environmental justice

The things I'm hopeful about in 2024 as an environmental reporter

It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong, but there’s also a lot to be grateful for.

PITTSBURGH — As a journalist who covers environmental health, much of my job revolves around shining a light on difficult problems.

This year alone I’ve written about oil spills in a river that provides drinking water to millions, dangerous train derailments and gaping loopholes in the laws meant to protect us from harmful pollution.

But I also cover solutions to environmental challenges — partly because it’s good for my mental health, and also because paying attention to the people devoting their lives to solving our biggest problems, highlighting the ways they’re protecting human health, and spreading the word about their successes begets more solutions and resources for them.

In 2023, I covered a study that found reducing air pollution in many cities could lower cancer rates as much as completely eliminating smoking would, and I wrote about how health advocates across the country who understand this are pushing regulators to further strengthen federal clean air laws. Several states took action that will lead to clearer air in urban areas with clean transportation laws in 2023, including California, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey and Delaware.

Last year I also wrote about how healthcare leaders across the country are working together to find innovative ways to reduce pollution, tackle climate change and advance environmental justice in their communities. I highlighted the ways that hospitals in Pittsburgh, a self-proclaimed “eds and meds” city, are contributing to the movement, and investigated whether the healthcare industry divesting from fossil fuels could help curb climate change. Since then, the National Academy of Medicine has committed to divesting from fossil fuels.

health care sustainability

Dr. Isabela-Cajiao Angelelli, one of the cofounders of Clinicians for Climate Action and a clinical director at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Healthcare leaders across the country are working together to find innovative ways to reduce pollution, tackle climate change and advance environmental justice

Credit: UPMC

In May, my book about solutions to a major environmental health challenge was published. “A New War on Cancer: The Unlikely Heroes Revolutionizing Prevention” profiles advocates in a growing movement to prevent cancer by reducing our daily exposure to harmful chemicals. I covered this topic in my reporting, too, through an op-ed on prevention for breast cancer awareness month, a story about how new federal air monitoring investments could lower cancer rates in the Pittsburgh region and conversations about cancer prevention in numerous radio and podcast interviews.

I also dug into the role that local politics can play in protecting people from pollution, speaking with experts across the country about how to build an effective county board of health. In 2024 an entirely new board of health will be appointed in Allegheny County, which encompasses Pittsburgh, because terms for the current board members have all expired and the region just elected a new county executive. In western Pennsylvania, the county executive and the board of health are responsible for enforcing clean air laws and play a significant role in managing the region’s ongoing air pollution problems.

I also covered a new environmental justice policy for Pennsylvania that aims to prioritize environmental health in low-income communities and communities of color; and I wrote about how a Pennsylvania community receiving compensation for pollution from a petrochemical plant is finding innovative ways to spend the fine money while still demanding accountability from polluters.

Sara Innamorato, a progressive Democrat, made history this November, becoming the first woman ever elected as county executive of Allegheny County. Innamorato — who has pledged to prioritize clean air and environmental justice in the region — was one of numerous candidates to make history in 2023, joining the ranks of Cherelle Parker and Connie Boesen, the first women elected as mayors in Philadelphia and Des Moines; and Yvonne Flowers and Deborah Whitfield, the first Black mayors in Poughkeepsie, New York and Marion County, Indiana, respectively. This year also saw the election of more than 230 LGBTQ+ candidates across the country, an all-time high for an odd year election.

environmental justice pittsburgh

A new environmental justice policy for Pennsylvania that aims to prioritize environmental health in low-income communities and communities of color.

Credit: Kristina Marusic for Environmental Health News

The year also saw some big wins for the environment and our health at the federal level, including billions of dollars in funding to curb climate change and advance environmental justice; the closure of a Clean Air Act loophole that allowed excess pollution from fossil fuel plants and new protections against climate-warming methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.

In 2024, I’ll continue shining a light on the problems that pose the gravest threats to our environment and health. I also look forward to telling stories about the people working to make our environment safer and healthier, and chronicling the victories — small and large — that give me hope about what’s possible.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Ana Baptista on supporting environmental justice movement building in academia

“Some of the best relationships have been built over that time where you’re just getting to know each other, showing up, being present.”

Dr. Ana Baptista joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss supporting environmental justice movements from within academia.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
Op-ed: “Plastic People” — A documentary that changed my view on plastics

Op-ed: “Plastic People” — A documentary that changed my view on plastics

AUSTIN, TX — At SXSW, a new documentary highlighted the harmful effects of plastics on human health and opened my eyes to this widespread crisis.

Keep reading...Show less

Texas explores mini nuclear reactors as a power solution

In an ambitious pivot from traditional energy sources, Texas, led by Gov. Greg Abbott, is investigating the potential of small nuclear reactors to provide reliable, pollution-free power.

Emily Foxhall reports for The Texas Tribune.

Keep reading...Show less

DOE sets course for offshore wind's integration with national grid

In a move to fortify the U.S. power supply, the Department of Energy outlines a strategy for connecting offshore wind farms to the country's electric grid.

Heather Richards reports for E&E News.

Keep reading...Show less

Rising sea levels and sinking lands: a looming challenge for US coastal cities

In a recent study, Virginia Tech researchers uncover that sinking land, coupled with rising sea levels, threatens to flood 24 U.S. coastal cities by 2050, impacting half a million residents.

Moriah McDonald reports for Inside Climate News.

Keep reading...Show less

Berkeley reverses its ban on natural gas in new homes after a legal setback

Berkeley, California, has agreed to repeal its pioneering ban on natural gas hookups in new homes, a move that casts doubt on similar bans across the country.

Brad Plumer reports for The New York Times.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
petrochemical shell pennsylvania plastic

Shell must seek a new air pollution permit for its Pennsylvania plastics plant

For nearly a year and a half the company has been operating under a construction permit. Now, the plant will be subjected to federal Clean Air Act laws.

LNG Gulf Coast pollution climate

Op-ed: For environmental groups, Biden’s LNG decision cause for celebration – and caution

“It's a fight for our health and the health of our environment.”

petrochemicals Texas

Toxic air lingers in Texas Latino community, revealing failures in state’s air monitoring system

Public data from a network of state air monitors around the Houston Ship Channel is hard to interpret and is often inadequate, leaving Latino-majority neighborhoods like Cloverleaf unaware of whether the air they breathe is safe.

petrochemicals Texas

El aire tóxico en una comunidad latina de Texas revela los fallos del sistema estatal de control de calidad del aire

Los datos públicos de una red de monitores estatales del aire alrededor del Canal de Navegación de Houston son difíciles de interpretar y a menudo son insuficientes, dejando a vecindarios de mayoría latina, como Cloverleaf, sin saber si el aire que respiran es seguro.

pipeline protest

Protesting oil and gas line development harms mental health and creates distrust in government: Study

“The number of stress-activated health conditions people reported was quite staggering."

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.