By Joe Thomas, Donor Relations Coordinator, Trees Atlanta
If you walk through Deepdene Park off of Ponce de Leon Avenue, you will find a white oak that has stood since before the Revolutionary War. It is easy to miss, partially hidden in its place on the side of the forested trail. But this tree is special. It has withstood storms, war, and development. It has seen neighbors and passersby come and go. It has watched the area around it change, fellow trees cut down, trails and roads built, homes erected and demolished. Through all of that, it has reached upward, called by something higher.
We are faced with a time of change, both locally and nationally. In many ways, this change is happening in seemingly conflicting ways. Here in Atlanta, the change is exciting and mostly positive – we are growing rapidly, coming out of a time of awkward adolescence and faced with a decision of what kind of grown-up city we want to be. Recent investments in transportation, design, and intelligent growth show us that we are a city destined to become more connected and technologically advanced. At Trees Atlanta, we are encouraged as City Hall shows renewed focus on urban ecology, with initiatives like the first Atlanta Food Forest. We are taking part in the urban planning process as partners, supporting the incorporation of natural features in the Atlanta City Design. And we are taking a larger role in giving communities the tools they need to advocate for responsible development in their neighborhoods. As a city, the questions we face now are not so much whether we will progress, but rather how quickly, and how we will ensure that the benefits of our progress are shared by all of Atlanta’s residents.
Nationally, we are faced with uncertainty. Changes in the political landscape have many asking serious questions about our future, our values, and our priorities. While we don’t know what the future holds for our country, it is widely agreed that it will be unlike anything in our recent past. If the promises of campaign season are kept, our national government may soon be reducing its role in protecting the marginalized and voiceless – both human communities and the land itself.
It is important, therefore, that we as individual and collective citizens of our city and nation exhibit resiliency. In Atlanta we have withstood the Civil War, racial oppression, and urban sprawl. We have rebuilt after fire, tornados, and terrorist attacks. In that spirit, we must continue to look forward and progress. As we do so, it is the nonprofit community that will take up the mantle of protecting the voiceless. The city has a strong network of nonprofits serving people, plants, and animals, and we will answer the call to fill the needs of our community. Travel site Travelocity’s recent ranking of Atlanta as a top city for charitable giving shows that the citizens of Atlanta will answer that call as well.
At Trees Atlanta, we will continue to do what we’ve always done: preserve and promote Atlanta’s urban tree canopy, the unifying and defining natural feature of our city. We will continue to work to build communities, create beautiful, walkable urban spaces, and provide public health benefits like cleaner air and cooler temperatures to our citizens. We will do all of this with a renewed spirit of civic responsibility emboldened by potential new challenges and opportunities. We will continue to be the voice of Atlanta’s trees.
Atlanta is the City in the Forest, and like a forest we will stand strong as the world changes around us, reaching upward toward our collective higher purpose. We will remain determined and focused on progress, not allowing our growth to be stunted by regression or petty differences. We will be steadfast, like the white oak in Deepdene Park, strong in our commitment to our people and environment. And Trees Atlanta will join with the local nonprofit community to ensure our future remains bright and green.