Faith Communities Unite for Trees
As part of the process of becoming a Creation Justice Church, Coral Gables Congregational, United Church of Christ, in Coral Gables, Florida joined forces with other faith communities to make a difference. Our congregation is a part of a local faith-based community organizing collaborative named People Acting for Community Together (PACT). At our annual Nehemiah Action event in March 2022, PACT sought government cooperation on a significant goal: addressing climate change on a local level, specifically the impact of higher temperatures on 15 low-income Miami-Dade communities.
There is a stark contrast in the number of trees in rich and poor communities. The under treed areas are “heat islands” that negatively impact the health of residents. By expanding the tree canopy to 30 percent by 2025, these communities would have greater hurricane protection, improved air quality, and lower temperatures. We learned at the Nehemiah Action event that Miami-Dade County would need the cooperation of the County School Board, which owns a lot of public property, in order to achieve this goal.
Progress is being made: on October 22, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County and the School Board both committed to this goal of expanding the tree canopy in these 15 neighborhoods, but changed the end date to 2030. There is no written plan yet. They are working in collaboration with Florida International University, which has issued a Tree Canopy Assessment Report that will be a resource.
The Rev. Aaron Lauer is the Associate Pastor of Emerging Generations at Coral Gables United Church of Christ.