Susan Wood and her team, Phillip Stober, Lois Herr, LeAnne Burchik, Faith Mumma, Michael Schroeder, tried something distinctive and
intriguing with their map – to see if they could create districts that would reflect a link between natural regions and legislative districts and empower environmental communities of interest. They structured their districts by environmental factors that would, as they wrote in their Personal Statement, enhance Pennsylvania’s ability to live up to the promise of Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, commonly known as the “Environmental Rights Amendment.”
Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states: The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
We want well-drawn congressional districts to address climate change and the environment. The values we chose are competitive elections, compactness and communities of interest. Our map meets mapping criteria in a way that empowers environmental “communities of interest.” High contiguity, competitiveness and compactness are strong. Voters can work together to propel change.
Three statewide threats concern us:
1. Water/Air quality. Water pollution threatens a vital resource. Major watersheds are endangered.
2. Energy Impacts. Unsustainable, unsafe, and unhealthy energy infrastructure.
3. Land use decisions without consideration of the environment have long term consequences for quality of life and food production.
Promise of improvement lies in:
1. The PA Climate Action Plan calling for 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, from 2005 levels will help drive change. This plan is supported in concept by our youth and citizens aware of the problems.
2. Energy alternatives. Proposals at the state level to encourage clean energy production: wind, hydroponic, solar.
3. Preservation and conservation of PA's natural resources are supported but will need more vocal champions to advocate and vote for the people's rights as defined in Article I, Section 27. The increasing influence of younger Pennsylvanians concerned about this can be reflected in decisions as they become involved in government and are elected to positions of power.
We structured districts by environmental factors to enhance Pennsylvania's ability to live up to the promise of Article 1, Section 27.
We are six Lebanon County residents, including two pipeline opponents; a history professor at Lebanon Valley College who's also founder of the award-winning Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum; one elected public official, and one candidate for township supervisor who didn't win. We had a robust dialogue about map design in the interest of better government in PA.