Whose Idea? All of Ours
It’s always thrilling to be seen. When Dafna reached out to me in July to ask if I might be willing to give a talk on how walking in community can be good for the environment, I responded with some gentle pushback and a slight reframing from my perspective as a walking group leader and a transportation planner focused on broad-based community engagement. At the same time, I saw the invitation as a chance to articulate why what I do matters, so I agreed to develop the idea. Dafna and I have known each other for more than a decade, and I have watched with admiration as she and Michael have cultivated a thriving TEDx community. It felt exciting to be asked to join it.
The process of developing an “idea worth spreading,” however, is fraught with uncertainty and imposter syndrome: who am I to give a talk about this? As much as I value my work and all I have learned from it, what I have to say about walking, community, and climate change is not particularly novel. Every day, I learn from other planners and active transportation advocates who are more immersed in the deep work required to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels than I am. I witness the intransigence of our auto-oriented culture; I understand the complexities involved in detangling the strands of employment, housing, child care, recreation, and mobility for people whose lives cannot be neatly contained within a 15-minute neighborhood.
Still, I persist. The toughest part about developing my talk has actually been trimming down the content to a reasonable length. I could go on for hours about all of the amazing work my colleagues are doing, how hard they are working to cultivate genuine community engagement in remaking our cities and suburbs for humans rather than cars, and how valiantly they are pushing back against all of the historic and contemporary barriers that block progress.
As I shape and trim and mold my talk around my own experiences and insights, I have taken comfort from the realization that speaking at a TEDx event isn’t really about saying something totally original. Rather, it’s about saying what needs to be said again and again, from new perspectives, with new voices, until old systems no longer seem logical and we choose a better way. My idea worth spreading is not just mine. It’s all of ours.