Over 200 Pittsburghers gathered at Phipps Conservatory Sunday March 29th to discuss the future of climate change action in the region.The group Citizens for Pennsylvania Future (Penn Future) organized the event – bringing together activists, government workers and scientists together – to talk about recent major developments in energy and the environment.
Pennsylvania’s a coal state – responsible for 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – but now the state’s on the precipice of a new era for energy use and production. After decades of talking about climate change and the need for dramatic action, 2009 looks to be a watershed year.
Suddenly there’s lots of money for solar & wind energy production and for improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and infrastructure. But the big question remains: will people change their lifestyles in response?
George DeBolt takes us through the life and decline of Homestead, a town in the Mon Valley area of Pittsburgh, via his own life story. He recounts getting conscientious objector status in front of a conservative draft board, living in a prominent Protestant family in a working class Catholic neighborhood, and how he discovered his grandfather’s secret labor history. George also details Homestead’s radical labor activism as its steel mills closed in the 1980s, with protests involving hundreds of dollars in pennies, dead fish, skunk oil, safe deposit boxes, and Sunday school invasions.
As industry in the Mon Valley collapsed, its leaders did little to keep the neighborhood alive, instead relying on pie-in-the-sky schemes, involving Steven Spielberg, Buick World, Disney theme parks, Saudi sheikhs, and the state lottery. George describes all the schemes, along with his own attempts to improve the area, as well as invoking the wisdom of Liza Minnelli.
In the first half hour, Mandy Jones and Julie Rea of the Simon Community NI discuss why homelessness is on the rise in Belfast, how their group works to address it, and what results they’ve seen. In the second half, Carla Pflueger talks about owning and working in Wilma’s Candy & Fudge Factory over the past twenty-some years. She and her husband Harold started the business in the basement of their home in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania and sold it 2 years ago. Carla talks about the art of making candies, the catastrophes that can happen in a chocolate factory, and what life after chocolate holds for her.