During the COVID-19 crisis, the people of southwestern Pennsylvania have learned much about who we are, who we want to be, and the need for unity and leadership in the face of loss and uncertainty. The pandemic continues to cause great change, even as we navigate what it means to reopen. Recent events in Minneapolis and across the nation are reinforcing the critical need to intentionally address racism and develop systems that work for everyone.
This turbulent time presents a unique opportunity to rebuild a stronger, more resilient region together. A responsible recovery from COVID-19 and from our legacy of racism begins with addressing the essential challenges before us and planning our best next steps. Now is the time to build a society that is truly founded upon justice for all, and comes from understanding and respecting the interconnectedness of all people, our health, our environment, and our prosperity.
Tragedy has caused the nation to focus on rectifying discrimination in the criminal justice system that unfairly targets Black and Brown America. This type of discrimination is not the only evidence of structural racism in our society. We must acknowledge that racial justice is interwoven through all conversations, including those about health and the environment.
For example, as we have seen from CDC data, COVID-19 is widening existing racial gaps in health equity. Similarly, vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by pollution. A responsible path forward, and likewise, a responsible recovery, takes this into account and makes sure that workplace and government policies support, not hinder, our ability to be healthy and to fix our systems and communities so they are fair for everyone.
Our organizations stand aligned with all who are committed to building on this moment of anguish toward a just future.
A responsible path forward intentionally strengthens the resilience of our natural world and ensures a healthier region, including clean air, clean water, access to outdoor green spaces, and a stable climate—for all. Reductions in carbon emissions and increases in clean energy usage will help curb the increasing extreme weather impacts already being experienced in Pittsburgh, like flooding and poor air quality—also disproportionately felt.
A responsible path forward means, too, an investment in a sustainable, equitable economic future. Responsible stimulus investments in infrastructure, transportation, food systems, energy, etc. are tools to simultaneously advance our well-being, environmental performance and economic prosperity. Clean energy jobs are an important driver of regional job growth of which we should take full advantage.
However, to realize this promise, it is required that we remove barriers and be deliberate about an effort to ensure that Black and Brown residents, and others who have been excluded from full participation in the economy, are included.
Our organizations will use the wealth of knowledge and the resources we have to make connections, listen to community voices and priorities, and help create a responsible recovery from COVID-19 and from the terror of racism. This is a critical moment for the region, one where our moral path forward and practical measures for rebuilding align.
As organizations dedicated to promoting the conservation of this region’s natural assets and protecting the future of the people living in it, we urge other leaders in the region to be proactive in their planning. We have the tools to meet the challenges before us. Together, we will rebuild a more resilient, even greater Pittsburgh region, for all.