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Greenscape Geeks Book Club

Hello readers! As you may remember, several weeks ago, we started the Greenscape Geeks Book Club as an offshoot of our regular blog. We want to offer more than natural landscaping layouts and organic gardening tips by sharing what we gain from reading topics associated with our business. I took a lesson or two (or three) from our first book, The Next American City: The Big Promise of Our Midsize Metros. It is important to build communities from the inside out, and it starts with empowering and encouraging people with commitments to making their communities great!

The Oklahoma City skyline

Author Mick Cornett was the former 4-term mayor of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma was considered a “fly-over” state as far back as he can remember and Cornett says as much in the opening statements of his book. His passions and genuine attitude are immediately evident in the friendly writing style used. I can see why he was able to garner so much support throughout his time in city council leading into his mayoral terms. His time as a sports and news broadcaster served him well as he draws easy-to-understand comparisons between the era of the Dustbowl migrations (he even mentions how formative Grapes of Wrath was on contemporary perceptions of midwestern states) and the continued struggles that cities across America face, rural and urban alike. The case studies he mentions in the book cover a wide range of topics that all circle back around to civic strength and brand conception for a municipality.

From the tough economic loss of United Airlines facility petitioned to be in Oklahoma City to the rejuvenation of the Chattanooga on the riverfront, these examples show just how local change can happen. Consider Mike Knopp, an Oklahoma City native, who sought to revitalize the “river” (a recurring joke is that the Oklahoma riverfront had anything but water in it until the early 2000s) through his own passion of kayaking. Nevermind that most people, including Cornett, hadn’t even heard of kayaking before this. Yet a native could see the possibilities through the shortcomings of his own city and chose to do something about it. This is the unwavering civic optimism that Cornett harps on throughout the book. He admits that naivety is a perceived flaw (admittedly, I too had a lot of head-shaking moments of cautious belief in his brand of optimism) but he rarely lets it show as he outlines the uphill battles he fought to put Oklahoma City on the world’s stage as a thriving city. If you’re a sports history fan or just have an appreciation for the professional athletics, this book is an excellent documentation of what deals and bargains were made in good faith and a genuine desire to see commensal success between cities. Cornett mentions how Oklahoma City opened it’s doors to the New Orleans Hornets amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which led to a citywide enthusiasm for a professional NBA team. As I mentioned, these are a few of the many case studies Cornett cites as he spends every other chapter recounting the tales of wins and losses in the path to make Oklahoma City an amazing place to live, work, and play. In his final chapters as he comments on how the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 was a catalyst that drove him to achieve more as a citizen (and ultimately, mayor). In describing what will build the midsize, incredibly intimate cities of tomorrow, Mick Cornett makes a call to action, stating:

“There are doers and dreamers and we need both. Go make a difference.”

What can you do in your local sphere of influence? Starting a community garden (Greenscape Geeks would love to help with that) is a great way to bring people together and accomplish great things as a group!

As always, comment on our posts here or on our Facebook page. We want to know what your takeaways from the book were; what case study did you find most compelling, did you like it, would you recommend it?

Our next book will be Getting to Green: Saving Nature: A Bipartisan Solution by Frederic C. Rich.

Dust jacket and forward highlights:

"...Frederic C. Rich argues that meaningful progress on urgent environmental issues can be made only on a bipartisan basis."
"[Rich's program] measures policy not by whether it is the optimum solution but by the two-part test of whether it would make meaningful contribution to an environmental problem and whether it is achievable politically."

Greenscape Geeks is in the business of building and rebuilding ecological havens as part of our mission statement, so I'm interested to see what can be learned from this book between political spectrums. Look for another review in the coming weeks and happy reading!