The week in local news.

This Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day — a great opportunity to get outside and celebrate the beautiful views and abundant wildlife and plants around Georgia. Admission to all national parks is free that day, so be sure to visit one of Georgia’s parks, sans an entrance fee. Happy hiking!

On to other local news:

Aaron Luque, Steven John and Angel Cabrera answer questions from Katie Kirkpatrick, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, at April 17 Atlanta Rotary program. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Electric vehicles one way to combat climate change

Georgia has become a leader in the electric vehicle industry, and a panel at the Rotary Club of Atlanta on April 17 explored the opportunities for the state to make a real difference in the evolution of the industry.

“The Southeast is becoming Detroit, and Georgia takes the cake,” said Steven Jahng, director of external affairs at SK Battery America, which is making significant investments in the state. 

Jahng credited Gov. Brian Kemp, former Gov. Nathan Deal and Pat Wilson, Georgia’s commissioner for economic development, for helping put the state on the map for the EV industry.

Aaron Luque: co-founder and CEO of Atlanta-based EnviroSpark Energy Solutions, also credited the presence of research universities. He met his business partner and wife, Stephanie, while attending Georgia Tech. Together they have built a company that develops battery charging stations around the country.

“We had about 15 employees when we started a few years ago,” said Luque, adding the company has helped install 7,000 charging stations coast-to-coast. “Today we have 120, and we will probably have 200 by the end of the year.”

Georgia Tech President Angel Cabrera spoke of Atlanta’s concentration of top-tier research universities in helping develop technology to address the world’s greatest needs.

“If you care about climate change, be very worried about what’s happening,” Cabrera said. 

Jahng agreed. “We are all part of an ecosystem that’s trying to clean up the world,” he said. 

— Maria Saporta

International environmental activists to join ‘Cop City’ panel discussion

International environmental activists Bill McKibben and Steven Donziger are scheduled to join an April 23 panel discussion about Atlanta’s controversial public safety training center.

The event is titled “Cop City & The Forest: A Panel on Environmental Racism, Policing, and Law.” The Atlanta Community Press Collective, a media outlet that opposes the training center, said on social media that it is hosting the event.

McKibben is an activist and author who founded the climate change group Donziger is an attorney famed for a successful battle against Chevron for oil pollution in Ecuador, which controversially got him sued for alleged racketeering and jailed for contempt of court. 

Also scheduled to join the panel are former Athens-Clarke County Board of Commissioners member Mariah Parker and Jacqueline Echols, founder and board president of the South River Watershed Alliance (SRWA). The SRWA is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging a DeKalb County parkland swap that, along with the adjacent training center site, are both subjects of the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” protest movement.

The free panel discussion is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. at Neighborhood Church, 1561 McLendon Ave. in Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood. For registration and details, see the Eventbrite webpage.

— John Ruch

Healthy Kids Day will include games, sports and exercise demonstrations for kids and families. (Photo by Kat Goduco Photo Crew.)

YMCA hosts annual Healthy Kids Day across 18 locations

On Saturday, April 29, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta is hosting a series of free festivals in celebration of its annual Healthy Kids Day — a tradition for over 30 years. Hosted across 18 YMCA locations in metro Atlanta, local families are invited to join in on the healthy activities, with plans for games, kids obstacle courses, water safety demonstrations and more.

There will also be a variety of demonstrations for families to try different physical activities, including Zumba and yoga. Atlanta-based pickleball company, PCKL, will also provide demonstrations and gear for attendees to try out the sport, which is somewhat of a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.

This community initiative is hosted in partnership with Publix Super Markets Charities.

“We encourage families to join us on April 29 to enjoy a day of healthy, fun activities and celebrate kids being kids,” said Lauren Koontz, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. “The Y strives to nurture the potential of youth, promote healthy living and foster a sense of social responsibility. We remain committed to building healthy, confident, secure and connected children, families, and communities.”

Residents can also use YMCA facilities for free on Saturday. Click here for more information about the upcoming annual community event.

— Hannah E. Jones

Winship Cancer Institute’s Midtown tower to open next month

The new Midtown tower of Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute is scheduled to open May 9, according to a publicist.

The Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Midtown is a $440 million tower at Linden Avenue and Peachtree Street. The tower is across Linden from the Emory University Hospital Midtown complex. 

The facility will have patients in “care communities” organized by the type of cancer. The “communities” include shared living spaces and shared care teams that will bring nearly all treatment services to the patients. 

— John Ruch

Sloths are nocturnal, allowing them to avoid the Harpy Eagle — their main predator. (Photo courtesy of Fernbank.)

New Fernbank exhibit showcases the life of animal kingdom’s slowest animals

If “The Tortoise and the Hare” taught us anything, it’s that being slow isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

An upcoming exhibit at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History will showcase the life of sometimes overlooked animals, and how they use their perceived disadvantages to survive in an animal kingdom that generally favors the strong and fast. “Survival of the Slowest” will highlight animals that are small, slow and weak, while investigating how these attributes have helped the species survive.

Running from June 10 to Sept. 4, the exhibit features live animals, including a two-toed sloth, boa constrictor, green iguana, hedgehog, bearded dragon and more.

