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.

Sarah Baxendell, director of the Hilltop Urban Farm, points to the land set aside for (Photo by Teake Zuidema/PublicSource)

What does Pittsburgh’s Hilltop Urban Farm need to do to mitigate a food desert? Access to healthy food may only be a start.

It was raining nonstop, but that didn’t seem to have any effect on Sarah Baxendell’s enthusiasm as she showed visitors the future site of the Hilltop Urban Farm in Pittsburgh’s St. Clair neighborhood.

The 23-acre farm will grow food to sell, but its creators at the Hilltop Alliance are also planning to teach youth about agriculture and create a new generation of urban farmers. The farm will spin off into a stand-alone organization, and its staff hopes to transform what is now a food desert into an area “abundant with access to healthy food,” according to the farm’s website.

Ian Lipsky and John Stephens are working with neighborhood groups near the city's most deadly recent flooding disaster to bring an old stream back to life. They hope that when torrential rain comes, the water will flow into the Allegheny River instead of flooding.

Can reviving a 120-year-old stream stop dangerous flooding on Pittsburgh’s Washington Boulevard?

Neighborhood groups near the city's most deadly recent flooding disaster want to bring the old stream back to life so that when torrential rain comes, the water will instead flow into the Allegheny River. The resurrected stream would stop sewers from backing up and give water from the hills surrounding the road a natural place to go. But it would be the biggest and most expensive project of its type the city had ever undertaken.

Beaver County residents get little assurance on concerns about Shell cracker plant

More than 100 concerned residents of Beaver County attended a community meeting hosted by Royal Dutch Shell in the town of Beaver Tuesday night, hoping to get their questions answered about the potential environmental impact of the $6 billion cracker plant being built in their community. But some left with the feeling that their queries were unanswered. The meeting, the third planned by Shell, was held in the College Square Elementary School and opened with an hourlong presentation by company employees. Beaver residents Debbie and Rick Pentz attended the meeting with their granddaughter Alayna, hoping for answers, but found the meeting to be less informative than anticipated. Debbie Pentz had come prepared with a list of questions, including some inspired by PublicSource’s recent reporting on fenceline monitoring of pollutants entering the community.