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VIEWPOINT: A livable Claremont

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

I have lived in Claremont for 11 years. I have enjoyed the friends I made, my one-year teaching at Pitzer College, the town’s broad boulevards, its thousands of beautiful and life-giving trees, and its attractive architecture.

My solar-roofed house is in the “Village.” I walk and bike everywhere. I use the Claremont Colleges library for my research and some of my writing and, sometimes, make illustrated presentations on my greatest interests: Greek history and the environment.

If this sounds too good, it is.

Yet I am a scholar with some knowledge and experience on how the world works. I love the natural world. Observing human activities in Claremont, however, worries me.

The first thing that struck me as outrageous is the use of the leaf blowers. These are small petroleum-fueled machines blowing air for the removal of tree leaves from one place to another.

These machines, strapped on the shoulder of “gardeners,” are examples of carelessness. They are heavy polluters and excruciatingly loud. They are paradigmatic of the failure of the federal and state governments to regulate chemical and sound pollution.

They also demonstrate the indifference of the Claremont government to enforce its banning of the petroleum-run leaf blowers. Even residents don’t seem to care about the pollution and thunderous sound of the machines or about the health of the largely Hispanic gardeners employing them. They rather stay behind closed doors watching television.

Claremont residents hiring these machines fail to understand these machines don’t do any necessary work. A quiet and non-polluting rake is the best gardening tool for gathering the fallen leaves of trees.

The next threatening reality in Claremont is the number and size of its automobiles. I noticed from two to five cars per family or house. Walk “downtown.” You see lots of large cars (sports utility vehicles).

In addition, some streets in Claremont are highway-like roads where, for most of the day, car traffic is heavy. These highways include Towne, Mountain, Indian Hill Boulevard, Foothill and Baseline.

Why has Claremont allowed such hazardous conditions to take root? Pollution from the passing of thousands of cars per day through Claremont does not disappear. Some of it lingers in the local atmosphere. It is harming our health.

Third, start looking at the many tall wooden poles carrying electrical wires. On the very top of many of these poles, there are transformers in the shape of cylindrical metal boxes full of liquid polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These chemicals are supposed to have electrical insulating properties. They are very toxic, however. They are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. They are also contaminated by dioxins, which are the most deleterious chemicals in existence. For these reasons EPA banned the production of PCBs in 1978.

Claremont is not alone in having danger dangling high on electric wire poles. But the very existence of PCB boxes near homes is evidence of the enormous irresponsibility and power of corporations. Trump’s “deregulation” confirms this unethical attitude and silences Cassandras’ warnings.

Fourth, Claremont is failing its trees, its greatest asset. There has been practically no day this past month I did not come across huge trucks and crews “trimming” or cutting down trees.

These four issues could form an agenda for public discussion and policy change to upgrade Claremont to the level of a livable city. Each of us has to act in this time of environmental emergency. And Claremont that represents all of us has the responsibility to do what is the best for the public good.

Leaf blowers: A letter from the Mayor and Members of the City Council to all home owners can resolve the leaf blower controversy. The letter should say the home owner would be fined a minimum of $ 1,000 the first time a gardener uses the gasoline-powered leaf blower.

Cars: The town cannot tell people what kind of cars they should drive. But the town could launch an ecological education project to inform residents why we need to change our behavior to suit the global warming era we are living. This project could be done in partnership with the Claremont colleges.

Meanwhile, Claremont should bring to an end the in-town highways immediately.

I find it difficult to accept residents of Claremont need so many cars. It’s madness.

Walk to the Colleges. Hundreds of cars clog all streets. Why do the colleges not provide a non-polluting alternative to students and faculty?

Why is Claremont without a public and pollution-free transportation?

PCB danger: Why does Claremont allow the electric company treating us like a third world nation? The company should be ordered to bury its electricity wires and stop using PCBs just like it did in the colleges.

 

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist. He worked for the US Environmental Protection?Agency for several years and is an author.