Artist Caitlin Rogers’ Atlanta Mural Highlights Climate Justice in the “City in the Forest”

Sep 12, 2023

Kyra Madunich-Arévalo, Jessie Cohen

Artist Caitlin Rogers teamed up with Georgia Conservation Voters, Georgia WAND, and LCV to create an incredible environmental justice inspired mural in the Summerhill neighborhood of Atlanta. The mural celebrates the historic climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed and the president signed into law last fall, and aims to inspire Georgians to continue fighting to bring environmental justice to their communities.

Two people pose in front of the Atlanta mural
Photo from Georgia Conservation Voters

“I understand the ‘normal’ is to keep doing what we’ve been doing, but to keep doing what we’ve been doing means we’re still hurting the planet. We’re still doing things at the expense of people who are seen as disposable,” says artist and activist Caitlin Rogers (they/them). As a native Atlantan and former employee of nearby Stone Mountain Park, Rogers knows first-hand that environmental and racial justice are fundamentally intertwined.

Over the last few months, Caitlin has worked with Georgia Conservation Voters and local partners to create a gorgeous mural that features the Atlanta skyline as seen from redlined communities and a triptych comic strip depicting Georgia’s history of activism that spotlights civil rights and LGBTQ+ marches, alongside a hopeful environmental justice message.

“You start with this grandmother and her grandchildren, and the kids are saying, ‘What can we do about it? Sometimes it feels like there’s no way,’ but [the grandmother] says, ‘Oh, there’s always a way! In Georgia, we’ve been fighting for environmental justice for a long time,’” Caitlin says, describing the comic. They love that “anytime there is something that isn’t for the people, Atlantans speak up and march for it.”

Caitlin says they hope the mural will inspire people to continue to fight to protect and maintain Atlanta’s natural spaces. Thanks to the Biden-Harris administration’s affordable clean energy plan, funding for these projects is widely available.

Atlanta is called the ‘city in the forest.’ So if you take away the forest, you’re [taking] one of our known characteristics, one of our traits, one of our qualities,” says Caitlin. The most recent threat to Atlanta’s greenspace is the proposal to clear-cut hundreds of acres to build a $90 million police training mega-facility. “Cutting down Atlanta’s forests and building “Cop City” in its place would sever the lifeblood of Atlanta’s communities,” Caitlin says.

“We all know police brutality in this country, and now they want to put this fake city for cops to train and become more militarized in a predominantly Black city,” Caitlin said. “You’re taking away the forest… you’re taking away what gives Atlantans clean air, and using the city’s financial resources unwisely.” Instead of funding Cop City, they said, we should invest those resources in housing and in creating solutions to food insecurity to improve the quality of life for Atlantans.

The artist’s ideal Atlanta would be home to an abundance of native habitat and wildlife, would rely on clean energy, and have cleaner waterways. They would also call to overturn some of Georgia’s state laws that prohibit residents from collecting their own rainwater or generating their own electricity.

Caitlin hopes their mural will spark hope for Atlanta’s preservation and that people will reach out to their elected officials and continue having conversations about environmental justice in their communities. “People who live in Atlanta, take care of Atlanta. They make sure to vote and shout about the things that don’t serve Atlanta. When I think of someone coming from the inner city walking down the street and seeing that 90-foot-long mural, I hope it sparks that hope of preservation because that’s truly the attitude of Atlanta.”