Phil Cynar
Rachel Carson

The book that launched an era of environmental awareness and action around the world has also inspired an orchestral composition by the same name – and both are uniquely tied to Pittsburgh.

The book was Silent Spring – a runaway bestseller by marine biologist, Springdale native and  1929 Chatham College alumna Rachel Carson. Sounding an alarm about polluting the environment and the resulting ecological degradation, Silent Spring has been regarded as one of the most influential books of the 20th century. This year marks the 50th anniversary of its publication.

A new composition – Silent Spring (2011) for Orchestra – has been commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Rachel Carson Institute to celebrate the milestone of this literary opus’s publication. The composer of the musical tribute is Pulitzer Prize Winner Steven Stucky. Born in Kansas, and raised there, as well as in Texas, Stucky is the PSO’s 2011-2012 season “Composer of the Year.”

It seems fitting that Silent Spring for Orchestra will have its world premiere on Feb. 17 in Pittsburgh. The region Carson once called home has also achieved a dramatic environmental renaissance, which saw the region’s air and water reclaimed from the ravages of heavy industry from the post-World War II period through today.

Stucky reflected – in his program notes for Silent Spring – that he was delighted, yet also perplexed, when asked to create the musical tribute. “[How do you] make a connection between science and music, or more to the point between her sciene and my music?  I reread Silent Spring … and reveled again in the distinctive mixture of hard science and eloquent lyricism that defines her voice. But how to make music about that?  I didn’t try to.”

Instead, Stucky fashioned a tone poem (an orchestral work based on literature ) that’s one movement with four sections. Each of the four sections is inspired by the titles of four of Carson’s writings:  The Sea Around Us, The Lost Wood and Rivers of Death (both are chapter titles in Carson’s work), and – of course, Silent Spring itself.

Stucky hopes the work allows listeners to reflect on the delicate balance between people and the planet. As Stucky said, “[Her writing] gave us the heart to change some of our habits.”   Pittsburgh is proof positive that habit changes can be transformative.

Watch the PSO video below to hear Composer-of-the-Year Stucky speak with WQED-FM’s Jim Cunningham.

Meet Stucky in person at Chatham University from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. on Feb. 15 where he’ll give a talk about the connections to Carson and the role of her writing in the themes of his music. Learn more about this opportunity and other Chatham University events to celebrate Alumna Rachel Carson and the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring’s publication.

Visit the PSO website for ticket information for the Feb. 17 PSO concert, featuring the world premiere of Silent Spring.

Ben Kamber
Bayer's EV charging station at its North American headquarters in Pittsburgh

Employees of Bayer Corporation in Pittsburgh now have further incentive to take a look at the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf when shopping for a new car. That’s because the global materials science company has installed an electric vehicle (EV) charging station at its North American headquarters in Robinson Township, and use of it is free to all employees.

Bayer’s EV charging station is now one of only eight within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburgh, but that number is about to grow. The “Energy 376 Corridor,” a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection funded project, will create a corridor of 45 EV charging stations – one of the nation’s largest – along Interstate 376. Part of the corridor, Bayer’s EV charging station will promote electric vehicle ownership while underscoring the company’s commitment to sustainability in all forms.

Located next to its net-zero energy EcoCommercial Building, Bayer’s EV charging station is the latest in the company’s planned $17 million investment to create what’s been dubbed a “Workspace of the Future.”  This project, with a planned June 2013 completion, will sustainably renovate several of Bayer’s buildings, creating a more friendly and collaborative environment for employees.

To learn more about the “Energy 376 Corridor” project, check out Bill Flanagan’s Our Region’s Business interview with Jan Lauer of Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities and Eaton Corp.’s Dan Carnovale. Both represent two of the 19 local organizations and companies that brought this ambitious project to fruition.

Bonnie Pfister

In just four months, the Green Workplace Challenge has dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions and saved impressive quantities of water and energy.

The year-long challenge is an initiative organized by Sustainable Pittsburgh to encourage business owners and property managers to use less water, electricity and natural gas in their day-to-day operations.

More than 50 entities are participating in the challenge that began in September, from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses to non-profits.

So far the companies together have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 497 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – roughly equal to the emissions produced by 97 airplanes flying 500 miles. Participants saved more the 5 million kilowatt hours of energy – the amount used annually by a neighborhood the size of Pittsburgh’s Regent Square. They also saved 253,000 gallons of water – the equivalent used by a typical U.S. household over an entire year.

“This friendly competition is accelerating sustainable policies and practices in southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Matthew Mehalik, program manager at Sustainable Pittsburgh and organizer of the challenge. “Imagine what we could do in terms of resource efficiency and cost savings if we doubled or even tripled the number of businesses participating.”

In the large business category of 1,000+ employees, Highmark and UPMC are tied with 28 (out of 50) points each. Bayer Corp.  is the next runner up with 21 points. In the mid-size business category, (50 to 999 employees) Del Monte Foods is edging out Michael Baker Corp. with 39 points compared to 35.

In the small business category of fewer than 50 employees, Pashek Associates and evolveEA are leading the charge.

“Sustainability is about wealth creation,” said Valerie Patrick, sustainability coordinator at Bayer Corp. “During the industrial revolution, wealth creation came from gains in labor productivity. In the future, smarter use of resources will be the source of prosperity.”

The Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge is an initiative of Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Champions for Sustainability business network. More information about the GWC, including a list of participating businesses, is available here or by contacting Amanda Virbitsky at gwc AT sustainablepittsburgh DOT org.

