PennFuture Blog

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How we helped create "A Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities" and where we go next

Our mission at PennFuture is to protect the air, water, and land for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians. We act on this goal every day, from winning meaningful legal settlements, advocating for - and then winning - historic increases in clean water funding, and being on the forefront of identifying new (and sometimes esoteric) threats to our environment. 

However, we recognize that we are but one voice among many in the overall environmental, conservation, and environmental justice movements in Pennsylvania. To seek the change that we so desperately require, we recognize the need to join with a diverse group of partners and come together to speak with one clear voice. That is why this year, we were proud to work together with 29 other organizations across the state on the development of A Shared Vision for Pennsylvania’s Environment and Communities¸ a document directed towards all state level candidates, both gubernatorial and legislative, that lists the most pressing environmental issues facing the Commonwealth along with the policy proposals that will fix them.  

PennFuture served on the Steering Committee, alongside the Center for Coalfield Justice, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania (CVPA), Pittsburgh United, and Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter. I, along with my wonderful colleague Michelle Giles from CVPA, were honored to be selected to be the co-coordinators helping guide along the process from inception to completion.  

Our Shared Vision builds upon the great work of the “Green in ’18 Common Agenda”, a groundbreaking document that represented the first time that the Pennsylvania environmental community came together to list the top environmental issues facing the Commonwealth. This year, we wanted to build upon that great effort and expand it to be more even comprehensive.  

First and foremost, while the 2018 Common Agenda had an environmental justice section, we purposely decided early on that environmental justice principles and policy solutions should be interwoven throughout the entire document. In order to hold the Steering Committee accountable to this lofty goal, we held meetings with environmental justice groups before, during, and after the drafting of the document to ensure that their concerns and desires were being heard and adequately addressed. We then added two environmental justice members to the Steering Committee, Make the Road PA and OnePA, to ensure that our commitment remained steadfast. These meetings proved to be extremely valuable and helped shape our Shared Vision.  

Their input directly leads to two more concrete changes from the 2018 Common Agenda: expansion on the number of sections and inclusion of personal profiles. 

Our Shared Vision includes seven intertwining sections: Air, Water, Energy, Housing and Land Use, Labor, Democracy, and Education. We recognized that without protecting labor rights a transition to a green energy future is impossible. That without empowering and protecting our democratic institutions it will be impossible to protect our air & water. And that it is only with quality environmental education for all students, that we can build an understanding and appreciation for how our natural world impacts us among future generations.  

To ensure that these efforts are not mere abstracts, for each of these sections we selected a cross-selection of everyday citizens from throughout the four corners of Pennsylvania to talk about the immediate impact of the policies discussed. We believe that this adds a human touch to the Shared Vision, which reinforces the real-life benefits of our policies. 

We recognize that drafting the document is only the first step, and we are now working diligently to see it implemented. We officially launched the Shared Vision this week with a press conference at the Harrisburg Capitol Rotunda. And for the rest of August throughout the state there are events posted that will be open to the public they are: 

  • Southwest Pennsylvania, Thursday, August 11 at 12pm: Hear from community members about how the energy industry has harmed local communities in PA, and policy solutions to reduce pollution and environmental racism before candidates tour the harmful impacts of the energy extraction industry.
  • Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sunday, August 14 at 1pm, the Northeastern PA Pan African Coalition hosts their African Festival and graduation event for their Science, Conservation, Health, Engineering, Math, and Art children’s program. RSVP here!
  • Southeastern Pennsylvania, Monday, August 15 at 6pm: Join the League of Women Voters for a webinar highlighting the intersection between democracy and the environment. SIGN UP  
  • Lehigh, Thursday, August 18 at 6pm, explore the devastating health consequences of lead in PA’s aging homes, and policy solutions to protect children, families, and renters from poisoning, eviction, and displacement with Make the Road Pennsylvania, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, and the Allentown Environmental Advisory Council at the Mountainville Youth Center in Allentown. SIGN UP 

And we don’t intend to stop there. PennFuture and the other co-signers intend to build off our momentum this month, by using use the Shared Vision as a mechanism to educate the candidates seeking an elected position on the state level. After the elections, we intend to use this document as an education tool for incoming lawmakers and for the next gubernatorial administration. Finally, we intend to use this document over the next four years as an accountability tool, to see how much of the Shared Vision has been made reality.  

We at PennFuture are proud of this document and encourage you to read it and share it with your friends, family, and community. Only if we work together, can we make our vision of a just, sustainable Pennsylvania into reality.  

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