Andy Lipkis Urges Urban Reforestation in L.A.


Author: Kelsey Longmuir

On Tuesday, April 21, Andy Lipkis spoke to the Oxy community about Los Angeles’ environmental future. His presentation, entitled “Adapting Los Angeles for a Resilient, Climate-Safe Future: Engaging Nature and Community,” emphasized the role of citizens as movers of innovative policy solutions. Lipkis also discussed the reforestation of Los Angeles as a viable solution to the frequent water shortages.

Lipkis is the founder of TreePeople, a non-profit organization that advocates for sustainable solutions to urban ecosystem problems. The organization focuses on training and supporting communities to plant and care for trees, educating people about the environment, and working with government agencies on critical water issues.

“I was also glad for Andy’s message of activism. [Andy] shared his personal experiences as a teenager and the seed of his passion for urban environmental restoration and environmental justice,” Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) Professor Martha Matsuoka said. “It was a timely and relevant message for Oxy students, particularly UEP students, who can know see how it is truly possible to seize your passion and cultivate it into a strong force for social and environmental change.”

According to Lipkis, one of the most important issues on the city’s agenda should be water conservation and management. “To bring water to L.A. is the single largest use of energy in the state of California,” Lipkis said. Lipkis said that it was time to start thinking about nature as energy and not just the environment.

One of Lipkis’ central themes was the way in which the city departments work against each other to both prevent L.A. from flooding and to provide it with water. Every time it rains an inch, 7.6 billion gallons of water is thrown away in Los Angeles. Lipkis said that the Department of Water and Power bring in about a half billion dollars of water while about the same amount is spent on diverting water out of the city in order to prevent flooding.

Lipkis said that these departmental conflicts stem from the destruction of L.A.’s natural aquifer. Since the city is predominately concrete, the water simply runs off and doesn’t restore the groundwater. According to Lipkis, recreating Los Angeles as an urban forest would restore the natural aquifer and limit the amount of water wasted by runoff.

TreePeople has helped citizens plant along a section of Martin Luther King Boulevard. “People need ownership in the process,” Lipkis said. “We can’t plan trees for people [and expect them to be maintained.]”

“I think it’s really great that Andy Lipkis came to our school not only because he’s so prominent in the environmental world but also because his ideas work in tandem with the Mayor of Los Angeles’ million trees initiative,” Warren Logan (sophomore) said. “However, it seems that while everyone is saying the same thing and finally getting on the same page as to how we can correct our local environment it’s time to finally see some progress on these initiatives.”

After his presentation, Lipkis ate lunch with Urban and Environmental Policy students, faculty, administrators and donors. Lipkis discussed the work of TreePeople in greater detail and asked questions about the student work that happens at Occidental.

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