The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Friday 1 June 2012

Looking Down on Inequality

Can we see social inequality from the air?  It looks as if we can.

Tim de Chant is a journalist who has also studied the effects of urbanisation on California’s oak woodlands.  So he knows a bit about trees.

Tim recently made a visual connection on Google Earth and wrote about this on his blog site (Per Square Mile).  Tim wondered if it was possible to use Google Earth to check the thesis that there is a “tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover”.  Showing examples from cities in the USA, Brazil and China he discovered that it is possible.

I then wondered: can I see something similar in the city in which until recently I had spent 30 years of my life – Christchurch, New Zealand?  Here is the evidence.  The first snapshot is of the suburb of Aranui, one of the poorest in Christchurch.  The second snapshot is of Fendalton, a suburb on quite the opposite end of the wealth spectrum in Christchurch.  I’d say glaring, but make your own mind up.

Aranui, Christchurch.  Source: Google Earth

Fendalton, Christchurch.  Source: Google Earth

Is this as far as it goes though?  Nothing more than a recognition that richer suburbs have more trees, poorer suburbs less trees.  Well, no, there is more.  The contribution of trees to the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle is well known and hence the contribution of trees to the well-being of humans.  Most of us also know of the usefulness of trees in the conservation of energy, in reducing the impact of storm-water and providing shade.  But what may be less well known are the contributions that trees make to other areas including better births and lessening crime.

A study published in 2010 (Geoffrey Donovan et al) found that “greater tree-canopy cover within 50m of a house… (was) associated with (reduced risk of poor birth outcomes)”.  The Portland, Oregon study did acknowledge that the results had some limitations and that further research was needed.

Another Portland study found “that trees in the public right of way are associated with lower crime rates”.  Not just any tree though.  It was larger trees that had this effect, not smaller view-obstructing trees that can be associated with crime.

Although both studies suggest that the effects of trees are slight, the presence of trees are useful in a multitude of ways and each slight gain adds up to a significant benefit.  And now too, there seems to be a way of seeing social inequality from the air.


  1. Very very interesting!! You can certainly see inequality in this manner. I took a class as an undergrad called "Social Stratification" and it really opens one's eyes to strutural inequalities.

    1. Sounds like an interesting paper. The thing I find too, is that once my eyes were opened to structural inequalities it was possible to see them everywhere. The benefit of them being everywhere is that it is easy to start doing my own bit to overcome them.

  2. This is something I've always noticed. I've always attributed it to the tendency of council to pay more attention to the areas which house the more affluent people. In those areas, people are more likely to have the income to spend time gardening. They are also more vocal if their neighbourhood is not being cared for properly. People In lower income neighbourhoods are less vocal because they feel unheard even if they do speak up.

    1. Right on Ed. I worked in community development for years and one of the issues that was consistently arising was that the powers-that-be would not listen to those in marginalised/disadvantaged communities. You are also right about those in affluent communities being more vocal. What i also found is they they were also the ones to complain loudly if those in the disadvantaged communities did get listened to.


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