G20 Host City Showcases Green Technology



Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was once known as an industrial city where the skies were blackened with emissions from the steel mills that drove the local economy.  But when world leaders gather there September 24 and 25 for their economic summit, they will find a city that has moved to the fore in environmental and energy saving technology. 

The G20 will open its summit in one of the most beautiful spots in Pittsburgh - a huge glass-enclosed public garden that is a source of civic pride.

"It is a very inspirational place, a peaceful place, a very serene place," said Richard Piancentini, executive director of Phipps Conservatory.

Piancentini says Phipps was chosen for more than its beauty.

"We also think Phipps was selected because of what it represents," he said. "It is a very good example of some of the things of transformation that we have seen take place in Pittsburgh right now."

They do not just grow plants at Phipps anymore. They grow innovation.

The latest addition to Phipps - a tropical forest - is believed to be the most energy efficient conservatory in the world.

The unique design provides for natural heating and cooling - including a unique system of vents and underground pipes to bring in fresh air.

"It is like getting free air conditioning," he said. "It is not using any electricity but it helps keep the whole space cooler."

The commitment to green technology is also evident in the city's convention center - the main summit venue - which has won awards for its environmentally-friendly construction and design.

All this is taking place in a city that was once a prime contributor to global warming.

At the height of the steel industry, Pittsburgh was shrouded in industrial pollution.  Long time residents - like Joseph Sabino Mistick - say for years the only time you could see the sky was when the steelworkers were on strike.

"I remember during the 1959 strike - I was 10 years old at the time - and I walked onto the porch one day and I started shouting for my grandmother to come," he said. "When she got there she said 'what is wrong?'  I said 'the sky is blue.'  She said 'remember one thing, Josie, if there is no smoke in the sky, there is no bread on our table."

His family worked at the Edgar Thomson steel mill.  It is still in operation, though in a scaled down fashion - a part of the region's past that survives.

Travel down the highway from the plant and you run into the future.

John Bucher is the president of Solar Power Industries - a company that produces silicon ingots and solar panels.

"There is a $100 million invested in this factory," he said. "And it is producing high-tech, high-volume solar cells."

Solar power is a growth industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Bucker says the region in going green.

"In the old days they would say you could not even see in front of you or if you had a white shirt you would have to change it by the time you got to the office," he said. "Nowadays, it is very clean and I think the new technologies, the renewables and the new types of technology are what are driving the business here, keeping it alive."

The director of Phipps Conservatory says he hopes the G20 leaders are impressed with Pittsburgh's commitment to the environment and energy conservation. 

"I would like them to be inspired to see that this can be done, we can live more 'sustainably' on this planet," said Piancentini.

It is a message that would have seemed out of place in the Pittsburgh of the past, but is right at home today. 

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs