On the passing of Congressman John Lewis

By now we have all realized that Congressman John Lewis will be missed for many reasons. Yes, he was the conscience of the Congress. In many ways, he was the conscience of America.

I had the privilege and the pleasure of meeting Lewis when he came to Philadelphia for the Democratic Presidential Convention. It reminded me of my student days in Richmond, Virginia, when I was able to attend a lecture by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I got to shake his hand after he spoke.

Lewis played a central role for decades in the civil rights movement, and he literally gave his blood to ensure that Blacks in the South and across the nation were given equal rights to vote.

He did all of this while fervently believing in the goodness of human beings, and while preaching all of us to indulge in “good trouble.”

Let us all watch and pray that not only the Edmund Pettus Bridge will be renamed in John Lewis’ honor but that a resuscitated Voting Rights Act will be passed by his former colleagues in Congress.

Rep. Jim Roebuck

Philadelphia

Homage to John LewisThe late Rep. John Lewis’ blood, sweat and tears paved the way for many downtrodden souls. Thank you, John Lewis. Our next upheaval: Working on gun violence, subduing the gangs, and teaching how to dismantle hate. God’s grace be plentiful.

Barbara Mack

Philadelphia

Environmental degradation worse in Black areas

In a time as tumultuous as ours, it can be difficult to stay engaged with the many issues that require our attention. With states reopening despite the pandemic and with protests against violent racism continuing in some cities, it is easy to forget that environmental degradation is still happening, and is actually happening at a faster pace than before. It is even easier to ignore that environmental degradation disproportionately disadvantages Black communities, and thus should be a priority for young activists and legislators looking to implement large-scale change for vulnerable communities.

Even among environmentalists, habitat fragmentation is often a third or fourth priority, oftentimes because conservation messaging focuses on photogenic animals and picturesque landscapes, rather than the crucial role wildlife habitats play in climate change mitigation. Habitat fragmentation is the man-made destruction of habitats, and one way we can try to deter it from completely wrecking wildlife populations (and thereby increasing emissions) is through wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors provide habitat connectivity, thus protecting the planet and humans.

We are in the sixth mass extinction. COVID-19 and our current national reckoning with infrastructural racism provide us with an opportunity to build a better world for ourselves and each other. It is a daunting task, but Pennsylvania can be a leader in ensuring that post-quarantine, we will emerge as a community focused on equity and growth; local businesses and environmental groups agree that protecting wildlife corridors is a place to start. There is really no better time.

Vyshnavi Kosigishroff

Philadelphia

Hold your legislators accountable for bill on energy tax breaks

Many Pennsylvanians suffer daily at the hands of some of the world’s wealthiest companies, and now our legislators want us to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for it.

The General Assembly recently passed HB 732, a bill that would grant a $670 million tax break to the fracking and petrochemical industries, or more familiarly, companies like Shell and Exxon.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently released a report on the air and water pollution that these companies pump into our environment. Even worse, their activities lead to asthma, migraines, nosebleeds and other health problems for residents near fracking wells. Especially during a pandemic, we should not eagerly throw dollar bills at these companies to make the problem worse.

The solution starts with getting our representatives to protect us from legislation that welcomes continued abuse from this industry. I want to thank Rep. Roebuck for voting against HB 732, prioritizing our health and environment over the interests of the wealthiest. I hope, for the sake of our environment, our health and our pockets, more of our representatives start to do the same.

Jenna Pollack

Philadelphia

Renewable energy can help combat many issuesWith the unexpected hit of COVID-19 in the United States, individuals facing economic disadvantages are struggling more than ever. Under-resourced communities are frustrated with the decades of poor policy making that has created both racial and economic disparity. These communities also suffer higher rates of asthma, cardiac trauma and death because they are more likely to be located in areas that are contaminated by industries that burn fossil fuels, according to the National Institute of Health.

The implementation of renewable energy sources can help combat these issues. Currently, Pennsylvania’s renewable energy goals are extremely outdated. Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) require that Pennsylvania has 8% renewable energy with only 0.5% coming from solar by May 2021. Meanwhile, neighboring states have renewable energy goals upwards of 30%.

New policies with an emphasis on solar will create thousands of jobs and help save farms. Farmers can lease their land for solar energy development, which provides extra income needed to sustain their businesses. Additionally, more renewable energy in the form of solar will decrease energy rates from the grid, making energy more affordable for all residents.

As Pennsylvania’s renewable energy goal deadlines approach and new legislators are elected in the fall, the push for renewable energy must start now. Although the transition will take time, shifting renewable energy goals to 10% solar by 2030 in PA would create over 100,000 jobs and result in significant financial benefits to the entire state.

Nicole Feledy

Lewisburg

The millennial’s struggle: a message to boomersAt a time in history when the youth, at least from the shiny optics, had the world at their fingers, crash, boom and the shattering of hope have enveloped all of our dreams with a vengeance. Post-coronavirus, the sentiment from most Instagram and Twitter aficionados is a longing for past casual liberties. Whether going to a store without a mask or passing the long summer days by the pool with a solid group of friends, this is what people of my era look back on with nostalgia. Well, not to take away nor disparage those feelings associated with “great times,” it’s now obvious that they weren’t that radiant.

To be blunt, whether the prior generation admits it or not, mental health is a major problem in a string of communities, and being a millennial, the disconnect is obvious. Akin to speaking a foreign language, that’s how it feels a lot of the time sparking up conversations about the struggle of managing one’s depression, anxiety and dysmorphic disorders when your rigid uncle or your own mother don’t believe in therapy.

So, when it comes down to it, boomers, we get that life had its disadvantages when you were kids, and things probably were simple. But it would be nice if you put yourselves in our problematic shoes.

Kena Dijiba

Winchester, Kentucky

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