The City of Claremont is an affluent suburban community, located in Southern California along the foothills. The interstate 10 freeway serves as the southern border for the city while the northern boundary creeps into the more natural foothill area. Though the southern half of the city is composed primarily of single family homes, lush canopies are still present throughout the city. This blog post will focus on two aspects of the environment and public health: (1) air quality/greenhouse gas emissions and (2) urban agriculture.
Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Looking at Claremont through an environmental lens allows us to understand the city’s successes. While most of the built environment in Claremont is residential, much of it is also open space and wilderness areas. The amount of carbon sequestration the ‘City of Tress and PhD’s’ provides for itself and surrounding cities is significant. Take for example, the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, a 1,620 acre expanse of nature that originally opened in 1996 and expanded in 2008. This park and the other 21 city parks are crucial in providing environmental services not only to the city but for the region in general.
Climate change is a threat to public health and the sustainable community of Claremont. Transportation is the second leading source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (Department of Transportation). In the past century, the earth’s temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees and continues rising due to greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions (Nasa).
An increase in global temperature can have negative effects on public health and biodiversity since it causes rising sea levels, population displacement, flooding, disruptions to food supply, and an increase in infectious diseases. As a foothill community, Claremont’s natural landscape and residents face some of the immediate consequences from climate change. Heatwaves are a threat to the Southern California region and can cause heat-related injuries. Other threats such as droughts and dry conditions can cause wildfires and place stress on trees and landscape plants. Trees absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As a city known for its trees, climate change is a threat not only to the culture of the community, but also to the environment as well.
A few residential units in the hills have also taken advantage of water-wise landscaping with the use of succulents and desert landscaping. However there are still many opportunities for many homeowners to upgrade their homes with new energy efficient appliances, landscaping, lighting and windows. Like water-wise landscaping and other sustainable upgrades, energy-efficient windows eventually pay for themselves through lower heating and cooling costs, and sometimes even lighting costs.
Public transportation is a major contributor in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Claremont. Public transportation such as bus transit, van pool, commuter rail and light rail transit significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile than private vehicles (Department of Transportation). The City of Claremont offers many public transit services such as the group van service, the Foothill Transit, Metrolink, and Pomona Valley Transportation Authority. Throughout the city, there are bus stops at every corner. The train station is located in the heart of Claremont. This allows the majority of the population in Claremont to have access to the Metrolink. The Pomona Valley Transportation Authority is a dial-a-ride program that is accessible to the community while Foothill Transit is a bus system that serves a large portion of Los Angeles County.
It is also worth mentioning that there are plans for a Gold Line station for the City of Claremont. The station is stated to be built north of the existing Metrolink station. By connecting the “bedroom community” to the growing network of regional rail, carbon emissions will see a reduction due to the lessened vehicular use.
Food is a major factor in the health and sustainability of Claremont’s community. It is important to provide healthy food options, especially for children, elderly and low income residents. The availability of healthy foods will directly impact the physical health of the community. Consuming locally grown foods will also help reduce greenhouse gases since they are less processed and require less refrigeration or freezing, and are not transported long distances. The City hopes to increase education and awareness efforts to the community on the benefits of eating locally grown, organic foods. Other goals include promoting home grown produce and creating organic farming programs at Claremont schools.
The City of Claremont has a Garden Club and recently hired its first Community Garden Coordinator that works with interns from the college. Many efforts encourage gardens to use less water, pesticides, and educate on sustainable practices in rain harvesting, recycling, composting, etc. Claremont also offers home gardening support, Back yard Produce Co-op, and classes on local foods, gardening, permaculture, and composting. All of these programs are also offered at the Armstrong Garden Center, a nursery in the city that provides educational programs and resources regarding gardening to the community. Claremont also works with its schools to provide school gardens.
Department of Transportation, (2015). [online] Available at: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange2010.pdf
Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, (2015). Secrets from the past point to rapid climate change in the future. [online] Available at: http://climate.nasa.gov/news/649/