Urban Ecologist and Professor, Dr. Marijke Hecht shares how design patterns influenced by systemic racism affect green space and the plant and pest variety in cities across the country and Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Courtesy photo)

Better nature, better relationship, better planet — A conversation with a Pittsburgh urban ecologist

Are discussions about the non-human natural world relevant to folks outside of climate change and environmentalist circles? After listening to Pittsburgh urban ecologist Marijke Hecht, you’ll understand how everyone plays a role in creating the environment. For episode 6, we’re reviewing a Science Magazine article on how design patterns influenced by systemic racism affect green space and the plant and pest variety in your neighborhood. Do you see more weeds or butterflies where you live? Hecht discusses her work as an urban ecologist and how community design, race and mental health are all related in Pittsburgh’s environmental ecosystem.

Microplastics found in waterways across PA, including 7 in Allegheny County. Why it’s dangerous and what you should know.

Microplastics were found in major waterways across Pennsylvania, according to a study released on March 3 by PennEnvironment. Researchers found microplastics, which are fragments of plastic less than 5 millimeters in length, in all 300 water samples taken from 53 waterways in the state, including seven waterways in Allegheny County. The study found microfibers from clothing and textiles in all of the waterways sampled. Microfilm from flexible plastics like bags or packaging was found in 94% of samples, and 87% of the waterways had microfragments present from harder plastic products. One body of water had microbeads from cosmetic products. 

In Allegheny County, five of the waterways — the Allegheny River, Nine Mile Run, Ohio River, Sewickley Creek and Turtle Creek — had fiber, fragment and film microplastics present.

Homeowner Erik Fogt. (Photo courtesy of Solar United Neighbors.)

Solar co-ops create another avenue of renewable energy in Allegheny County

This story was originally published by NEXTpittsburgh, a news partner of PublicSource. NEXTPittsburgh is an online publication about the people advancing the region and the innovative and cool things happening here. Sign up to get NEXTpittsburgh free. When the sun does shine again in our region, it will bring more than just smiles to residents in the Allegheny River boroughs of Etna, Sharpsburg and Millvale. The Triboro communities are the next locales where Solar United Neighbors (SUN) is offering a solar co-op to make buying residential rooftop solar panels easier and less expensive. But, says Henry McKay, SUN’s state program director, anyone in Allegheny County who is interested can join this co-op.

Allegheny County is drafting a rule that would require U.S. Steel to take action during high-pollution days

In mid-December, the state of Pennsylvania issued a warning to residents in the Mon Valley: The forecast wasn’t about the snow but about the poor quality of its air during a temperature inversion. This follows a streak of poor air quality last winter, and more recently. One day in November, air pollution in the Mon Valley reached 129 micrograms of fine particulate matter. The 24-hour standard set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] is 35 micrograms per cubic centimeter (µg/m3). This level is considered especially unhealthy for sensitive groups like children, the elderly and people with asthma. 

The air also exceeded the state standard for hydrogen sulfide for seven days straight during a temperature inversion in early November.

2020 in pictures: A journey through a year like no other in Pittsburgh

No one will forget 2020. Pandemic, protests, the election — and yet everyone has experienced 2020 in their own way. While its effects appear to cut across lines of class, race and gender, 2020 has also been a year to expose and attenuate the profound inequalities in our society. These photographs are taken from a personal account of a shared experience, of a journey through a year like no other. They provide, on occasion, a first-hand account of some of the year’s major events, seen from our small city. 

Nestled between the Northeast and the Midwest, Pittsburgh is unique, quirky, specific — and a barometer of the country as a whole.