This was written by Luz Drada, Moms Clean Air Force Program Coordinator:
Music, traditions, and diversity. This is how our culture honors Hispanic Heritage Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.
As a Latina, I am proud of all that our community has achieved, especially in favor of the quality of life for our families. For me, that is the most important value when celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. It is a great legacy that we provide for our children. This is why it is so important to protect our natural resources for a stable climate.
I came to this country from the city of Cali, Colombia, with its fertile Valle del Cauca. I know firsthand how generous the Earth is, which is why environmental discussions have always fascinated me. But I also know the consequences of pollution and climate change, not only on the land, but on the communities that depend on it. This land is irreplaceable, so protecting it is our responsibility.
Moving to the US in 2016 did not diminish my passion for caring for the world’s natural resources, along with the well-being of the most vulnerable people that depend on these resources. But when I found out I was going to be a mother, my understanding of the urgency of educating others in my community about climate change became clear.
As a Latina and an environmental advocate, I want the best for my son. I know the children of our community are the most affected by the collateral effects of climate change. Wishing good health for my people was a desire that grew before my eyes.
Latinos in the US are disproportionately impacted by pollution. Many of us live near roadways and are exposed to harmful emissions due to vehicles and heavy equipment that depend on fossil fuels. Others live and work on the front lines of toxic pollution from petrochemical companies. This puts us at risk for respiratory diseases, especially for our vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, pregnant women, and children. Latino children have a 60% greater risk of asthma attacks than other children. This is exacerbated by polluted air.
Climate change makes extreme weather worse. It has already caused catastrophic impacts on Latinos, displacing people, wildlife, and fauna. Wildfires and extreme heat are even directly linked to the cyclonic activity that recently wreaked havoc on our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Florida.
The wise Mother Earth tells us that the situation is unsustainable.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, in addition to celebrations, it is important that we prioritize protecting our precious lands. I am proud to belong to Moms Clean Air Force and its Latino community outreach program, EcoMadres. We are more than a million moms and dads, who, like me, are determined to fight for healthy communities for our families. With adequate bilingual accessible information, Latinos can help mitigate the constant risk of pollution and climate change. And we can do this work not only through information and education, but also through political empowerment by voting.
At EcoMadres, we are aware of this power and the fact that the Latino community plays a critical role in bringing significant healthy changes to our communities. About 8 out of 10 Hispanics say addressing global climate change is either a top concern or one of several important concerns to them personally. Safeguarding the planet for future generations is a cherished value in Latino culture.
With only four weeks to the midterm elections, Latinos have an opportunity to shape our government. Our vote can help elect public officials who are truly committed to protecting Latino families from climate change by developing dignified long-term and permanent solutions.
So much a part of our Latino identity that we celebrate this month is at risk to the adverse effects of climate change. It is with a sense of pride, duty, commitment, and urgency that we act now as we head to the polls to fight for the causes that unite and protect us.
Like so many of the Latinos who came before us, and those who today contribute to this country from so many different backgrounds, please help us continue to pave the way to a healthy and equitable life for our families and for our future.