Why do so many urban areas worldwide lack trees?

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I’ve been roasting in heatwaves in different urban areas for many summers and there is no refuge. Long walks, waits for buses, standing next to roasting cars and other vehicles. Did previous urban planning see no use for shade and cooling? Did they think all this blacktop would just cool itself? Even ancient roads were lined with trees to provide refuge for traveling armies – what gives?

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Putting in trees is not a one-time expense. You have to maintain those trees and clean up after them. That means budgeting money, money that could be spent on other things.

When city-level level politicians are trying to decide what to spend their limited funds on, they are far more likely to pick in something that will directly bring in revenue and or put money in their pockets somehow than they are something that is just going to make everyone’s life more pleasant.

Urban areas are dense and space is at a premium. Trees take up space. It’s the same reason we build taller buildings, to fit more stuff into the same area. It isn’t about cooling or not cooling the blacktops, it’s about how much you can fit in a finite amount of space and trees just aren’t as high on the priority list as just about everything else in urban areas.

Obviously it’s the opposite of this in suburban and rural areas. So much free space you can leave trees all over and still have room for all the homes and stores and roads you want.