Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Prompt 5

I live in Pittsburgh, PA, but for the people who live in Pittsburgh, I tell them I live in Oakland. It’s not as dark as Shadyside and has fewer squirrels than Squirrel Hill. It was named after William Eichenbaum’s farm that had an abundance of oak trees. William settled here in 1840. Ever since then, trees have been slowly dying here.
It started in the early 1900’s. Pittsburgh started growing as a city: manufacturing factories, tall trees, and fast trains. Because of it, the city produced a lot of people. It also produced a lot of ore dust.  Ore dust is a silent killer of flowers and trees. After a few years, the oak trees disappeared, and the buildings started to move in. All the new trees planted in Pittsburgh have a 20% chance of life after five years.
The main attraction in Oakland now is the University of Pittsburgh. Now, the streets are closed for every college basketball game that is played in Pittsburgh.  People would cut down every tree if it means getting the Pitt Panthers to the Final Four.
I still wonder why they call it Oakland. It would make more sense if it was called University City or something to that extent. The city revolves around its sports. Half of the stores were closed when the Steelers were playing at the Super Bowl. They recently built two new stadiums for the Penguins and Pirates, even though the Pirates shouldn’t count as a real baseball team. Now, it’s March Madness and the Panthers have a good shot to win it all. If they do, I’m sure they’ll build a bigger stadium for them as well.
Nature has to live around these things. I see birds building nests in letters of Hines Field.  Chipmunks get their food from popcorn after the Pens hockey game. Trees get climbed on when the Steelers win a game.
There are environmental groups in Pittsburgh trying to help nature, but it’s a losing cause. They try planting trees, but the trees can’t survive in this environment. The city wants to keep growing industrially. They want jobs. They want people. They want money. But until the economy picks up, all that Pittsburgh can count on are sports. Oakland will never return to its original form. These trees aren’t coming back, not unless people find the sport equivalency to ore dust.


  1. All the new trees planted in Pittsburgh have a 20% chance of life after five years.

    Wow. I lived there almost 10 years and had no idea (though I never planted any trees).I wonder if this is true for non-natives? There's a whole forest of Norway maples lining Schenley park that the Parks Conservancy is deliberately killing, because they're edging out the native trees. I wonder if they're immune?

    I like how you've commented here on the local sports culture and how it subtly affects the local flora and fauna.

  2. Thanh,

    What I like best about this piece is the comment about finding an ore dust to subdue sports in Pittsburgh. You have a better chance of pulling a chicken from your ass. It's amazing to me that any stores were open during the super bowl, but then again I went to a school that took seven busloads of fans to an away football game. Sports are a way of life in this part of Pennsylvania and I think you do a nice job of showing the small way that nature is re-staking its claim on the professional sports world. Great piece.