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Pittsburgh...is without exception the blackest place which I ever saw.É As regards scenery, it is beautifully situated, being just at the juncture of the two rivers, Monongahela and Allegheny... Nothing can be more picturesque than the site.... Even the filth and wondrous blackness of the place are picturesque when looked down upon from above....
Anthony Trollope, 1860

First the land shaped us: mountains impeded travel and rivers eased it. Then we shaped the land: leveling mountains, filling valleys with new transportation and construction technologies. Our current challenge is making peace with our environment.

Related subjects: Social studies, geography, earth science, environment, math, technology

Grade levels: Adaptable 3-12 grades

FYI: Background article

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Looking around our neighborhoods and city, it is hard to imagine what the land looked like without all those houses and shopping malls, without the highways and side streets, without the bridges which cross the region's rivers and creeks.

We have become so accustomed to the way the city has shaped the landscape that one could easily forget, once upon a time, that it was the other way around: The landscape created the shape of the city.

In truth, the landscape still does. Although it may be less overt than in the days of pioneers, Western Pennsylvania's hills, valleys, and waterways determine where we live, how we travel, and the ways we work.

Pittsburgh is a city so defined by its natural features that many local businesses, charities, and professional organizations bear the name "Three Rivers." Think of Three Rivers Stadium, the Three Rivers Regatta, the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, and companies such as Three Rivers Fencing. It is a fitting tribute to the dramatically beautiful geography of Western Pennsylvania, shaped by the forces of nature over hundreds of thousands of years.

Hopefully, our green hills and blue skies can also help remind us that one Pittsburgh tradition we can't afford to keep alive is the disregard of the health of our air, water, and land. Today's economic growth doesn't have to be at the expense of or environment.



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