‘I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris’: Protest from Pittsburgh


On Thursday, President Trump announced to the world that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

His reasons? Combating climate change through the agreement is:

And, as if the agreement to reduce carbon emissions was some sort of subterfuge spun by the 195 countries that signed it in 2015 to coax the US, Mr Trump added these countries would no longer be “laughing”.

Following the speech there was international outrage. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel called the decision “utterly regrettable”, French President Macron, donned his own sardonic slogan to “make the planet great again”, and Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull was “disappoint[ed]”.

Yet, what instantly lit up the twitter-sphere was Mr Trump’s declaration that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto immediately piped up, denouncing Trump’s decision on twitter; assuring the world that Pittsburgh would continue to follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement.

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A reference used for mere alliteration or a careful consideration?

The city of Pittsburgh was once known as “Smoky City,” with smog at times so profuse that streetlights burned during the day. But it was in 1946 that then Mayor David Lawrence, launched a clean air and civic renaissance project, what he thought was critical to the city’s future economic development.

It was an enforcement that essentially raised the cost of living and threatened jobs in coal mines. Moreover, the booming steel industry Pittsburgh had relied on, once a city producing half the nation’s steel, soon after collapsed; meaning more layoffs and mill closures.

And it is through this mire- a history entrenched in job losses and failed industries- that labourers in the industrial steel town of Braddock (just outside of Pittsburgh) are choosing to swim to stand up Trump’s climate case.

Construction worker, Jim Ali said he likes Trump’s approach.

He said: “I do like it. You need somebody in there aggressive otherwise you’re gonna get stepped on, you know, and I don’t think we’re in a position to be stepped on, you know we’ve got enough problems around here ourselves. Let’s get this country back in shape.”

Trump’s base appears to be, unlike the climate deal, very much in-tact.

Hank Picklesimer, echoed Trump’s adage that “there’s no such thing as climate change”.

Despite spending a part of its history in the pits, Pittsburgh has reinvigorated itself. It has developed into one of the United States most vibrant hubs for innovation and technology.Trump failed to mention this in his speech which further riled the city’s mayor.

Peduto said that Pittsburgh is a “poster child …showing why the Paris agreement is good economics for the United States, and what [the US] did … sets us back decades.”

“In [Trump’s] speechwriter’s mind, Pittsburgh is this dirty old town that relies upon big coal and big steel to survive and he represents those people that are Pittsburgh, and he completely ignores the sacrifices that we made over 30 years in order to get back up on our feet, in order to be creating a new economy, in order to make the sacrifices to clean our air and clean our water and what he did is use us as this example of a stereotype in order to make a point and it missed completely,” Peduto added.

Such creativity and innovation can be seen in small technology start-ups such as Gecko Robotics, a company representing the future of Pittsburgh’s industry.

Gecko Robotics make robots to inspect facilities (mostly power plants) to make them more fuel efficient.Co-Founder, Jake Loosararian said that “one day fossil fuels will run out and that’s just a fact and so it’s extremely important as we look to many solutions to figure out ways that we can become sustainable”.

He added: “We make technology that helps reduce emissions level through better inspection and maintenance at these fossil fuel facilities but also looking towards renewable energies and make that more efficient as well.”

Whether Trump’s playoff between Paris and Pittsburgh has kept his base in orbit or knocked a few out of the sky is hard to decipher.

One thing is for certain, as US astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted from space, “Paris and Pittsburgh share the same environment after all.”

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