With the Fall semester underway, there promises to again be a number of on-campus activites of interest to the community gardening and sustainability communities in the Lehigh Valley. Things get started next week, when the Friends of the Lehigh Libraries and the South Side Initiative are cosponsoring a talk that is relevant to members and friends of the Southside Community Gardens (SCG) project, as well as Bethlehem area and Lehigh Valley residents interested in the recent history of environmental issues in the Valley and the Commonwealth.

Paul Rosier, a Pennsylvania Humanities Council Commonwealth Speaker, will be speaking on September 16th at 4 p.m. in the newly opened STEPS building, 101 STEPS auditorium, on the Lehigh University campus, 1 West Packer Avenue. Professor Rosier, an associate professor of history at Villanova University, will deliver a presentation entitled “Pennsylvania Environmental History: From Earth Day 1970 to Global Warming” in which he will address important historical and contemporary environmental issues that have affected Pennsylvania from the first Earth Day in 1970 to the present. He will also explore topics such as Pennsylvania’s own Rachel Carson and the impact of Silent Spring, the Three Mile Island nuclear crisis, the Centralia coal fire, the problem of invasive species, suburban expansion into farmland, and more. Rosier concludes his presentation with a review of why Pennsylvania produces 1% of the world’s greenhouse emissions and what people can do about it.

The talk is free and open to the public. Here is a flier with more information.


Breena Holland, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh, and a member of the university’s Environmental Initiative, asked us to share this link to PolicyLink’s home page, which includes information about community gardening and related issues. PolicyLink is a national research and action institute committed to advancing economic and social equity. The institute strives to contribute to the creation of sustainable communities of opportunity, where everyone participates and prospers. If successful, these communities offer access to quality jobs, affordable housing, good schools, transportation, and the benefits of healthy food and physical activity. Guided by the belief that those closest to the nation’s challenges are central to finding solutions, PolicyLink relies on the wisdom, voice, and experience of local residents and organizations. They have coined the phrase “Lifting Up What Works” as a way to focus attention on how people are successfully using local, state, and federal policy to create conditions that benefit everyone, especially those in low-income communities and communities of color. PolicyLink is guided by the firm belief that equity – just, fair, and green inclusion – must be the basis of all policy decisions. Take a few minutes to check out the information available at their web page, as their work is instructive for the issues we are trying to address on Bethlehem’s Southside, as well as in the nation as a whole. Thanks, Breena, for sharing!

There’s a very progressive piece of legislation in Congress that could make a huge difference to the country and to Bethlehem and the city’s southside.

City Parks Director Ralph Carp, down in Washington, D.C., early last week at a high-profile national conference on building green infrastructure, spoke with Representative Allyson Schwartz – D (PA), who is co-sponsoring a new bill that would identify 80 small- to medium-sized cities and distribute $120 million for promoting community greening initiatives. Bethlehem – with more and more being done already by the City and various community groups in the area of green and sustainable development – could benefit directly from the legislation if it’s passed into law.

When Ralph asked Allyson Schwartz what he could do to help, she said, “WRITE IN SUPPORT.”  So please take a look at the bill and, if you find it promising, WRITE IN SUPPORT.

Here’s a brief summary: 4/30/2009 – Introduced.
Green Communities Act – Directs the Secretary of Commerce, through the Economic Development Administration, to make grants to municipalities to promote community greening initiatives (defined as programs increasing economic development through environmental improvements). Directs the Secretary to select 80 municipalities to receive grants. Requires an eligible program partner to develop and plan such an initiative, which may include revitalizing municipal parks and public spaces, tree plantings, green roof construction, and vacant lot management. Directs the Secretary to make grants to, or enter into contracts with, five nonprofit organizations to provide technical assistance and training to eligible program partners in developing, planning, implementing, and assessing initiatives.

More information, including the whole bill, is here.

Contact information:
Representative Allyson Schwartz – D (PA)
*Philadelphia Office*
7219 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19135
Phone: 215-335-3355
Fax: 215-333-4508

Or simply click here to write her using the convenient form at her web page.

If anyone has further ideas as to what can be done to advance this bill through Congress (teachers out there – how about getting your students to write?) please let me know.

