In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, EcoMadres celebrated Hispanic and Latino culture at events across the country, engaging with families about the importance of clean air and climate action. Our EcoMadres program is dedicated to educating and mobilizing Latino communities, which are disproportionately impacted by air pollution and extreme heat.
Hispanic Heritage Month events included performances by the newly formed EcoMadres Ensemble and a celebration at Sandy Point State Park in Maryland. The state park event was featured in an Anne Arundel Patch events list and EcoMadres leaders Carolina Peña-Alarcón and Liz Hurtado (pictured above) discuss it on Telemundo 44. During the interview, Liz invites families to join EcoMadres: “When it comes to our children’s health, we need to take action together.” Carolina emphasizes that anyone can be part of the climate change solution: “Sometimes there are people who feel that they cannot do anything. Here at EcoMadres they can find hope.”
This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month coincided with the lead-up to the midterm elections, so EcoMadres has also been working hard to maximize Latino voter turnout by joining forces with Corazón Latino to revive the Soy Latino, Sí Voto (SLSV) campaign. Carolina tells The Fulcrum: “We know that clean air and water are essential for healthy lives… The SLSV campaign is an important step forward in continuing this work and making sure we have a livable planet for our children.” Carolina sums up the SLSV campaign mission in a Radio Bilingue interview: “What we want at EcoMadres and Moms Clean Air Force is to empower people to vote so that their voices are heard.”
AN INTERGENERATIONAL BURDEN
Climate change, air pollution, and extreme weather disproportionately impact low-wealth families and communities of color, but they also tend to take the greatest toll on the eldest and youngest members of our community. This was top of mind for our Florida state coordinator Yaritza Perez when Hurricane Ian struck her home state. She and her family stayed safe in the storm, but she worried a lot about her elderly mother. Yaritza tells Atmos that it is up to her and her family to protect and advocate for her mom because they can’t count on anyone else to do it.
Unfortunately, Yartiza’s experience is not unique. When it comes to extreme weather events, older adults are among the most vulnerable. Many need refrigeration for medication and electricity to power oxygen machines. Others lack the support or resources they need to evacuate in dire situations. Yaritza is perplexed by our society’s lack of respect and consideration for the elderly. She tells Atmos: “Why wouldn’t you want to have this walking piece of history among us?”
Extreme weather also tends to take a significant toll on children. In an op-ed for the Charlotte Observer, our Senior Policy Analyst Elizabeth Bechard writes: “High levels of childhood stress, like the stress of experiencing a climate disaster, can affect long-term brain development. When children are exposed to traumatic events, they may experience post-traumatic stress disorder and depression to a greater degree than adults.” Elizabeth says that, ultimately, the “climate crisis is a mental health crisis.”
One of the best things we can do to protect children and older adults from the damaging effects of the climate crisis is to tell our leaders to tackle climate change right now. As Texas state coordinator Erandi Treviño tells Telemundo Nueva Inglaterra: “It falls on each one of us … to make our voices heard so that politicians begin to enforce changes that benefit us now because a change is urgently needed.”
THE POLLUTION PROBLEM
On October 6, our regional Moms teams gathered in Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC as part of the nationwide Methane Day of Action. Denver Gazette, Colorado Springs Gazette, and Colorado Politics report that organizers who spoke at the events called on President Biden to protect the health of our families by cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.
Methane is a powerful climate pollutant and the process of extracting methane releases large quantities of toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and other health problems. That’s why Methane Day of Action participants argued that a strong methane rule is a critical part of securing a healthy future for our kids.
But oil and gas operations are just one of many air pollution sources. Our Public Health Policy Director Molly Rauch and National Manager of Health Equity Almeta Cooper talk about the dangers of air pollution more broadly during a conversation with the Sustainability Defined podcast. Molly says that she joined the fight for clean air after she went for a long bike ride on a hot summer day, and her “lungs hurt, they literally ached.” She later learned that her symptoms were probably caused by high levels of ozone in the air that day.
Kids are even more vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution. Almeta tells the podcast that she is very concerned for the millions of children who go to school on diesel-powered school buses each day. Even those who don’t take the bus often have to walk past a long line of idling buses, breathing in tailpipe pollution that is linked to lung infections, heart issues, and cancer. Almeta didn’t know that these health risks existed when she was sending her daughter to school: “I had absolutely no idea that I was sending the light of my life on a school bus where she and her classmates were in danger from being exposed to tailpipe pollution.” Now that Almeta is aware of the risks, she’s dedicated to protecting future generations by advocating for the transition to zero-pollution, electric school buses.
Quotes from the Telemundo 44, Telemundo Nueva Inglaterra, and Radio Bilingue interviews have been translated to English from the original Spanish by our EcoMadres team.
- EcoMadres is profiled in the newest issue of DATOS, a publication of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (pages 153–155).
- Yale Climate Connections lists Moms Clean Air Force and EcoMadres as potential matches in their “What can YOU do about climate change?” quiz.
- Our Program Coordinator Luz Drada was a panelist in an Early Years Climate Action Listening Session.