Justice, Race, and Responsibility
Above: Photo from the NEXTpittsburgh article, “More than 30 Pittsburgh environmental groups stand behind this statement on justice, race, and responsibility,” published on June 18, 2020.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the people of southwestern Pennsylvania have learned much about who we are, who we want to be, and the need for unity and leadership in the face of loss and uncertainty. The pandemic continues to cause great change, even as we navigate what it means to reopen. Recent events in Minneapolis and across the nation are reinforcing the critical need to intentionally address racism and develop systems that work for everyone.
This turbulent time presents a unique opportunity to rebuild a stronger, more resilient region together. A responsible recovery from COVID-19 and from our legacy of racism begins with addressing the essential challenges before us and planning our best next steps. Now is the time to build a society that is truly founded upon justice for all, and comes from understanding and respecting the interconnectedness of all people, our health, our environment, and our prosperity.
Tragedy has caused the nation to focus on rectifying discrimination in the criminal justice system that unfairly targets Black and Brown America. This type of discrimination is not the only evidence of structural racism in our society. We must acknowledge that racial justice is interwoven through all conversations, including those about health and the environment. For example, as we have seen from CDC data, COVID-19 is widening existing racial gaps in health equity. Similarly, vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by pollution. A responsible path forward, and likewise, a responsible recovery, takes information like this into account, and makes sure that workplace and governmental policies support, not hinder, our ability to be healthy and to fix our systems and communities so they are fair for everyone. Our organizations stand aligned with all who are committed to building on this moment of anguish toward a just future.
A responsible path forward intentionally strengthens the resilience of our natural world and ensures a healthier region, including clean air, clean water, access to outdoor green spaces, and a stable climate—for all. Reductions in carbon emissions and increases in clean energy usage will help curb the increasing extreme weather impacts already being experienced in Pittsburgh, like flooding and poor air quality—also disproportionately felt.
A responsible path forward means, too, an investment in a sustainable, equitable economic future. Responsible stimulus investments in infrastructure, transportation, food systems, energy, etc. are tools to simultaneously advance our well-being, environmental performance and economic prosperity. Clean energy jobs are an important driver of regional job growth of which we should take full advantage. However, to realize this promise, it is required that we remove barriers and be deliberate about an effort to ensure that Black and Brown residents, and others who have been excluded from full participation in the economy, are included.
Our organizations will use the wealth of knowledge and the resources we have to make connections, listen to community voices and priorities, and help create a responsible recovery from COVID-19 and from the terror of racism. This is a critical moment for the region, one where our moral path forward and practical measures for rebuilding align. As organizations dedicated to promoting the conservation of this region’s natural assets and protecting the future of the people living in it, we urge other leaders in the region to be proactive in their planning. We have the tools to meet the challenges before us. Together, we will rebuild a more resilient, even greater Pittsburgh region, for all.
Allegheny CleanWays, Myrna Newman, Executive Director
Allegheny Land Trust, Chris Beichner, President & CEO
Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, Jim Bonner, Executive Director
BikePGH, Scott Bricker, Executive Director
Breathe Project, Matthew Mehalik, Executive Director
Center of Life, Tim Smith, Executive Director
Communitopia, Katie Modic, Executive Director
Conservation Consultants, Inc., Jeaneen A. Zappa, Executive Director
Construction Junction, Mike Gable, Executive Director
Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, Emily A. Collins, Executive Director and Managing Attorney
Friends of the Riverfront, Kelsey Ripper, Executive Director
Group Against Smog and Pollution, Rachel Filippini, Executive Director
Green Building Alliance, Jenna Cramer, Executive Director
Grounded Strategies, Ariam Ford-Graver, Executive Director
Grow Pittsburgh, Jake Seltman, Executive Director
Homewood Children’s Village, Walter Lewis, President & CEO
Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance, Matt Elliott, Executive Director
Landforce, Ilyssa Manspeizer, Executive Director
New Sun Rising, Scott Wolovich, Executive Director
Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Brenda Lynn Smith, Executive Director
PennFuture, Jacquelyn Bonomo, President and CEO
Pennsylvania Resources Council, Justin Stockdale, Managing Director
Pennsylvania Solar Center, Sharon (Pillar) Grace, Founder and Director
Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, Richard V. Piacentini, President and CEO
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Catherine Qureshi, Acting Chief Operating Officer
Plant Five for Life, Christine Graziano, President
Riverlife, Matthew Galluzzo, President & CEO
RiverWise, Daniel Rossi-Keen, Executive Director
Student Conservation Association, Jennifer Meccariello Layman, Regional Vice President
Sustainable Pittsburgh, Joylette Portlock, Executive Director
The Forbes Funds, Fred Brown, President and CEO
Tree Pittsburgh, Danielle Crumrine, Executive Director
Triboro Ecodistrict, Brian Wolovich, Director
UrbanKind Institute, Jamil Bey, President
Venture Outdoors, Valerie Beichner, President & CEO
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Thomas D. Saunders, President and CEO
Women for a Healthy Environment, Michelle Naccarati- Chapkis, Executive Director