John Pettegrew

The screening of “The End of the Line,” the first major documentary feature to explore the impact of overfishing on our oceans, scheduled for February 10th, has been postponed due to the weather forecast.  The screening, the first in the “Film Food Series,” has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 24th, at 6:30 p.m. in Whitaker Laboratory (room 303).  We apologize for any inconvenience, and hope that you will join us on the 24th!  For more details about the exciting “Food Film Series,” which is presented in part by the South Side Initiative, please read the post from February5th or follow the link under “Events” in the blogroll on the right margin.

On January 8, Project H Design (www.projecthdesign.org), an innovative team of designers, architects, and builders committed to engaging locally through partnerships with social service organizations, communities, and schools to improve the quality of life for the socially overlooked, turned two years old.  Project H – the “H” refers to “Product design initiatives for Humanity, Habitats, Health, and Happiness” — works to develop simple and effective design solutions for those without access to creative capital; their mission, including their interest in healthy food, farming, and sustainability, speaks to our hopes for the benefits gardens will bring to the communities on the southside of Bethlehem.  In fact, the organization’s projects, especially their programs integrating education, community, and food production, could provide us with ideas and examples as our community gardens project moves, in the coming weeks and months, from planning to realization — and, in the future, to expansion.  For example, reading that they work closely with schools and other educational institutions, I am reminded not only of our connection to Lehigh, but of the initial talks John has had with people in the Bethlehem Area School District about partnering with schools and students in community gardening.  There are several projects described at the Project H website that could help us formulate an initial approach for working with Bethlehem-area schools, such as Broughal Middle School.

Several people involved with the Southside Community Gardens group, along with local leaders and other people active in the sustainability community in the Lehigh Valley, attended the following event in Easton, PA, on November 12th at 7:30 p.m. in Lafayette College’s Oechsle Hall: “Green the Ghetto: And How Much It Won’t Cost Us,” with Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx (www.ssbx.org).  The success of this event, for which the attendance and response was significant, speaks to the fact that there is growing interest in the Lehigh Valley in the work we are trying to do, and attests that there are like-minded groups and individuals in the area with whom we can partner as we move forward in our efforts to bring the positive effects of community gardening, greenways, and sustainable living to the southside of Bethlehem.  While the scope of the work of Sustainable South Bronx may seem beyond our immediate goals at this point in time, and especially at this early stage, SSBX, whose work is also connected to a planned greenway, is instructive for our project; it serves as a resource and guide we can look to during the initial stages of our work in Bethlehem’s Southside, and an inspiration as we consider expanding our vision in the future.


July 14, 2009

South Side Community Gardens,  A Project Supported by Lehigh University’s  South Side Initiative.

Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative is leading an effort to build and work a series of community gardens along the Greenway and perhaps other locations on the southside of Bethlehem.  Mayor John Callahan and the City of Bethlehem are key partners in this venture, as they want to see city residents and groups take responsibility for sections of  the Greenway and we want parcels of land to be dedicated to gardening.  Federal stimulus grant proposals may be submitted with the City for community gardens development along with other Greenway projects.  Funding from the state of Pennsylvania, including from its Department of Community and Economic Development, will also be pursued.

The time is right.  Along with the national and international movements towards urban agriculture, there are any number of organizations in the Lehigh Valley focused on green technology, sustainability, and generally making the area and its city centers more “walkable” and more environmentally and economically sound.  Lehigh University is among these organizations:  its multi-million dollar Environmental Initiative, an academic enterprise, is calibrated partially towards local research and experiential and service learning; President Alice Gast is interested in urban gardens and has made community outreach a priority in the university’s new Strategic Plan; and the South Side Initiative is dedicated to mobilizing students, staff, and faculty to work with the community in heightening historical understanding, cultural creativity, and social justice during this time of epochal transformation.

We invite you to join us, here with your voice on our blog, along 4th Street with your shovel and with your enthusiasm to bring this project to fruition at our  first Public Meeting on Tuesday, August 11th at 7:00 pm–location TBA.


John Pettegrew
Associate Professor of History &  Director of the South Side Initiative, Lehigh University