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Pitzer College Conference Discusses Inland Empire Air Quality and Community Health

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Sign at the entrance of Pitzer College in Claremont, Ca.

Over the weekend, community members and activists participated in a conference hosted by Pitzer College.

The conference was called “The Right to Breath” and had speakers and roundtable discussions on air quality and climate justice here in the Inland Empire.

UC Berkeley Assistant Professor Dr. Cesunica Ivey spoke of a 2019 study by Dr. Chris Tessum and Dr. Julian Marshall that examined racial-ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure.

“The people that cause the majority of pollution weren’t the ones that were more adversely exposed. So essentially, black and Hispanic groups, we don’t cause much of the pollution, but we’re exposed to a greater burden than what we cause,” said Ivey.

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Dr. Chris Tessum and Dr. Julian Marshall
Graphic from a 2019 study by Dr. Chris Tessum and Dr. Julian Marshall showing the racial-ethnic disparities in air pollution across the U.S.

Dr. Ivey also spoke of her Inland Empire study, where she tracked 19 people during their day-to-day activities and looked at where they were most exposed to adverse air quality.

She added, “Regardless of how mobile people were, the home environment did pose the greatest risk statistically for exposures, and the risk was greater for the San Bernardino participants as opposed to the Riverside and Redlands participants.”

Susan Phillips is a Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pitzer College and spoke of warehouse growth in the Inland Empire and the effects that it’s had on not just air quality but the area as a whole. Phillips said, “The way that warehouses benefit the economy is very specific, and it only benefits a few people; it does not benefit larger communities.”

Professor Philips students created data visualizations that showed warehouse growth over the last few decades. By itself, since 2012, Amazon has opened up 24 million Square Feet of warehousing here in the Inland Empire.

“To think of it almost as a form of monocropping, like what are we growing here in the Inland Empire, we’re growing warehouses,” added Philips.

Several others spoke at the event as well, including community activists from Bloomington and Colton.

Jonathan Linden was a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and served with the station till October 2022.