Pomona’s primary environmental club, Pomona Students for Environmental Activism and Responsibility (PEAR), held a series of events last week to celebrate Earth Week.
“The idea with the events was to reach as broad a swath of students as possible,” said Joanna Ladd PO ’10, a member of PEAR’s Leadership Team. “We had a bunch of really different events.”
The week kicked off on Tuesday, Apr. 20, with a screening of Planet Earth, the acclaimed nature documentary from the BBC.
Hosted by PEAR and the Committee for Campus Life & Activities (CCLA), the event was to take place on Walker Beach before rain forced the group inside. The film began at 9 p.m. in Walker Lounge, and students were encouraged to unplug their dorm room appliances and sleep over after the screening.
The “capstone event” of the week came the following day with a panel of speakers from Climate Wise Women and local environmental organizations, Ladd said. The panel was moderated by Maria Tucker, Director of the Draper Center for Community Partnerships.
Climate Wise Women, a project of the Earth Island Institute, is a group of female community activists from the South Pacific Islands, Uganda, and Biloxi, Mississippi. Beginning in April, the group launched a 30-city, 18-country tour of the Americas to share their stories of environmental justice. Pomona was the tenth stop on their tour.
“We were lucky,” said Grace Vermeer PO ’10, another member of PEAR’s Leadership Team. “[Climate Wise Women] contacted us in February and asked if they could come the day before Earth Day, which was completely coincidental.”
The panel included two of the Climate Wise Women, Constance Okollet from Uganda and Ulamila Kurai Wragg from the Cook Islands, as well as two representatives from local environmental organizations.
“The Climate Wise Women panel was different from most panels I’ve been to,” said Emery Donovan PO ’12, an organizer of the event. “It was really inspiring to hear these women share their personal stories.”
The panel also included local activists Sylvia Betancourt, from the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) in Riverside, CA, and Tammy Bang Luu of the Labor Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles.
“What was really neat about the Climate Wise Women event was that we got to bring together the women from Climate Wise Women with other activists whose work is more locally relevant,” said Vermeer. “[The event] gave an international and a local perspective on climate change and other environmental issues.”
On Thursday, Apr. 22, the officially recognized Earth Day, PEAR provided a free, 100 percent organic dinner to 200 students in Walker Lounge. The meal was catered by the Shakedown Café at Pitzer College.
The purpose of the event, according to its organizers, was “to give students greater access to organic food and to use the forum to highlight issues like food justice.”
The event featured a speaker from the South Central Farmers, a coalition of farmers who waged a yearlong and ultimately unsuccessful battle with the city of Los Angeles to preserve a community garden in an unused lot in the city, according to organizers of the dinner. The South Central Farmers have since relocated to Bakersfield, CA.
“One thing that will be carried on [within PEAR] is the environmental justice connection,” Ladd said. “That is a direction that the entire environmental movement is going in.”
Environmental justice, according to Vermeer, is “the fact that environmental issues tend to affect already disenfranchised populations, i.e. people of color, the working class, immigrants.”
PEAR celebrated the end of Earth Week on Saturday, Apr. 24, with a picnic in Johnson’s Pasture, a 183-acre preserve located about five miles north of campus.
In 2006, the pasture was slated to be developed into housing tracts, according to the picnic organizers. Citizens of Claremont and students of the 5Cs rallied to save the pasture with a ballot measure that increased taxes in Claremont so that the town could buy the property.
Ladd and Vermeer, both graduating seniors, expressed optimism for the future of PEAR based on the success of Earth Week.
“One of the most exciting things about Earth Week was watching people step up into leadership roles and to know that, when we leave, PEAR won’t collapse,” Vermeer said. “This club is still really growing.”
PEAR was created this year and is now led by Ladd, Vermeer, and Samantha Meyer PO ’10. It was formed as the revival of a previous environmental club that was disbanded last year, Vermeer said.
“The best part for us as leaders was watching the youngest members of the club take ownership of some of the events,” Ladd said. “We’ve got a pretty young club, which is exciting for the future.”