Students from the Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies welcomed Pomona city and school district officials and environmental activists from the community to a dialogue about the city’s present and future.
The presentations at the March 17 event drew about 35 attendees and included environmental, social, economic and food consumption analyses in an effort to evaluate the potential for a sustainable future for the city.
Kyle D. Brown, director of the Lyle Center, said that the presentations were an annual event for his RS 540 class, but this marked the first time the event had such a cross-section of attendees.
“It was kind of a surprise, this level of interest,” he said of the turnout. “The Lyle Center has been making a conscious effort to do work in Pomona that has a collective impact. That work is paying off. It’s great to see elected officials, city and school district staff, and community activists all coming together around this issue.”
The center has an active relationship with the Pomona Unified School District, with students serving as Regenerative Community Fellows at Westmont and Kellogg elementary schools, teaching environmental science and mentoring youth on pathways to higher education. Cal Poly Pomona students also have partnered with nonprofits and other community organizations on environmental and sustainability projects, Brown added.
Each year, students in Brown’s class take on a different environmental challenge. Students Nicole McClain, Mary Vercher, Trenton Vail, Elliott Popel, Evan Green, Gilberto Verdugo and Michael Anton presented their data to the audience.
The research revealed that Pomona’s Westmont neighborhood is the ninth-most polluted census tract in the state. Pollution affects that area because it is where the 71, 10 and 57 freeways meet, and heavy truck traffic snarls Mission Boulevard, McClain said during her presentation.
Other information that students uncovered in their research include the fact that Pomona is a youthful city, with 28 percent of residents under the age of 18. Just under 10 percent of school-aged children are not in school, and one in three adults do not have a high school diploma.
Popel shared research findings on food consumption in Pomona, revealing that residents eat 134.5 million pounds of food each year.
That is equivalent to 339 blue whales, 55 giant sequoia trees or 1 percent of the Great Pyramid of Giza, he said.
Students also considered future scenarios for the city based on varying levels of immigration, economic investment, and availability of finite resources, such as fossil fuels. They then facilitated a dialogue in small groups to discuss data presented by the students as well as share their own work toward sustainability within Pomona.
“I’m heartened by this because in the past three years, there has been a growing interest and awareness of environmental, economic and social issues in Pomona,” Brown said. “I feel optimistic with the city becoming more interested in sustainability and the environment. We hope that the Lyle Center can continue to play a leading role in convening community leaders interested in pursuing a sustainable future.”