Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke with Occidental College students today about their ideas for greening the city before flying to Copenhagen to attend next week’s United Nations’ climate change conference.
"It seems everywhere I look I see Occidental students" participating in environmental events in the city, said the mayor, who spoke for about 45 minutes about the city's initiatives before taking questions from students.
Ten Occidental students majoring in urban and environmental policy, economics, politics, and physics offered their own recommendations for climate change solutions, many of which have national and global implications.
"It's no coincidence that our president decided to come to Oxy," Villaraigosa told the crowd. "This has always been a place of innovation, a place where young people come when they want to change the world."
Senior Jason Lehman began the discussion with the mayor by talking about Occidental's plans to build a solar array that would be one of the largest in the city. The mayor said he wants to increase the use of solar power in the city 100-fold, and told Lehman, "I'll support your project here, and I want you to support ours."
Derek Singleton, also a senior, told the mayor he is concerned about finding meaningful work and a career in the green economy. "Making the case for green jobs is a challenge," the mayor told him. "It's one of the main reasons I'm going to Copenhagen, to make that case."
In 2007, Los Angeles adopted "Green LA," a plan to turn the city into one of the greenest big cities in the nation. Green LA’s goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and increasing the city’s use of renewable energy by 40 percent by 2020. "We're going to be the only carbon-free, coal-free city in the nation by 2020," the mayor said.
"The mayor has been a longtime supporter of Occidental and recognizes the research, teaching and activism that goes on here as important to the greening the city," said Martha Matsuoka, an assistant professor in the College's Urban and Environmental Policy program, an interdisciplinary program for students.
The students’ green initiatives include:
• Development of a campus-based solar project that will produce clean energy for the city and set a model for energy education and community partnerships.
• Creating an on-campus "green-living" house aimed at modeling environmentally friendly practices for campus residences and other housing.
• Adjusting Oxy’s energy use to minimize use at peak periods during the day and week and save money.
• Creating plans for "Zipcars" and bicycles to reduce automobile use.
• Expanding the number and size of urban gardens in neighborhoods and schools to reduce transportation energy costs, improve food quality, and teach K-12 students about food and nutrition -- all part of a comprehensive approach that the city’s new food-policy taskforce is formulating.
• Using biodiesel to partly fuel Oxy’s diesel-vehicle fleet to reduce the use of gasoline and cut pollution emission.
"This is a great institution of young people who want their education to be relevant to their lives and to make a difference," Villaragosa concluded.