Summer brings out the heliophobe in many of us. It’s manageable if you live in a house that stays cool when shut up tight. It helps if you’re physically capable of crossing to the shadier side of a hot street. It’s even better if you can work from home or use public transport stops that enjoy the cover of buildings or trees.
We have reason to think a lot about shade these days, especially as the heatwaves roll in. At such times, shade is our friend. On top of the existing urban heat island effect, the incidence of extreme heat events is rising. These events are also lasting longer and getting hotter.
Coverage for all is a wonderful ideal, and the federal government has announced plans to set “urban canopy” targets. But, in the meantime, some communities and areas need trees more urgently than others. Shade is not only a matter of public health; it is a social equity issue.
In a warming city like Melbourne, some of the most socially vulnerable people are in areas that are most exposed to extreme heat. Our pilot research in Melbourne suggests that integrated social and ecological data sets should be used to develop programs that reduce socioecological vulnerability.