MOVIE: “The Salt of the Earth” is Worth Watching for Many Reasons.

The 2014 documentary “The Salt of the Earth” follows Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado as he artistically records the state of mankind and nature over a period of more than 35 years. The film begins with amazing views of workers in a Brazilian gold mine, and concludes with re-forestation in the Atlantic rain forest. Directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son Juliano, the award-winning film leaves the viewer with memorable images both good and bad. Available on NetFlix and YouTube.

Hearings on Mon-Fayette Expressway Extension


Completed in July 2012 at a cost of $1.8 billion, the current stretch of the Mon-Fayette Expressway extends from I-68 near Uniontown WV to Rte 51 in Jefferson Hills. Originally this PA Turnpike Commission (PTC) tollway was intended to travel along the Mon valley, though Hazelwood, and empty out near Brady Street n Oakland. That idea was squashed by Pittsburgh City Council, community groups, and environmentalists; citizens proposed a network of urban boulevards instead.

In a final attempt to complete the tollway, the debt-loaded PTC has proposed routing the last leg of the tollway from Jefferson Hills through Duquesne and across the Mon up Turtle Creek Valley to Monroeville. Citizens wishing to express their views on this more than $1 billion extension of the Mon-Fayette are encouraged to attend one of the following PTC public meetings, all held from 6 to 8 pm:

Tuesday, Aug. 9, Skyview Volunteer Fire Dept., 660 Nobel Drive, West Mifflin

Wednesday, Aug. 10, St. Agnes Center, Carlow University, 3325 Fifth Ave, Oakland

Tuesday, Aug. 16, Gateway Middle School, 4400 Old William Penn Highway, Monroeville

Wednesday, Aug. 17, Woodland Hills Jr/Sr. High School, 2550 Greensburg Pike, Churchill

For more information contact Renee Colborn, Manager of Media and Public Relations at 717 939-9551, Mon. – Fri. (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

Groups Urge PAT to ‘Green the Fleet’

In 2005 the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) purchased six hybrid-electric buses. This fall 75 ‘clean-diesel’ buses will replace a number of the old diesel buses. But at a June 24 meeting of the PAT Board members of Pittsburghers for Public Transit were joined by GASP and 350 Pittsburgh in supporting the idea of electric buses being a large part of PAT’s purchase of 200 buses over the next several years. PAT has already tested a couple of electric buses.  Chicago began operating electric buses in  2014, and with the range of the battery-powered buses steadily improving, can Pittsburgh be far behind?

Pittsburgh’s New, Wild, and Largest City Park

In a surprise and welcome move, on June 9 the City of Pittsburgh received a gift of 660-acres for what will become Pittsburgh’s largest park. The rugged undeveloped area includes the bluffs high above the Monongahela and across the river from Hazelwood.

When Charles Betters purchased the tract in 2003 he planned to build a horse-racing track, casino, shops, and residences atop the bluff, but first he needed to level the hill top and remove the coal. After strong opposition by residents and environmental groups the DEP permit was denied. Without the required approval for the casino, the project was abandoned in 2005. Since then Hays Woods has continued to mature, providing a quiet natural area for locals (hear audio), and home for a family of bald eagles.

Mayor Bill Peduto deserves our thanks for negotiating this gift. Now the challenge is for the City to properly manage any development in the new park according to the sustainability models adopted by Phipps Conservancy and the new Environmental Center at Frick Park, while also ensuring preservation of the wild nature of this urban gem so close to the heart of Pittsburgh. For the interim, the Urban Development Authority will be responsible for development, and will need to hold public hearings.

2016 Guide to Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets have everything going for them – fresh produce, locally grown, and an easy step to combat climate change. To find the market closest to you in SW Pennsylvania, check on this interactive map.

The Clean Rivers Campaign – Sewers, Dollars, and Community Co-operation for ‘Green First’

The following is based mainly on an article by Tom Hoffman that appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania newsletter ‘The Sylvanian’.

For four years a coalition of faith, low income, minority, labor and environmental organizations have been waging a campaign over how a portion of Southwestern Pennsylvania will spend $3 billion of residents’ money to end the practice of dumping 9 billion gallons a year of raw sewage into the three rivers.

On one side of this battle is the coalition, known as the Clean Rivers Campaign (CRC) that has fought for solving this problem with a ‘green first’ approach. This means we would invest those $3 billion in green infrastructure in a smart scientific way to keep as much storm- water as possible out of our sewers. Regions that have taken this approach have found that these investments bring many benefits back to
their neighborhoods such as local jobs, revitalized business districts, less flooding and a cleaner and healthier environment. Once we have done the maximum amount of green we would then figure out what other kinds of gray infrastructure we would need to finish the job of cleaning our rivers.

On the other side of the fight is the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority or ALCOSAN. They have been advocating for years that we need to build 14+ miles of tunnels under our rivers to catch all the storm water and sewage and hold it until the rain stops and then pump it out and treat it. This approach is outdated and does not bring back the multiple community benefits that a ‘green first’ approach has shown it can do in cities like Washington DC, Kansas City, New York and Seattle. As Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto likes to put it, “We need to invest in a sponge, not a funnel.”

The CRC coalition partners are Action United, Clean Water Action, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Pennsylvania Interfaith
Impact Network, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, and the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club has been in the campaign since day one and has played a leadership role particularly in working with the eighty-three municipalities that are part of the ALCOSAN service area.

Here are some of the reasons why the Sierra Club supports the campaign:

  • It is a model for how environmental campaigns should be organized.
  • It has built strong relationships between environmental groups and members of organizations that represent faith, labor, and low income and minority residents of this region.
  • It has helped bring new activated Sierra Club members into the campaign.

As Naomi Klein described in her book ‘This Changes Everything’, the fight for climate justice can be the issue that brings progressive movements together and the CRC is an example of how that can work.

We are talking REAL money here. There are about 200 cities across the country facing the same choice about how we solve. At an average of $3 billion per city that is HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS that will be spent fixing our country’s sewage in the rivers problem. Winning a sustainable way to spend that money is a fight we need to win.

A green approach is a climate strategy. Investing in green infrastructure is a way to build resilient communities that can withstand the effects of climate change at the same time it helps soak up carbon dioxide. Many of the communities that could receive these investments have traditionally been left behind because they are low income and or minority communities. These investments can redress that wrong. Building tunnels uses huge amounts of concrete which pumps carbon into the atmosphere. In the world after the Paris climate conference, nobody should be spending a half a trillion dollars on anything that doesn’t help the climate situation.

To learn more about the Clean Rivers Campaign, contact Tom Hoffman at

Video: Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food’

There are a variety of reasons why what we eat is of concern to environmentalists – waste from animal factories, water use, energy consumption, etc. There is also the question of what is actually healthy for us to eat, and that is what Michael Pollan discusses in the PBS video ‘In Defense of Food’. Pollan posits that the use of real ‘food’ is in decline, and processed products passed as ‘food’ are taking its place. In the video he advocates eating real food, although not too much, and eating mostly plants. It’s an interesting two hours. Bon appetit!

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