Atlanta was hit hard this past week. And before we blame the snow and ice, our current mayor and governor’s lack of salt, or the driving skills of Southerners, we must recognize the cause of SnowJam 2014 wasn’t a white flake, it was white flight. For decades now, the landscape of our metro area has been shaped by racial fear, an insidious fear that created a chronic disease called suburban sprawl. Sprawl is a truly devastating condition that siphons shared resources away from the heart, undermines vital systems, and creates pockets of stagnation, inflammation and infection. Unfortunately, due to the stigma of diseases that are bigoted in origin we have spent decades in denial. The epicenter of our recent health crises was along the smog-scented arterials of the northern commute– that daily migration toward Cobb county, Gwinnett county, Cherokee county, Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, and Roswell.
Wasn’t this preventable? Why did we avoid practicing preventative care and proper health maintenance, such as mass transit? Probably for the same reasons (racism, classism, etc.) we found ourselves susceptible to sprawl in the first place. When only 3 of the close to 100 counties and municipalities that make up the Atlanta metro area financially support MARTA (our mass transit system), when MARTA is THE LARGEST public transportation agency in the US that does not receive state funding for operational expenses, we have a serious disconnect with reality and little chance for survival. My hope is that this crisis leads to positive change. Let’s accept our shared responsibility as stewards of this land, and let us care for her, for our neighbors, and for ourselves. It’s time practice mass transit, nurture that infrastructure, improve circulation, and share in the beauty of what our region can become.
A Note of Disclosure: Lorna has an obvious mass transit bias as she drives a bus, aka The Herb Bus. For the full story on this little bus that could, check out our annual 2013 Herb Bus Service Report.