An Update from the Climate Justice Collaborative

We Need a Change

An Update from the Climate Justice Collaborative

by Leslie Centola, UpstreamPgh Community Organization and Social Action Intern

The Climate Justice Collaborative (CJC) is celebrating several accomplishments in 2021, and is now deliberating what is next in 2022. Last year, the CJC focused on recruitment, community education, and stakeholder engagement. Residents of East Hills, Homewood, and Wilkinsburg gathered to examine the results of UpstreamPgh’s 2019 Equity Study, revealing drastic health disparities among the watershed communities. Residents from each community agreed to organize and begin working closely with UpstreamPgh to develop community goals and implement sustainable solutions.

Last fall, the CJC partnered with Allegheny Cleanways and East Hills Consensus Group, tackling several illegal dumping sites in East Hills. Regardless of freezing temperatures, residents, community stakeholders, CJC members, and UpstreamPgh staff, together, hauled off 6,859 pounds of dumped materials and 196 tires!

In Homewood, the Junior Green Corp (JGC) expressed interest in growing fruit and expanding their community garden. The CJC installed raised beds, planted pollinators, and built a trellis at Operation Better Block’s community garden on Frankstown Ave. As the JGC garden continues to plant seeds, opportunities for environmental education and engagement grow.

Wilkinsburg CJC members initiated meetings with various local organizations to assess community needs including capacity building and environmental education. After much deliberation and planning, the CJC was ecstatic to complete four Wilkinsburg projects. The first Wilkinsburg CJC project developed from a partnership with Covenant Fellowship Reformed Presbyterian Church and the International Fruit Tree Foundation to install an irrigation system that would supply the orchard and gardens with water. At Hosanna House, the CJC provided materials for the organization to revitalize their community garden beds, integrating environmental education for youth and other marginalized populations. The Civic Arts Center will receive several rain barrels that will supply water to the George Floyd Memorial garden–The arts center’s goal is to engage the community through activities such as tomato growing and canning. Lastly, the 2nd United Presbyterian Church plans to use CJC funding to expand their current growing capacity and in hopes of developing a community compositing program.

Despite challenges faced due to COVID-19, hope for our future and determination for change kept the CJC focused on community capacity building through equitable and sustainable practices. The experience has been a new one for UpstreamPgh, thus has provided us invaluable experiences and perspectives that will guide us (and hopefully others) in addressing environmental injustice in the watershed. We often overlook how unique each community is despite how they appear from the outside or how close in proximity they are. It is imperative we honor and respect these differences by educating ourselves about any community and its history, by demonstrating humility and compassion for others, and by being open to new ideas and concepts. It has been an honor for UpstreamPgh to work so closely with each of these communities. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the residents of the watershed for welcoming and supporting us, to CJC members for their gracious efforts, and to our UpstreamPgh members who made these projects possible.