The next Green Workplace Challenge workshop is scheduled for Feb. 24 at the Regional Enterprise Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh. The workshop will be beneficial for small and medium sized businesses that do not have full-time sustainability program staffers and others seeking help in navigating energy portfolios.

Bill Flanagan

Pittsburgh’s got big shoes to fill if we want to realize our potential as the new center of American energy – and not just the boots of roustabouts in the shale gas industry. Our region’s writing the book on energy – from coal, natural gas and nuclear, to renewables, smart grid, and green building. We’ve also got the financial and legal expertise to support new and growing energy businesses, along with the environmental expertise to do it better than anybody else.

And, we’ve got a great workforce, the true “power of Pittsburgh.”  But we’re going to need more skilled workers to meet the demand in the not-too-distant future.  You see, there’s already a skills gap.  Check out the job search engine at www.PowerofPittsburgh.com and at any given time you might find a couple of thousand openings. And that’s not including the thousands of open jobs in other industries you can find at www.ImaginePittsburgh.com.

We’re not just talking engineers and other college graduates (although we need them, too).  We need people who like to work with their hands as well as their heads, and who want to find a well-paying job with a bright future; the skilled trades that really make the energy industries and their suppliers work.

We’ve gotten a start with ShaleNET, a workforce development initiative that trains people from around here to fill the jobs that have been springing up in the shale gas industry. More than 1,000 of them have jobs in the industry. ShaleNET, co-founded by Westmoreland County Community College and Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport and their partners, is now building certificate and 2-year degree programs with a new focus on midstream (and even downstream) occupations. It’s a classic example of the ingenuity and collaboration that is making our region a national model when it comes to meeting future energy needs, another example of the Power of Pittsburgh.

Now we’ve just got to get out the word.

So, on behalf of the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh and its “Energy to the Power of Pittsburgh” campaign, we decided to do it in a big way – by running an ad on WPXI-TV during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl broadcast on NBC-TV.  We want people to know that there is opportunity in our region.  It’s about more than jobs, it’s really an opportunity to help reinvent the way the world produces, distributes and uses energy.  And there’s no place better-positioned than Pittsburgh  to make it happen.

If you’d like to stay current on opportunities in our region, subscribe to ImaginePittsburghNow.com, the blog about the people, places and events that are moving the region forward.  Get updates directly to your email address via RSS,  ”like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/PittsburghRegion) and follow us on Twitter (@ImaginePgh).

Ben Kamber

November 2011’s TEDx conference in Pittsburgh brought together a dynamic mix of highly accomplished academics, researchers, musicians, filmmakers, social entrepreneurs and civic leaders all under the theme of Power – in its many manifestations. Power, often associated with sheer human or organizational strength, took on a broader meaning at the conference, as the region’s preeminent thought leaders presented ideas and innovations that intend to bring about or inspire positive, powerful change.

One of the presenters, Daniel Schnitzer, a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. candidate, spoke about his work to eradicate energy poverty. Throughout the world, more than two billion people lack access to modern energy sources, Schnitzer remarked.  As a result, these people rely on expensive, inefficient and environmentally detrimental fuels such as charcoal and kerosene to cook their meals and heat their homes.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Modern, cleaner-burning energy technologies exist right now that are – in the long term – cheaper. What’s at issue then? Access. The supply chains needed to deliver these energy technologies to the people who need them most simply aren’t in place in many areas around the globe.

To combat this, Schnitzer founded Earth Spark International an organization that works to develop the supply chains needed to bring clean, energy efficient technologies to the people who can most benefit from them. Watch his TEDx Pittsburgh presentation below to learn more.

In his talk, Pitt’s Political Science Department Chair Barry Ames citied the once oft-heard quip, “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.”  How times have changed for the world’s fifth largest country.

Today, Brazil is viewed by many as a modern day success story, a country developing rapidly in a world defined by vast uncertainty. Across a number of measures – from educational opportunity to poverty numbers to energy exports – Brazil is operating at unprecedented levels. The country’s economy is now the world’s seventh largest, and it weathered the recession better than most nations.

How did South America’s largest nation get to this point?

Ames argues that the answer cannot be found simply in Brazil’s successful economic policies or its strong political institutions. Rather, the answer lies in the way institutions, society and history have interacted over time. These complex interactions allowed positive change to take effect in a country that, among many other successes, is now a world leader in renewable energy.

Keep a lookout for more TEDx Pittsburgh talks in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, check out our post from Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky and Bayer Corporation’s CEO and President Greg Babe for their thoughts on innovation and transformation as they relate to the region and the nation.

Ben Kamber

On Jan. 26, WQED aired the latest in its series of programs devoted to the opportunities and concerns related to the Marcellus Shale. This time, the focus was on the economic impact that natural gas is having on the region – now and into the future .

A panel of experts from a variety of disciplines  answered questions from hosts Michael Bartley and Tonia Caruso as well as from everyday Pittsburghers via “man-on-the-street” interviews and social media outlets.

The Allegheny Conference’s own Dennis Yablonsky participated in the panel discussion,  detailing the depth and breadth of the opportunity that natural gas represents for the region. He was joined by Michael Krancer, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of PennFuture; Thomas Murphy, co-director of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research; and Matt Pitzarella, director of corporate communications and public affairs at Range Resources.

The robust discussion provided a framework for understanding some of the key issues related to shale exploration and extraction. You can watch the full, one-hour special on WQED’s “Managing Marcellus” website here.