“This exciting new exhibit allows visitors to come face-to-face with some of nature’s most “counterintuitively” biologically fit creatures and explore the amazing adaptations that help them survive and thrive,” Fernbank Educator and Volunteer Manager Miranda Shealy said in a press release.

“Survival of the Slowest” was designed by Little Ray’s Nature Centres in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature. Click here for additional information about the exhibit and tickets.

— Hannah E. Jones

The route for Saturday’s parade. (Courtesy of Atlanta Public Schools.)

APS parade celebrates 150 years of teaching Atlanta’s students

On Sat. Apr 22 at 10 a.m. the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will host a parade to celebrate its 150th anniversary. 

Everyone is invited to attend and participate in this milestone celebration along with their students, families, community members and APS alumnus.

The parade will start at Carver High School on University Ave and end near Lakewood Stadium. The event will have performers and floats, and numerous organizations will be participating. If your organization or business would like to participate or volunteer, visit the anniversary website.

— Allison Joyner

Cameras, wildlife, action! Atlanta City Nature Challenge kicks off April 28

Grab your cameras, folks, because later this month, the annual Atlanta City Nature Challenge is kicking off for its fifth year. From April 28 to May 1, residents are encouraged to explore local pockets of nature throughout the city and metro area, while snapping photos of nearby animals, plants and fungi.

Using the iNaturalist app, participants can take pictures that are automatically uploaded and geotagged. Users can also check out the photos that others have uploaded.

This is an international event, with 1.69 million observations last year from 67,200 participants across 445 cities. In Atlanta, 505 observers documented 892 plants, 151 fungi, 436 insects, 95 birds, 47 amphibians and reptiles and 14 mammals. 

The goals of the challenge are twofold — encourage folks to get outside while also documenting local biodiversity around the world.

The City Nature Challenge is organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the local effort is run by the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Click here to register.

— Hannah E. Jones

Atlanta History Center to screen Tuskegee Airmen film

The Atlanta History Center will screen a new documentary about the Tuskegee Airmen’s Italy service on April 25.

Following the screening of “The Tuskegee Airmen: Return to Ramitelli” will be a discussion with filmmaker Tim Gray.

Serving in World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen were the U.S.’s first African American military pilots, ground crews and support personnel. The film focuses on an air base in Italy and how the Airmen returned to the U.S. to face racism and discrimination. 

The documentary is narrated by Darius Rucker, the singer and guitarist famed as the frontman of the band Hootie and the Blowfish. The film was produced by the nonprofit World War II Foundation, which creates films for PBS and other outlets.

For tickets and details, see the center’s website.

— John Ruch

This time of year, manatee and sea turtle sightings are on the rise on Georgia’s coast. (Photos courtesy of Georgia DNR.)

Georgia DNR warns boaters to watch for nearby wildlife

Springtime is a busy season for our coastal and aquatic wildlife and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges boaters to be aware of animals swimming just below the surface. Georgia DNR specifically pointed to manatees and sea turtles, with boat strikes as the leading cause of sea turtle strandings and manatee injuries and deaths. 

To reduce the risk of injury or death of our local wildlife, the state agency recommends staying in deep water and designated channels, away from vegetation and shallow areas. Slowing down is also key in avoiding accidental collisions.

If a boater does run into the species, they should call 800-272-8363 immediately. If the operator was driving their boat responsibly and the collision was an accident, the driver will not be charged.

Manatees are most frequently spotted in Georgia waters from April to October and, during this time, wildlife biologists monitor their behavior. Boaters should look out for a large pattern of swirls on the water’s surface, which can indicate a manatee swimming nearby.

Additionally, five sea turtle species use Georgia’s coast as a haven for food and shelter, also using it as a travel corridor. One species, the loggerhead sea turtle, also nests on our coast from late May to mid-August. Sea turtles spend more time near the surface in the spring and generally only their head is visible, which puts them at a higher risk of collision. 

For more information about responsible boating practices, click here.

— Hannah E. Jones

Six metro Atlanta cities join well-being initiative for local policy decisions

City officials from six metro Atlanta cities — Atlanta, Chamblee, Clarkson, College Park, Decatur and East Point — have joined an eight-month Metro-Atlanta Cities Wellbeing Initiative. The program will focus on a policy process to develop short and long-term plans to improve community well-being

Through this initiative, city leaders will learn more about using metrics and data to inform local policymaking. This effort, along with community input, will help city officials get a fuller picture of what supports or hinders their residents.

The Metro-Atlanta Cities Wellbeing Initiative was created by the Georgia Municipal Association and its nonprofit, Georgia City Solutions. The program was crafted following a scan and risk assessment by Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI) that highlighted challenges in using metrics for decision-making and found a need for technical support among city officials when analyzing and using existing data.

“Today’s challenges rest with the ability to effectively use existing data for action-oriented decision-making and policy,” ARCHI Senior Innovation Manager Carrie Oliver wrote in a recent release. “Leaders need guidance on how to apply data learnings to address community wellbeing issues, which can be cumbersome and overwhelming.”

Over the following months, city leaders will work with the University of Georgia Health Equity Fellows and regional experts and present policy action plans in August. Ultimately, the goal is to increase overall health equity and satisfaction for metro Atlanta residents.

— Hannah E. Jones

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

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