fresh voices from the front lines of change







I am in Pittsburgh for the G20. I am working out of the Climate Action Network Media Center located at the August Wilson Center downtown.

The location of the G20 was switched to Pittsburgh in May, in order to showcase the city as revitalized by becoming an environmentally conscious community, transforming itself from an industrial economy to a green and knowledge-based economy. (The Institute for America’s Future has more on Pittsburgh, G20 and the new economy here.)

I was in Pittsburgh just a few weeks ago for the Netroots Nation conference, and it was a truly vibrant, exciting city.

But it is ironic that they chose to showcase Pittsburgh as a vibrant, revitalized city — because the G20 is here things are a bit different. Because of security concerns the city is largely shut down! The downtown is closed to automobile traffic and many downtown businesses have closed for the duration with employees either working at home or taking a holiday (many unpaid.)

I am at an upstairs window at the media center, overlooking a black security fence that must be 8 feet high. In fact, from the window of the Media Center here I am looking across the street – and on the other side of the security fence – at the main Netroots Nation hotel attached to the convention center. So those of you who attended NN know right where I am. This fence surrounds the area several blocks out from the convention center. Outside of this fence there is only light foot traffic, mostly news crews, security personnel and the occasional regular person walking around, looking sort of stunned because of all the security.

There are city police, state police, capital police, and I have even seen mounted police. And lots of police dogs. Many of them are wearing full security gear – the people, not the dogs. I read that there are 900 city police and 1200 state troopers, and 1000 visiting officers “from scores of other departments across the country.” And there are Secret Service, military in various forms, even Coast Guard patrols. There are military vehicles, assorted police vehicles, lots of black SUVs with flashing read and blue lights, horses, black limousines, and buses everywhere.

But take my word for it, Pittsburgh is, otherwise, a vibrant city.

The media center is filling up, and they are having environmentally-focused press conferences throughout the day here. I will try to stay on top of that, as well as the leaders and delegations who are flying in throughout the day, with welcoming ceremonies later in the day hosted by President Obama.

I’ll start looking at the issues in my ongoing posting from Pittsburgh.

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