fresh voices from the front lines of change







Mr. President, when you took our country out of the global agreement to stop climate change, you said you  “represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” As a proud native of western Pennsylvania, I strongly disagree.

You do not represent Pittsburgh. Our people overwhelmingly rejected you at the ballot box, and we have seen your brand of charlatanism before.

Photo credit: Bobak Ha'Eri, Wikimedia Commons

For generations, glorified highwaymen like you have come to exploit the people and land of western Pennsylvania, and gorged themselves on their spoils. These salesmen claimed gold would rain down on us, if only we let them dump toxins in our rivers. We didn’t buy it then, and we don’t buy it now.

I was born and raised about 20 miles from the first American oil wells, in Titusville, PA. With the easy oil spent long before I showed up, I grew up with a front-row seat for what happens when the well runs dry. The company men who made profits are long gone, and what remains is towns that struggle with a declining tax base and a rudderless economy, fighting the disease of addiction. So when a slick businessman turns up and promises rainbows, at the expense of the health of our people and planet, I have seen there's no pot of gold at the end.

Rights for workers and protections for of our land and water are victories that had to be fought for and won by the people of western Pennsylvania from highwaymen like you.  Some of these victories came more than a century ago. And yet here you are, making the same, stale, pitch.

Mr. President, you represent the past, not the people of Pittsburgh. While you claim regulations “kill jobs,” Pittsburgh knows that regulations save lives, and clean energy creates jobs.

Pittsburgh is one of only 25 cities designated as a Solar America City, by the Department of Energy. The city is on its way to reducing carbon emissions by 1.3 million tons by 2023. There are over 66,000 clean energy jobs in Pennsylvania, with the number increasing by 15 percent in two years. And in 2015, hundreds demonstrated support for the Clean Power Plan at EPA hearings in the city.

You discriminate against people for their faith, but Pittsburgh knows strength comes from the value of our differences. We are the City of Bridges, not walls. Coal and steel did not build Pittsburgh: people did. People from all across the world came our city and worked in mills and mines, side by side.  Nearly 1 in 10 people in Pittsburgh were born in a different country. We, despite our differences, have fought and won collectively for a place that respects our labor.

Mr. President, Pittsburgh is a city of the 21st century. While we still have a long way to go, we refuse to go back.  New services and industries prioritize our city’s greatest asset: its people.

Instead of working to ensure prosperity extends to all Pittsburghers, or fixing toxic infrastructure,  or supporting our public education system, you play to an old caricature of the city to justify your termination of an international agreement to stave off unprecedented global calamity.  While your mentality might be stuck in the last century, Pittsburgh is moving into the future, with or without you.

Many people in Pennsylvania believe these policies should go further. Last year, Keystone Progress held public hearings across the commonwealth gathering comments from hundreds of residents from Erie to Philadelphia to build a People’s Clean Power Plan. In addition to new guidelines on emissions, people across our state call for economic justice and energy sovereignty. While developing renewable sources helps the climate, decentralizing the energy source also offers many new opportunities for work.

Mr. President, Pittsburgh is not your punch line.  Your speechwriters probably chose us from a Google search of “cities that start with P,” but we are indeed on the front lines of climate change, and we will bear the cost of your bad choices.

If we stay the course you have set and do nothing to halt climate change, both Pittsburgh and Washington, DC will be coastal cities as New York and Boston sink below the rising tide of warming oceans.

Mr. President, Pittsburgh is proudly part of the planet we share. The people of Pittsburgh breathe the same air as the people of Paris and Poland and Palau.  You represent profits for the few, not the People of Pittsburgh.

Daniel Doubet is the Executive Director of Keystone Progress, Pennsylvania’s largest and most effective progressive organization.

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