I read the news today. Oh boy. Shall I go on? About a little town that made the grade...
That would be Edmonston, in Prince Georges County, Maryland. As the Washington Post tells us in today’s Metro section, this town of 1500 has decided to redesign its Decatur Street as a green, pedestrian friendly, water-filtering, LED lit main street. There are so many wonderful things about this story I hardly know where to start, except to borrow the quote that ends Lisa Rein’s article: ‘"This will put us on the radar screen," Pooley said of the new street. "Even a working-class community can glom on to being a little bit aware of the environment."’
Spunky small towns figure so prominently in American mythology that it’s easy to forget the truth beneath them. In the Green Community exhibition we have two, Greensburg, Kansas and Stella, Missouri, both of which can hold their own against the likes of glam green Masdar City and transit savvy Portland. What Greensburg, Stella, and Edmonston share isn’t just their size; they share what Edmonston resident Maggie Pooley is pointing out in her comment. These are not the oft-caricatured organic-chardonnay sipping liberal environmental elites (like me?), nor the equally caricatured granola-crunchy un-reformed hipsters. No, these are blue-collar, service industry, construction workers, under- and un-employed who want and deserve a main street that can make them, their town, the Anacostia, and everything else downstream, healthier and more beautiful. And, make them proud of having done it.
As with Stella and Greensburg, Edmonston needed not only funding but expertise. Personally, I couldn’t be happier that the town got a little chunk of stimulus money. I’m proud that a penny or two of my taxes will fund permeable paving and the engineering and design necessary to lay it. It’s no surprise to read that the planners at EPA are involved; those initials show up in many of the Green Community projects. Professional help is also coming from the Low Impact Development Center. A non-profit located nearby in Beltsville, the Center is another example of the resources available to communities that want to, well, steward their resources. There are resources for resources.
Funding? Check. Expertise? Check. Hmmm, what are we missing? Oh yes...political leadership and citizen support? Check! The mayor’s statement that “we have to make things happen for us instead of making things happen to us” is just about the best call to action I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a true call to action, not an abstract exhortation or uplifting aspiration. And, it’s in the first person plural: we have to do it; it is in our hands. We will not remain a passive us, object of the action of others; we will take the action.
So, here’s to you Edmonstonians! Had I known about this a year ago, you would have been in the exhibition. Consider yourselves Honorary Members of Green Community but card-carrying, official members of the real green community.