ENVIRONMENT

Garden Warfare

Having a vegetable garden sounds like a gentle, relaxing and easy hobby. Dig a few holes in the dirt, put a few plants in, water, and before you know it — bushels and bushels of pest-​free, perfectly ripened vegetables in the summer.

Give a Little Whistle

It’s not until chapter 10 of Harper Lee’s famous novel that we are told of the magic of mockingbirds. Atticus Finch, lawyer and father extraordinaire, says, “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Benevolent Miss Maudie explains,…

Cokeless Steel?

Power companies aren’t alone in their shift away from coal. Steelmakers, industry groups and the federal government are spending millions looking for a way to make steel without coke, the carbon-​rich form of coal used to fuel blast furnaces. Like coal-​fired power generation, coke production is a major source of…

Petrochemical Alley

Shell Chemical Appalachia’s petrochemical complex has begun to rise from a dusty Beaver County brownfield that follows a slow bend in the Ohio River near Monaca. It took hefty tax incentives to secure it. The nation’s largest zinc smelter was razed to make room for it. More than 7 million…

Up in the Air, Part III

A decade ago, as Consol Energy’s 150th anniversary drew near, top executives began to take stock in where the company stood as a leading producer of coal and where that path would take it. Coal was in what CEO Nicholas DeIuliis called a “supercycle.” It was the workhorse of the…

Seeing Autumn Through a Spider’s Web

“I had never paid much attention to spiders until a few years ago. Once you begin watching spiders, you haven’t time for much else — the world is really loaded with them. I do not find them repulsive or revolting, any more than I find anything in nature repulsive or revolting, and…

Drilling for Answers

Well pads, compressor stations, diesel truck traffic. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves many moving parts, some of which have the potential to vent pollutants into the air southwestern Pennsylvanians breathe.

Golden Eagle: High, Wild and Here

Imagine the view from a thousand feet up. Snow-​mantled ridges cloaked in barren forest, angling southwestward as far as an eagle can see. On the northwest horizon stands a crisp urban skyline above the glint from three rivers. That’s the view golden eagles survey as they soar along the Laurel…

Finding the Waterfalls of the Middle Allegheny

When the last Wisconsin glacial age reshaped North America more than 10,000 years ago, it excavated the Great Lakes and carved out the Middle Allegheny River Gorge southward from the current-​day Allegheny Reservoir in Warren County down to Emlenton in southern Venango County. There, far above the river, the steep…

Exploring the Cherry Run Game Lands

Traveling east from our Pittsburgh plateau area to the central Appalachian Mountains in the middle of the state makes us aware of the vast and diverse lands of Penn’s Woods. Hikers and nature lovers can experience the unique characteristics of central Pennsylvania’s rugged mountain terrain by exploring the Cherry Run…

Up in the Air, Part II

At the Clairton Public Library in the industrial Monongahela River valley, patrons can check out “Moby Dick,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the adventures of Curious George and any number of Nancy Drew mysteries. They can read issues of Vogue and Popular Science. They can take home the music of Elton…

Living Dangerously

Despite the improvement in the region’s air quality in recent years, southwestern Pennsylvania still fails to meet federal health-​based standards for various major air pollutants, such as ground-​level ozone, sulfur dioxide and fine particulates, known as PM2.5. And that regional pollution elevates risks of cancer, respiratory ailments and other serious…

Does Air Quality Matter to Young Workers?

As their due date neared last fall, Ryan Poling and his wife faced a difficult decision. Did they want to raise their daughter in Pittsburgh, the city in which they’ve built a life during the last nine years, or pick up and move across the country, near Poling’s family in…

Building the Buzz

On a brisk October morning, Dr. Bill Bookwalter dons a billowy, white beekeeping suit complete with veil and hikes up a hill behind his Fox Chapel home to harvest honey. Most days, you’ll find him in surgical scrubs, but during his downtime, Bookwalter, a neurosurgeon, practices apiculture: he maintains colonies…

A Modest Proposal

by Marino Parascenzo
Mother Nature has a sense of humor and the soul of Monet. The change in the yard was startling. In just a week it went from being a crabgrass plantation to a breathtaking carpet of fluffy, soft-​white clover, a pastel hand-​delivered from the French master himself. But lawns are supposed…
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