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Bucks County Changemaker Interview with Conservation Voters of PA’s Miah Hornyak

"If we made everyday Earth Day, we’d be living in a more kind, safe, and empathetic society," says Miah Hornyak.
(L-R) CVPA Field Director Jess Cadorette and CVPA lower Bucks County Field Coordinator Miah Hornyak.

I am, by nature and nurture, a Nature Girl. I grew up with parents who valued the environment and taught me to be a good steward of the planet, even if they didn’t express it that way. They modeled picking up after myself, reminding me not to litter. They grew a garden at home that provided vegetables and strawberries that my sister and I helped plant, weed, and harvest. I grew up in South Jersey and spent countless hours in the woods, appreciating the smell of pine and swimming in cedar water lakes. In my teens I joined the Ecology Club and volunteered at our local recycling center. I belong to a local CSA where I have access to organic fruits and vegetables. I am also a tree hugging, crunchy granola hippie, so when I had the opportunity to interview Miah Hornyak who is the Lower Bucks Field Coordinator for Conservation Voters of PA, I was appreciative of the way she and the organization for which she works honor the Earth and want it to be a sustainable place for the next generations. As the grandmother of two, I stand with her on that goal.

Edie Wienstein: What is the mission of Conservation Voters of PA?

Miah Hornyak: Conservation Voters of PA is the statewide political voice for the environment. We help elect environmentally responsible candidates to state and local offices, advocate for strong environmental policies, and hold our elected officials accountable to safeguard the health of our communities, the beauty of our state, and the strength of our economy.

Edie: What are the essential issues it addresses?

Miah: Our top priorities are clean air and water, protecting land, fighting climate change, and addressing Pennsylvania’s dependence on fossil fuels. Business as usual is not working towards any of these issues and that’s where we come in. We believe that by focusing on these top priorities, we can improve public health, protect the natural beauty of our state, and combat climate change—while creating sustainable economic growth.

Edie: Does your organization collaborate with others who have the same vision, of protecting the environment?

Miah: Yes, we work with many like-minded organizations that support this work, including our strategic partners at PennFuture. We also work with many community-based and statewide organizations that are promoting democracy, equity, and justice.

Edie: Do you find that Governor Shapiro is a vocal supporter? 

Miah: As Attorney General, we saw Josh Shapiro take strong stances to protect both people and the environment. These issues became a key piece of his campaign for Governor and that is one of the many reasons that we were proud to support him for this role. As it stands, his recent budget address would make leaps and bounds for environmental protection. We’re especially excited that Governor Shapiro has included a plan to invest the proceeds of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to create local jobs, grow clean energy and improve air quality. Enrolling in this multi-state coalition that works to invest in clean energy will be a major step in the right direction for our state.

Edie: As the Lower Bucks County Field Coordinator, what is your role?

Miah: My role in Lower Bucks is ever evolving, but my primary duty is to be a resource on the ground and in the community that helps folks to advocate for our environment. I work to build a sustainable volunteer advocacy program and manage local community partnerships and coalitions. What this looks like in Lower Bucks is sitting on a statewide coalition working to end PFAS contamination, attending a cleanup with the Heritage Conservancy in Bristol Marsh, or even just grabbing coffee with a local activist. Come election season, things change a bit as we work to get more environmental champions elected to office. At that time of year, you may find me phone banking, canvassing, or helping out at a local field office.

Edie: Were you the kind of kid who spent a great deal of time in nature growing up?

Miah: I grew up in the Lehigh Valley, where prior to the overdevelopment that plagues the area now, the parks and green spaces were vast. I was outside near constantly whether it was playing at the park, swimming, or walking my dogs. And when I wasn’t outside, I was probably watching a nature documentary or something of the sort!

Edie: What drew you to take your love of nature and transform it into a profession?

Miah: As I mentioned, I’m from an area that was once quite rural and open and as I grew older, I saw so much land being depleted. It seemed that there was more asphalt than grass, farms being bought up by massive corporations for development purposes, and air pollution that nearly choked my friends and family. Pair these realizations with the massive political upheaval that took place in 2016 as I entered my first year of college, and suddenly I knew I had to enter this sector in order to make a difference. I do this work so that hopefully someday others won’t need to.

Edie: Why do our votes matter?

Miah: Every single vote is critical to maintaining democracy and having our voices heard. In Bucks County, this couldn’t be truer. We had races just in the last election cycle that were separated by some of the thinnest margins we’ve ever seen. And using your vote as your voice is just as important in local elections or what many people call “off year” elections. So much change can occur at the local level, particularly for the environment, and it is high time that we acknowledge that. Make sure you’re registered for the PA Primary Election that takes place on 5/16!

Edie: According to your website, “Right now, out of a total 203 members of the State House of Representatives, there are 70 Anti-Conservation votes, 80 Maybe votes, 50 consistently Pro-Conservation votes, and 3 open seats that will be decided in a Special Election.” How does your organization attempt to flip the numbers? 

Miah: We need more environmental champions in office and to do that, we must invest in these races that are often highly competitive. That means getting people on the ground and talking to residents about what issues matter to them. Our electoral field program did just that in Bucks County in 2022. The investments we made in key districts led to two flipped seats that are now held by Rep. Brian Munroe and Rep. Tim Brennan that both feel the environment is a key issue to address. 

In addition to our electoral work, we educate and lobby our current legislators to ensure that they understand the intricacies of environmental issues. This often results in bipartisan votes for good environmental policy, such as the Clean Streams Fund and Growing Greener program that were funded in the 2022 state budget.

Edie: Why should we consider everyday Earth Day?

Miah: If we made everyday Earth Day, we’d be living in a more kind, safe, and empathetic society. Caring for the environment translates to caring for one another and for those that are voiceless in this fight. The amazing part is that every single person can help make this a reality. Clean up the trash in your neighborhood, talk to your loved ones about climate change, or spend some time in one of our many great parks and let the advocacy blossom from there.

Edie: How can we counter the rhetoric of those who say that global warming is a hoax or at most, exaggerated?

Miah: Countering these claims as blatant misinformation is the starting point. From there, it’s often best to engage at a local level, especially since many of us have emotional ties to the environment that surrounds us. Ask this person if they remember the last time we had a significant snowstorm. Ask them if the growing season has changed and if things like their local produce have gotten more expensive as a result. Ask them if they’ve noticed their basement flooding more often or more road closures from storm damage. Ask them if they think it’s normal to see tornados in Bucks County of all places. 

The most important thing we can do is make people reflect on these biases so that we can get to the truth. We are all actively experiencing the impacts of climate change and this will keep happening unless we step up. 

Edie: How can people get involved?

Miah: There is room for everyone in our movement! For folks in Bucks County, the first step will be reaching out to our organizers on the ground. From there CVPA can present a wide array of volunteer actions depending on the time and interest of each person. These could include signing petitions, writing a letter to the editor, attending a webinar, meeting with their legislators, or attending a hands-on clean up or workday with one of our local partners.

If you’re in state house districts 18, 31, 140, 141 or 142, contact myself, Miah Hornyak, at miah@conservationpa.org

If you’re in state house districts 29, 143, 144, 145, or 178, contact our Upper Bucks Field Coordinator, Tim Hayes, at timothy@conservationpa.org

You can find your legislator here: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/ 

And if you aren’t in Bucks County, feel free to reach out to info@conservationpa.org to learn more about upcoming volunteer opportunities!

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Edie Weinstein

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, journalist, interfaith minister, speaker and author. She is the co-founder of Bucks County Kind.

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