired of the non-stop racism talk 24/7, Kamala’s supporters claim she was asking a serious question about tracking the number of trees near races of people and that it’s related to an environmental justice measurement.

“Kamala is implying that the darker the skin pigment, the fewer trees around your house. She’s referencing the lack of trees that canopy historically black neighborhoods.

“The problem is, the country is so tired of all the ‘racism’ stuff because it’s everywhere we turn, and now, the trees are racist too. This is why overusing a very serious word, has consequences.”

In August of 2020, The Guardian published an opinion piece that referred to Harris as representing “an interracial America that most citizens aspire to live in today.”

The editorial further noted:

“In choosing Kamala Harris as his deputy, the Democrats’ presidential nominee Joe Biden has shown he can read the room of American politics. His vice-presidential pick had to be able to reach parts of the country – and his party – that Mr. Biden could not. Ms. Harris is such a candidate. She is both a safe choice and a historic one.”

At this point, it seems safe to say Harris is also a comical choice as well.

Editor note: In 2020, we saw a nationwide push to “defund the police”.  While we all stood here shaking our heads wondering if these people were serious… they cut billions of dollars in funding for police officers.  And as a result, crime has skyrocketed – all while the same politicians who said “you don’t need guns, the government will protect you” continued their attacks on both our police officers and our Second Amendment rights.

And that’s exactly why we’re launching this national crowdfunding campaign as part of our efforts to help “re-fund the police”.

For those looking for a quick link to get in the fight and support the cause, click here.

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