This statement comes from a coalition representing Pittsburgh environmental groups. NEXTpittsburgh was asked by the group to publish the letter, but we weren’t part of its creation.
Pittsburgh’s environmental community joined together in new and unexpected ways to pursue justice and equity at the time of the pandemic. A year and a quarter later, and on the heels the global COP26 climate discussion and our local elections have been a year and a bit, racial inequalities are still making headlines. We affirm the progress made but we also call for more action to ensure that our priorities are in line with the needs of the communities we serve.
We must fulfill all our needs to create a sustainable future. AllFor today and tomorrow, people in our communities. Our shared priorities include working alongside communities to develop equitable and inclusive climate solutions, from buildings to energy to climate change education.
We are working to create jobs that benefit both the economy as well as the environment. We also work to create safe and fair transportation systems, including streets for active transportation. We are working to eliminate disparities in environmental exposure, to promote healthy home renovations, as well as to improve green spaces that belong to all. We are working closely alongside regulatory partners to create a better stormwater infrastructure that will reduce flooding and sewage from our waterways, roads, and homes.
We encourage knowledge transfer training and policy-development to support and speed up these shifts. Racial justice is constantly interwoven throughout all conversations. Human and environmental well-being are inextricably interconnected. Disproportionately impacted communities require community resources to ensure wellness on all fronts.
Healthy Pittsburghers are needed family-sustaining jobsWork that is flexible and adaptable to changing economic conditions and extreme climate impacts. We are increasing the need for public and ongoing utility company investment in an energy efficiency-focused workforce. These jobs are not easily outsourced and are therefore local. This reduces energy costs for all customers.
Our organizations offer support and training for people who want to re-enter the workforce. Having to face serious barriers to employmentThe program provides first-time work experiences for youth in the region, as well as a wide range land stewardship, including natural areas management and skilled maintenance and repair of green stormwater infrastructure. We are currently working with local governments and businesses to develop tools that help identify and track equity-focused actions organizations can make, helping us collectively address the challenges associated with health, inequity and workforce development as well as climate change.
Our groups have been relentless in their efforts to eliminate lead from our communities. Black families are most affected by this challenge. Lead is a danger to young children and babies, and prevention is the best way to avoid it. There is still workDespite the fact that local leaders have rightly prioritized lead water line replacements for schools and neighborhoods,
Our organizations have committed themselves to focusing tree planting efforts on areas that are most in need. Environmental injustices can have devastating effects. Trees clean the air, absorb excess rainwater, and lower energy costs — improving health along the way. Inviting green spaces and safe parks are two of the elements of Resilient infrastructureThey add both tangible and intangible value all year. Our green spaces allow us to better support our mental and physical health. Our groups also offer access to inclusive nutrition and fitness resources for the public.
Our groups are focused on addressing racial inequalities within our organizations and in fulfilling our missions. However, we recognize that there is much more to be done. As true partners, with leaders as well as in the community, we will continue to pursue these goals. We will be held accountable for bringing lived experience into decision-making. As we start another year, we work together towards a just Pittsburgh region and a sustainable future in policy and practice.
Signatories of this statement include:
Allegheny CleanWays – Myrna Newman, Executive Director
Allegheny GoatScape – Gavin Deming, Executive director
Allegheny Land Trust – Christopher Beichner, President and CEO
Audubon Society of Western PA – Jim Bonner, Executive Director
Pittsburgh Bicycle Rental – Scott Bricker, Executive Director
Breathe Project – Matthew Mehalik, Executive director
Communitopia – Katie Modic, Executive Director
Construction Junction – Mike Gable, Executive director
Friends of the Riverfront – Kelsey Ripper, Executive Director
Green Building Alliance – Jenna Cramer, Executive Director
Group Against Smog and Pollution – Patrick Campbell, Executive director
Grounded Strategies – Ariam Ford, Executive director
Grow Pittsburgh – Denele Hughson, Executive director
Hollow Oak Land Trust – Sean Brady, Executive Director
Keystone Energy Efficiency Partnership – Jeaneen Zappa is the Executive Director
Landforce – Ilyssa Manspeizer, Ph.D., Executive Director
New Sun Rising – Scott Wolovich, Executive
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy – Catherine Qureshi is President and CEO
Penn Future – Jacquelyn Bonomo, President
Pennsylvania Resources Council – Sarah Alessio Shea is Deputy Director
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden – Richard Piacentini President and CEO
Plant Five for Life – Christine Graziano, AICP, MLA, President
Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh – Alan Sisco, CEO
Riverlife – Matt Galluzzo is President and CEO
Riverwise – Daniel Rossi-Keen, Ph.D, CEO
Student Conservation Association – Jennifer Layman, Regional Vice- President
Sustainable Pittsburgh – Joylette Portlock, Ph.D., Executive Director
The Forbes Funds – Fred Brown, Executive Director
Three Rivers Waterkeeper – Heather Hulton Van Tassel Ph.D. Executive Director
Tree Pittsburgh – Danielle Crumrine, Executive Director
Triboro Ecodistrict – Brian Wolovich, Director
Upstream Pittsburgh – Michael Hiller, Executive Director
Urbankind Institute – Jamil Bey, Ph.D. CEO
Women for a Healthy Environment – Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, Executive Director
Western PA Conservancy – Tom Saunders, President & CEO