Pittsburgh City Council members deserve a lot of credit. In standing up for the health and future of city residents, they have resisted the temptation of rapid industrialization. (And the cold, hard cash that could accompany it.) In voting to ban gas drilling in the city, they are aiming to protect communities, culture, and the ideals of creative residents that strive to hold the city up to the “most livable city” title. Residents of Pittsburgh take pride in the transformation of the city from the soot, smog and rust image of the past, to a place of environmental and high-tech innovation. Concern for the environment is a common topic in Pittsburgh. It is prevalent in art exhibitions, in eco-friendly small businesses, in outdoor groups, and in almost every educational program that I have been a part of. Kayaking in the river is now a regular pastime. New bicycle and pedestrian paths wrap along the rivers and connect communities. Pittsburgh is also known for restoration of buildings and creative reuse initiatives. Fishing in the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela has also become popular. Two nationally televised fishing tournaments have been held in Pittsburgh within the past ten years. Thirty years ago, fishing in Pittsburgh was abysmal. Even with the positive changes, a lot more can be done. Cancer rates in Western Pennsylvania are high. Sewage still overflows into the rivers with every hard rain. Chemicals from sewage water are entering waterways, causing biological changes in certain fish species. All in all, and despite economic struggle, Pittsburgh is moving in the right direction.
What worries me now is the level of greed exhibited by the gas extraction companies. They want access to every last acre of land in the state and will use every method of deception possible to get it. In the near future, they may buy local news media. (It appears that they have already bought off KDKA) They will employ corporate psychologists and sociologists to figure out ways to turn residents against one another. They will attempt to destroy the reputations of local politicians that are protecting us. They may find ways to purchase political seats. They may even find ways to spin their opposition into communists, anarchists, or threats to homeland security.
The Pittsburghers that I know will not let any of this happen. At least as long as communities stick together. If the land we call Pittsburgh is sold, the people embodying the culture, innovation, and ideals that we call Pittsburgh will pack up and move elsewhere.