President Donald Trump famously said in June 2017 that he was elected “to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” as the reason why the U.S. wouldn’t agree to a world-wide deal aimed at curbing climate change called the Paris Agreement. (Read more about that here.)
That has a nice ring to it, but global warming doesn’t care whether you’re from the Steel City or the City of Light.
That’s why cities like Pittsburgh across the U.S. aren’t waiting for Washington to wake up to climate change. They have been moving toward green futures and acting to save or protect their communities from extreme weather.
Their words and work are featured in the new documentary “Paris to Pittsburgh,” to be released at 9 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, in the U.S. as a National Geographic film. You can see the trailer here. Later the film will eventually make its way to Paris as well as 171 other countries.
The mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto (pre-beard!), gets a lot of air time in the documentary. “There are now more jobs in renewable energy in the state of Pennsylvania than coal, natural gas and oil combined,” he states in the film, a factoid that made me take note. Who would have thought?
When I’m in Pittsburgh, as I was in October, one of my favorite places to hang out is the South Side. I enjoy taking walks along the South Side Riverfront Trail, all the way to Hot Metal Bridge, the last vestige of J&L Steel. The air is deceivingly clear.
I say deceivingly because Pittsburgh’s air quality is still one of the worst in the nation, with a major contributor being the Clairton Coke Works of U.S. Steel, which has long been in violation of air pollution rules. “The EPA ranks areas downwind … in the top 2% nationally for cancer risk from toxic air pollution,” according to the Clean Air Council. Why doesn’t the company invest and clean up the plant?
My native Pittsburgh and my adopted city of Paris both have a long way to go. Backwards is not a viable option. It’s true that Mr. Trump doesn’t represent the capital of France. But the U.S. is one of the top two polluters in the world, and when the smoke comes out of the pipe, it knows no borders.
Related post: Paris and Pittsburgh: Together Forever
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Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." You can also find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.