When President Trump announced yesterday that he was pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord, it was a shock to all, but particularly to the residents of Pittsburgh, who were given a direct nod in his speech. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said.
While his words may have sounded good on paper, the city’s residents weren’t impressed, taking to social media to let the POTUS (and the world) know that climate change is actually an issue that’s rather close to the city’s heart, and for good reason: Prior to taking drastic steps to fight pollution, it looked a little… different.
Pittsburgh’s citizens have begun flooding social media with photos of their once smog-filled town from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and on through the ‘70s while in the grips of deadly pollution, and, TBH, the pics are kinda’ terrifying.
Prior to 1941, when Pittsburgh passed a bill (which was fully enacted after World War II) that aimed to reduce coal production and therefore also reduce air pollution, the city of bridges was nearly unrecognizable. From factories pumping out smoke next to residential neighborhoods to air that was apparently once so thick that streetlights had to be kept on 24 hours a day (!!!), a lot of changes had to be made to get the city where it is today.
Not wanting to harm their local economy, which very much depended on coal mining, Pittsburgh residents set out to clean the air by using treated local coal. Eventually, they switched to natural gas and the regional railroad companies began using diesel locomotives as opposed to coal-powered trains. In short? It took a long time and a lot of hard work.
That’s why it was so difficult for many Pittsburgh residents to hear their home being used as an excuse to pull out of the Paris climate accord, an agreement which actually aims to protect them from the very real disastrous effects of pollution and climate change they’ve experienced firsthand.
The city’s mayor himself, Bill Peduto, even called out President Trump, saying that he’s giving false hope to coal miners seeking jobs and actually putting the US at risk of falling behind economically, as others such as Germany and Russia step up to embrace new financially friendly renewable energy initiatives.
What’s more, Peduto has now issued an Executive Order independently committing Pittsburgh to the Paris Climate Accords.
We guess we’ll just have to wait and see how the rest of the country responds — or start taking some serious action ourselves to protect our homes, our economy, and our planet. After all, these photos are not only a stark reminder of our country’s shared past, but also a seriously scary warning about our future.
Are you freaked out by the pics of Pittsburgh’s polluted past? Let us know @BritandCo!
(h/t CityLab; photos via Drew Angerer/Getty, Creative Commons)