James Cato

Community Organizer

Hi there! My name is James and I’m a Community Organizer for MWA.

I grew up in the wooded outskirts of Philadelphia before attending Oberlin College in Ohio, now finally settling in Pittsburgh a few houses down from my grandma. Soon, I’m hoping to relocate to the Melcroft area!

As a kid I spent my afternoons upturning stones by the creek with friends, searching for salamanders, toads, and turtles. Over the years, the creek filled with litter and developed a funky chemical stink. The critters left in search of a cleaner home and to this day plastic nubs and wrappers coat the old dry scar. On the bright side, I was able to rescue a common invasive turtle that had been dumped into a nearby pond. Her name is Ditto and she still lives happily by my side, now more than 15 years old!

Ditto and my dog. In the summer they can be found basking in the sun together.

In high school I started signing up for creek cleanups and trail maintenance, remembering how important the creek and animals were to my childhood. I helped build the Cynwyd Trail, a local rail trail, which connects several neighborhoods to the 120-mile Schuylkill River Trail.

At Oberlin I decided my skills and interests would fit best at the intersection between human behavior and the outdoors, thus graduating with degrees in Environmental Studies and Psychology. To complement my studies, I worked at the Philadelphia Zoo, where I gave presentations alongside animals ranging from pythons to giraffes. I also worked with Solar United Neighbors in DC, and FaCT Ohio, where I first learned the details surrounding fracking.

Specifically, at FaCT Ohio I researched some of the most striking instances of hazardous shale waste in drinking water and small creeks like the one behind my childhood home. I discovered how many folks in Pennsylvania and Ohio have been taken advantage of and left out to dry with health problems and depreciating property. That’s why I’m both excited and humbled to work for MWA and serve the community in any way I can.

The Schuylkill River Trail

Since moving to Pittsburgh, I’ve hiked bits and pieces of the Laurel Highlands Trail and fished on the Yough more than a few times. I’m a land person through and through. I like the comfort of hard earth under my shoes—though that doesn’t mean I won’t poke around rivers and creeks for animals or take the occasional dip. I adore dogs, cats, turtles and even snakes, but have a deep-seated fear of spiders. I can’t wait to work with this community to keep our bit of Pennsylvania beautiful and safe.