Mayfield, Meet Greensburg

photo taken yesterday on the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail extension (Wylie Street); mural by Alea Hurst

So I’m having a stunningly lovely bike ride around Atlanta yesterday and thinking about new starts. The new mayor-elect of Atlanta, Andre Dickens, a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology (a certified Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University, and home to one of the greenest buildings in the world). New bikes for refugees of war. My new job for 2022 serving a state as far away from me as possible that is facing multiple intersectional climate and health-related challenges. And then, my mind shifts to all the loss and devastation in Mayfield, Kentucky and other places last week from killer tornadoes*. And then I remember Greensburg, Kansas.

In 2009, for a feature article published in a national magazine named Urban Farm, I interviewed people and wrote about when a tornado obliterated the tiny city of Greensburg, Kansas just two years prior in 2007.

This was pertinent to me then because Greensburg committed to building back, well, green, and I had been appointed to start and lead the Sustainability Commission when the Metro Atlanta suburb where I live became the newest city in the USA in 2008. I wanted my new city to adopt green policies right from the get-go (and it did), and was curious to learn more about what this other city did when faced with an actual blank slate. If interested, here is that article:

So yesterday as I was swirling around Atlanta’s breathtaking water reclamation parks, taking photos of local artist murals (including one who recently painted a mural in my suburb-city), and foraging for natural wreath-making materials on still-unpaved sections of the old rail beds of the Atlanta Beltline, thoughts of Greensburg swirled in my head. I even thought maybe I’d pitch an article to do an update. I wondered: What’s become of Greensburg? Could Greensburg’s experience be helpful to Mayfield, and other cities*?

Turns out that article has already been written, by Annie Gowen in 2020 for The Washington Post. See here. And it turns out there are lessons in it for all of us.

I have some lessons for cities as well, regarding how to become more bike-friendly. In rubber-hits-the-road reality, not, well, greenwashing. If interested, see that most-viewed post in 2021 on Traveling at the Speed of Bike here, as well as 1st Economic Impact Report, and It’s a Significant Underestimate.

We can do more to become more resilient cities, and a more resilient country. The best time to do so, as they say with planting trees (which my suburb-city did prior to becoming a city when a tornado ripped through it — see Lemonade Days) was twenty years ago. The second best time is today. The technology and expertise already exists to harness the energy needed to make a positive difference close to home and around the world. Let’s not blow it*.

Alea Hurst’s mural in Dunwoody, Georgia at the Spruill Art Gallery, where, by the way, there is a fabulous holiday market through December 23, if you’d like to buy local and support local artists. (See my TikTok here to visit virtually.)

*Here are ways to help the victims of the recent tornadoes, from USA TODAY (which, by the way, is another place I used to work. We are all connected.)