Phil Cynar

Green News Update Editor and Publisher Roberta Faul-Zeitler has been paying attention to – and writing about – green practices since 2004. Her keen interest in sustainability as “a path, not a destination” (as her newly designed e-newsletter masthead proclaims) put her on a path to Pittsburgh this May. Here she explored the inordinately large number of green and sustainability assets in a place once considered to be among the most environmentally compromised of destinations.

Pittsburgh, a new kind of “Emerald City,” has put green (with regard to R&D and investment dollars) into cleaning up – both the natural environment (including its signature three rivers and waterfronts) and its built environment. Pittsburgh is a globally recognized green building leader and an innovator and manufacturer of materials and other components that make existing and new construction energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Pittsburgh registered three of the first 12 LEED structures in the U.S. more than a decade ago, according to the Green Building Alliance. There are more than 83 LEED certified buildings in the city now, and approximately 75 percent of new buildings in Pittsburgh are pursuing LEED certification.

Some are going the extra green mile, including Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which this year opened its Living Building, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a net-zero water and energy facility that will be among the greenest structures on the planet.

Eden Hall Field Lab / Rendering Courtesy of Chatham University

Another green masterpiece in the works is Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus, located in about 25 miles from downtown Pittsburgh in northern Allegheny County. Ground was broken this fall for this ultra-green campus – the first academic community in the world built from the ground up for sustainable development, living and learning, Chatham officials say.

While in town this May to participate in a “green Pittsburgh” media study tour organized by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) and VisitPittsburgh – a tour with the grand opening of Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes as a focal point – Faul-Zeitler visited Chatham (where environmentalist and Silent Spring author Rachel Carson was an alumna) to learn more about the next major green project on the horizon for the region.

She dedicated space to Chatham’s visionary plan in a feature – “Greenest Campus in the U.S.” – in her Dec. 5, 2012 Green News Update. Read it here, and keep your eyes on the newsletter, which will be following the project.

The Allegheny Conference’s weekly business affairs TV show, Our Region’s Business, recently featured Chatham officials talking about plans for Eden Hall. Watch the interview here or below.


Click here to check out other stories that resulted from the the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance/VisitPittsburgh “Green Pittsburgh” media study tour. That May 2012 initiative brought 16 journalists from around the country and the world to learn about the Pittsburgh region’s energy leadership.

Phil Cynar
Nobel Laureate (and Pitt grad) Maathai Wangari

Pittsburgh has inspired and enabled great achievements by pioneers in environmental justice, medicine, art and sports. You can learn more here, but a sampling is below.

Kenya-born Wangari Maathai was a global leader on environmental and anti-poverty issues. She earned a master’s degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh and received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

A native of Springdale, a community along the Allegheny River just 18 miles northeast of the City of Pittsburgh and a 1929 alumna of Pittsburgh’s Chatham University, Rachel Carson was a marine biologist, conservationist and author. Her book, Silent Spring, is credited with advancing the global environmental movement. 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of its publication.

University of Pittsburgh researcher and professor Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first vaccine for polio – one of America’s most frightening public health crises – on March 26, 1953 in Pittsburgh. Widespread use of his vaccine is expected to globally eradicate this crippling disease.

Pittsburgh Pirates Right Fielder Roberto Clemente‘s breathtaking skills as a hitter helped the Pirates win two World Series. A native of Puerto Rico, Clemente was the first Latino in U.S. baseball to receive Most Valuable Player and World Series MVP awards and to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Pittsburgh-born leader of the pop-art movement beginning in the 1960s, Andy Warhol blurred the lines between art and life, commerce, film and celebrity. “The pop idea was that anybody could do anything.” Warhol is also often remembered for his quip, “everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Pittsburgh is home to The Andy Warhol Museum, the largest museum in the U.S. dedicated to one artist.

Born on Pittsburgh’s North Side in a neighborhood now called Allegheny West, Gertrude Stein was a writer, poet, art collector and feminist. She spent most of her life in Paris, nurturing such now-famous avant-garde artists as Matisse and Picasso, and expatriate American writers during the first half of the 20th century.

A native of Guatemala, Luis Von Ahn is a Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor and MacArthur “Genius” grant winner. He pioneered crowd-sourcing and the reCAPTCHA software used to digitize books and other printed text. His latest venture is Duolingo, a free language-learning website and crowd-sourced text translation platform.

Born to Portuguese parents in Mozambique, Teresa Heinz is an American businesswoman and philanthropist. She chairs The Heinz Endowments and Heinz Family Philanthropies, which help the Pittsburgh region thrive economically, ecologically, educationally and culturally.

