In January 2016, The Verde Paper: Latino Perspectives on Conservation Leadership was released by La Madre Tierra and Resource Media. Between 2014 and 2015, over thirty environmental activists in the Latino community were interviewed. The focus was the Western United States. Key points included:
Latino communities have been, and are, at risk for impact from fossil fuel pollution, making them more vulnerable to "extreme weather and climate disruption."
Non-engagement with the traditional "environmental mainstream" is often mistaken for lack of engagement with the environment.
Since, the 1800s, Latino communities have been "self-organizing."
The forward to the study was written by Marce Gutierrez-Graudiņš, founder of Azul. Through the Madre Tierra project, she is working to bring Latino perspectives to the table on climate change policy in California. Her insights pointed to the frequent disconnect between on the ground actions and institutional organizations. I contacted her to get her perspective on how the fight for environmental justice can be more connected, equal, and inclusive.
You are active in engaging Latinos in a range of
environmental campaigns. However, in your introduction to The Verde
you state clearly that you are often the only "person of color" and "Spanish-speaking stakeholder" at the table in a predominately white
conservation movement. What do you see as the best ways to shift this paradigm?
I work mainly in marine conservation, which is not a very diverse field. However, through my environmental justice work, I get to collaborate with a more diverse cohort. The issue is a systemic one, and so it needs a systemic approach from non-profit to philanthropic leadership, people need to realize that business as usual has failed to meaningfully engage people of color. This doesn't mean that they are not interested in conservation, but rather in the process. I feel like this is exactly what the paper spells out.
the past several years your work has grown to encompass linkages with other
Latino activists who are pushing back against fracking,
natural gas infrastructure, and the health consequences of air pollution. Latinos have a higher rate of cancer, asthma and other diseases as a result of toxic factory sitings. What do you see as the best steps to combat these issues?
Without trying to oversimplify, the idea is to work with neighbors and other parents to get informed, contact local elected officials with the problem, and ask for guidance. Also, when elected officials know that this is an issue of importance to their constituents, the idea would be that they look out for solutions and speak out against further siting of polluting industries, possibly even write new legislation if this would be the way forward.