Think of Los Angeles and what comes to mind? Smog? Gridlock? Massive
urban sprawl? Perhaps no longer. Some hard working Angelenos have said
enough, and they are putting their backs -- as well as their words --
into the effort to recover the City of Angels. If Southern California
with it's excessive resource consumption can solve these problems
there might be hope for the rest of the nation, and the world.
This Thursday, January 11, PBS is airing an inspiring program about
megacities. Narrated by actor Jimmy Smits (fresh from the West Wing)
Edens Lost & Found: Dream a Different City reports on the
environmental transformation of Los Angeles from a poster city for
pollution to an emerging role model for sustainable cities.
Yes, it's true, my hometown of Los Angeles is belying the stereotypes
and making itself more livable, more breathable, more beautiful, more
equitable -- and just in time.
Solutions to mega-problems like climate change, global water
shortages, urban decay and environmental injustice must come from wide
scale committed local action -- in addition to policy change. Rather
than portraying unattainable saint-like heroes, the Edens producers
focus on ordinary individuals, warts-and-all, who've made a difference
by starting with the seed of an idea and persisting in its care and
feeding until it bore fruit.
Edens follows my own work of founding and growing TreePeople from a
team of teenagers reforesting the local mountains into an
award-winning Citizen Forester movement activating tens of thousands
of volunteers to help nature heal their city. TreePeople now brings
city residents together with government agencies to transform L.A's
vast swaths of concrete and asphalt. We're growing a community forest
that captures, cleans and recycles rainwater, prevents ocean
pollution, saves energy and improves quality of life.
Beyond palm trees, million dollar movie deals and high-consumer
culture, regular Angelenos are pulling from a tapestry of methods to
change the face and function of their city. These methods include
projects by the city's 24/7 Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who
understands that environmental justice, public health and
quality-of-life are all interconnected.
From approaches to revitalizing the LA River, to environmental justice
crusader Cindy Montanez, to an urban gardening project that grows
"Girls into Women," to the folks who birthed a new light rail line,
the stories represent challenges in most every major city. Although
each project began with a fairly simple premise, some of them have
over time permanently changed the L.A.'s policies and infrastructure
Edens Lost & Found might just be the catalyst that moves you from
being a spectator into a participant. "Can the hope and future of a
city begin with such a simple act as planting
tree?" asks Jimmy Smits. "I believe it not only can, but already has.
Hey, I'm from Los Angeles, the home of the happy ending."
Edens Lost & Found: Dream a Different City airs on Thursday, January
11 on your local PBS station. For details visit:
Andy Lipkis is the president and founder of TreePeople, an L.A-based
nonprofit dedicated to helping nature heal our cities.