"You sure this is the place?"
My Uber driver grizzled at me as I half-slept in the back seat. He pulled under a highway overpass into what seemed to be a scene from the Chronicles of Narnia. He looked around and then looked at me like he had just about enough of my kind: new Austinites. Once I tumbled out of the car with tripod in hand I found vestiges of old Austin before me. Large old trees framing the scene of a highway running through an underdeveloped neighborhood. That's where I found Audrey sitting calmly studying the vines that had overrun the concrete beams.
"I think like the story I tell about myself as a kid is that I was a city kid and I didn't really interact with nature. But that's not true, we just don't respect urban nature like we respect “pure” nature untouched and it's just its a myth. It's all important and magical. "
On home: "I grew up in the city. I never went camping or hiking. I didn't really get to know nature until going to college and going to Big Bend National Park with some friends. That's when I changed my major to biology and got really excited. As a kid in Cincinnati, I did connect with nature, even though I didn’t see it as that at the time. We had a ravine behind our house full of tires and stuff. We were right in the middle of the city and so the neighborhood kids and my sister and I would go out there and move tires around and pretend we were cleaning it up and just hang out outside all the time.
On why we need trees: "In Austin, we experience severe drought and also torrential rain storms. Trees slow down water and help it to filter into the ground and clean it before it enters our creeks and river. In Austin and other cities, we have the urban heat island effect. Because of pavement and rooftops, heat gets reflected making it hotter in cities than in the surrounding countryside. So we have to use more air conditioning or be more comfortable. Trees, however, cool our cities, they cool our homes, they save us money.
Typically in cities, there's lower canopy cover in underserved neighborhoods. Which is another social justice issue. There are so many reasons why trees and nature are really critical for public health and for our sense of place."
“I think the biggest scam in America is that environmental issues are political. My parents are very conservative and we can't talk about climate change and environmental issues that affect everybody. I think that's the biggest scam because climate change and science should not be politicized. We need to care for our earth and the people and other beings that inhabit it. That doesn’t feel controversial to me.”
On New Beginnings:
"Moving to Austin was my first thing I can remember [after high school]. I felt like I found my home, that I had a choice. Cincinnati, while I love a lot about it, was not my adult home.
It was like this realization that you can make a home someplace else and you can connect with another place. It was really empowering to be able to do that. It felt like freedom.”
From Cincinnati, OH.
Lives in Austin, TX.