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  • Writer's pictureVoces Unidas de las Montañas

For Latinos, climate change is a social justice issue

As we enter the middle of summer, the unprecedented temperatures remind us of a changing climate and a changing region. Wildfires continue to threaten our neighborhoods. Mudslides prevent working family es who have been forced to commute due to unaffordable housing to move freely through I-70. And for some of us living in the Colorado River Valley, we may still not be able to drink our tap water.

For Voces Unidas, environmental justice is the intersectionality of traditional issues like climate change, conservation and protecting public lands with social justice, including immigration justice, health equity, reproductive health, housing equity, and civil rights.

Environmental issues present immediate physical dangers and obstacles in our region. For example, many Latinos commute two or more hours to get to their place of work. When wildfires inevitably close I-70 for prolonged periods of time, our communities are disproportionately impacted. When an evacuation occurs and there’s limited time to respond, making the situation life and death, and there isn’t any intentional outreach to Spanish-speaking communities, then we are bound for devastation.

The consequences of industry like pollution and diminished air quality are disproportionately near Latino neighborhoods than anywhere else in the valley. Over generations, health issues like asthma and cancer develop in our communities simply due to place of residency. Many mainstream news stories have highlighted how predominantly Latino mobile home parks in Appletree and Edwards, for example, are without drinkable water. This is also part of a greater social justice issue about unaffordable housing and keeping working families in substandard housing, living in older mobile homes with little insulation or other deteriorating conditions.

At the federal and local level, the phenomena of global immigration and migration is also connected to climate change and environmental policy issues. Rampant deforestation and changing weather patterns have disrupted agriculture ecosystems in many of our home countries. Coupled with ethnocentric economic and trade policies have forced small farming and agriculture communities in Mexico and South America to move north. Our communities have a history of understanding the adverse effects of climate change and its cemented place in every single facet of life.

As the wildfires continue to burn, Voces Unidas is well aware of the important role that Latinas and Latinos must play in the long-term solutions to local, state, national and global policy issues. We look forward to engaging our community leaders and to involving Latinas and Latinos in active conversations about environmental justice.

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