Called “the father of modern transplantation,” Dr. Thomas Starzl, was the first to perform human liver transplants. A physician, researcher and organ transplant expert, Dr. Starzl has called Pittsburgh his home since 1981.

An American entrepreneur and engineer, George Westinghouse is the inventor of the railway air brake. This device enabled trains to be stopped – for the first time – with fail-safe accuracy by locomotive engineers and was eventually adopted on the majority of the world’s railroads. Westinghouse was also a pioneer of the electrical industry and one of Thomas Edison’s main rivals. A transplant to the Pittsburgh region from his native New York state, Westinghouse and his wife, made their first home in Pittsburgh in 1868.


Bill Flanagan
“A Streetcar Named Desire,” by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, is making its U.S. premiere in Pittsburgh. A number of other globally buzzed about arts and cultural events are soon coming to Pittsburgh as well.

Our region’s transformation story is drawing renewed interest.

Last week at the request of Global Pittsburgh, I hosted a group from the International Visitor Leadership Program that had included Pittsburgh on their U.S. itinerary. Their interest – what else?  The role of public-private partnerships in restructuring economies. The group was relatively small, about a half dozen, but it was varied. Participants represented Andorra, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. We had a great discussion about our region’s historic leadership in crafting public-private partnerships and the role such alliances played in our economic recovery and continue to play as we move into the future. The most gratifying part, at least from my standpoint, was to hear from our guests that they had just been to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., where they were told that if they really wanted to understand public-private partnerships, they had to come to Pittsburgh – that we truly are a “best practice.”

The Center for Michigan also used our region as a best-case example in “Rust and Rest: Reinventing Cities,” citing Chattanooga, Saginaw and Pittsburgh as examples of revitalization. I picked up the phone when they called, so I had a chance to share our story – one I always love telling.

And fDi Magazine, (Foreign Direct Investment), the Financial Times publication covering the business of globalization, called out the unique Pittsburgh Regional Alliance/Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra partnership in an article, “New Frontiers,” published in the February/March 2012 edition. It examines how some states and regions in the U.S. are courting emerging global markets for new investment. Free registration is required to view the article.

Speaking of public-private partnerships, we’re going to have another chance to share our story with the world in June, when Delta Air Lines Sky magazine runs a multi-page special feature on our region.  Sky last profiled our region in 2009  just as the Obama Administration announced it had invited the G-20 to our region. (I wish I could say this was strategic. Sometimes, as they say, it’s as nice to be lucky as good.)

The timing of all of this couldn’t be better. After all, we’re among the “Best of the World” in 2012, at least according to National Geographic Traveler. VisitPittsburgh has launched a multi-media marketing initiative to make the most of the recognition. The lineup of impressive national and international conferences, U.S. and world premieres, and grand openings this year is pretty impressive. Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra premiered “Silent Spring,” a new work it commissioned in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s book by the same name. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is up and running with its Distinctively Dutch Festival with events in the Cultural District, Oakland, the North Side and beyond through May 20. Also coming up is the U.S. premiere of “Streetcar Named Desire,” by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, a ballet that’s been the buzz of Europe since it was debuted by the Hamburg Ballet. In global dance circles, this is a big deal – it’s the first time a work by noted choreographer Jon Neumeier has premiered outside New York and San Francisco.

As you may be aware, the permanent home of “Desire,” the actual streetcar in the Tennessee Williams play, is at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Arden, Washington County. The ballet and the museum have teamed up for some really fun promotional pictures, which could only have happened here in our region.

Finally, Dateline Houston: we just got word about another big, international conference that’s on its way to our region, another win in VisitPittsburgh’s ongoing effort to attract major national and international conferences to our region. NAPE, the world’s largest “upstream” exploration & production expo, is launching NAPE EAST next year, with its inaugural events to be held in Pittsburgh in the spring of 2013. The selection of our region reflects our growing prominence as a new center of innovation in American energy. The expo is a joint effort of the American Association of Professional Landmen, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Clearly, there’s lots more to come.

Phil Cynar

Last week, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra gave Silent Spring – a new composition for orchestra inspired by the book of the same name – its world premiere at Heinz Hall.  This weekend, the PSO takes Silent Spring to Lincoln Center for a special matinee performance in the Big Apple.

Commissioned by the PSO and the Rachel Carson Institute, the composition is a part of a year-long celebration of the golden anniversary of the publication of the bestseller by Springdale native (and Chatham University alumna) Rachel Carson. Her writings are credited with setting the stage for the environmental movement in the U.S. and around the globe.

We recently featured a blog post about the world premiere and a video interview with Steven Stucky, the composer of the piece as well as the PSO’s Composer of the Year.  Revisit it here.

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.