Photo courtesy Tree Pittsburgh.

This statement is from a coalition of Pittsburgh environmental groups. The group asked NEXTpittsburgh to publish this letter but we were not part of its creation. 

At the start of the pandemic, Pittsburgh’s environmental community came together with intention in new and unanticipated ways, on a path toward equity and justice. Over a year and a half later, on the heels of the global COP26 climate conversation and our local elections, racial inequities are still making headlines. Here we affirm the progress made, but together we issue a renewed call to action around priorities that closely align the steps we take with the needs of the communities we serve.

To create a sustainable future, we must meet the fullest needs of all people in our communities, for today and tomorrow. Our shared priorities include working with communities to develop inclusive and equitable climate solutions, from buildings and energy to climate change education.

We are working to create jobs that are good for both the economy and the environment, and working to build safe and fair transportation systems, including safe streets for active transportation. We are working to erase disparities in exposure to environmental risks, healthy home renovations, and to improve green spaces where all belong. We are working closely with regulatory partners to build better stormwater infrastructure to reduce and ultimately eliminate flooding and sewage entering our waterways, roadways and homes.

We promote knowledge transfer training, and policy development to underpin and speed these shifts. Racial justice is continuously interwoven through all conversations and work: human and environmental health are inextricably connected, and disproportionately impacted communities need community resources to help navigate wellness on all fronts.

Healthy Pittsburghers need family-sustaining jobs, work that broadly responds to a changing economy and extreme climate impacts. We are elevating the need for ongoing utility company and public investment into an energy efficiency-focused workforce. These jobs are by their nature local and resistant to outsourcing, and the work cuts energy costs for all consumers.

Our organizations offer paid training and holistic supports for people re-entering the workforce or facing serious barriers to employment, and first-time workforce experiences for regional youth, providing a wide range of land stewardship including natural areas management and skilled maintenance of green stormwater infrastructure. We are working with businesses and local governments, developing tools that identify and help track equity-focused actions organizations can take, helping us collaboratively address the challenges of health, inequity, workforce development, and climate change.

Our groups have been unrelenting in working to eliminate lead in our communities, a challenge disproportionately impacting Black families. Lead affects developing babies and young children, and prevention is the aim since there is no safe level for human health. Work remains, despite the fact that local leaders have, rightly, prioritized lead water line replacements in neighborhoods and schools.

Our organizations have committed to targeting tree planting efforts in areas feeling the heavy impacts of environmental injustices. Trees clean the air, absorb excess rainwater, and lower energy costs — improving health along the way. Safe parks and inviting green spaces are elements of resilient infrastructure that add tangible and intangible value to our lives year-round. Sustaining our green places allows us to better support our physical and mental health, and our groups also provide access to inclusive fitness and nutrition resources and activities for the public.

While our groups focus to address racial inequities, both within our organizations and in fulfilling our missions, we understand that much more needs to be done. We are committed to these pursuits as true partners, with leaders and in the community, accountable for centering lived experience in decision-making. As we begin another new year, we walk together toward a just Pittsburgh region for all and a sustainable future, in policy and practice.

Signatories to 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

Bike Pittsburgh – 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, Executive Director

Landforce – Ilyssa Manspeizer, Ph.D., Executive Director

New Sun Rising – Scott Wolovich, Executive

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy – Catherine Qureshi, President and CEO

Penn Future – Jacquelyn Bonomo, President

Pennsylvania Resources Council – Sarah Alessio Shea, 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, 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 and CEO

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