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Brag Alert: See Why This Year’s Fresh Voices for Clean Air Participants, Projects Were *Chef’s Kiss*

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

We will ask for your forgiveness now because we will be bragging in this blog. Honestly, our latest Fresh Voices for Clean Air cohort was just too good not to…But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, here.

We hope at this point, you’re thinking, “Tell me more about these Fresh Voices, GASP!”

Because we’re happy to oblige: Fresh Voices for Clean Air is a project of GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution here in Pittsburgh) and the Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (GASP) funded by our friends at the Grable Foundation.

Our air quality-focused non-profits hail from cities with similar industrial and environmental histories: While our smoky past had people calling the Golden Triangle “hell with the lid off” a century ago, Birmingham was nicknamed the “Pittsburgh of the South.”

“Both cities regularly experience some of the worst air quality in the nation - discovering and discussing the similarities and differences between experiences in these two regions was a key component of the collaboration,” our educator Laura Kuster explained.

The program - now in its second year - paired high school students here in Allegheny County with a group of their peers in Birmingham. The groups met virtually over the past 10 months to learn more about air quality and build skills to help them become even more effective environmental advocates.

They engaged in internal discussions, chatted with expert guest speakers like Sally Wenzel, Occupational and Environmental Health Chair at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and completed a team project that focused on two major incidents near their hometowns with MAJOR air quality implications: The East Palestine rail disaster in Ohio and the Moody Landfill fire in Alabama.

“By diving into different aspects of the incidents and sharing our findings, we hoped to clarify why it happened, how residents and government agencies responded, and what implications that are for the future,” Kuster said.

Both the research and the outreach materials our Fresh Voices participants crafted were outstanding. Seriously. Take a look for yourself:

While our Fresh Voices groups approached their work armed with data and facts, they never lost sight of how the incidents impacted real people. They explored the physical and emotional impacts those air quality emergencies had on the folks who lived near them.

You can check out that work, too. That - and more - is on our Fresh Voices for Clean Air page here.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also highlight a poem by one of our local participants, Rho, titled, “To the Politicians Who Keep Voting Against Our Planet."

You can watch them recite it here:

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