Latinos Go Verde [Green!]

by Mindy Hiteshue — last modified Sep 08, 2006 06:49 PM

Starting this past Wednesday and continuing through tomorrow (Saturday), the National Latino Congreso is holding an extremely significant conference in Los Angeles. Why is it so significant? For many reason is that it's the first comprehensive gathering of Latinos in almost 30 years! Another reason why the event is particularly significant is that the agenda includes an entire day to address environmental issues. According to a September 1 article by Inside EPA:

[...] a Los Angeles Latino leader says the environment is becoming a growing issue in the [Latino] community for a number of reasons. "We live in cities so brownfields are an issue, overcrowding, the aging industrial complex, these dramatically affect public health. . . . I hope the congress comes up with a vision of Latino politics for the next generation with a heavy emphasis on environment, community health and stewardship of wild lands."

Included on the agenda of environmental issues are climate change, environmental health (pdf), air and water quality issues, environmental justice, and much more. I am thrilled to see Latino leaders taking such an active part in environmental issues. As the Latino population grows in the United States (and in North Carolina in particular) it is becoming more and more important for this segment of the population to become involved in environmental issues...not only because Latinos (like many non-Latinos) need to be educated on sustainability issues to ensure public health, but also because their support has the potential to play a huge part in future fights on a slew of environmental issues, often directly impacting the thousands upon thousands of Latinos living in areas of low economic prosperity, where, unfortunately, landfills and other environmental hazards often seem to pop up.

As a person who's active in North Carolina's Latino community, I'd like to know what others are thinking about these topics. Are environmental issues important to Latinos in our state? If not, should they be? Is enough being done to educate and incorporate the environmentally-related needs of Latinos statewide and nationwide? If not, who should be taking the lead on this?

Comments (3)

Alejandra May 10, 2007 02:19 PM
Hi Mindy,

Thanks for sending us this information. It's great to know they are adding more workshops about environmental issues to Latino conferences. Latinos have become the largest minority in USA, and the numbers keep increasing... Most of the Latino immigrants are not familiar with environmental issues because unfortunately we are not forced to learn how to preserve the environment in our countries, and we don't give it the importance that it deserves.

It would be great to have an environmental program targeting the Hispanic community here in NC. I really don't know who should take the lead on this, but I'm sure some local Hispanic organization will like to be involved. I wonder if there is the possibility of getting funds to develop a social campaign that targets the Hispanic community, which could be informative and motivates the people to make a possitive change (?).

Anyway, if you get some kind of movement out of this discussion, please keep me in mind :)

Mindy Hiteshue May 10, 2007 02:19 PM
In reading a recent blog on climate change (, I came across some an interesting blog post specifically referencing the Latino Congreso and their work with environmental issues ( I thought that this quote was particularly noteworthy:

"Roger Rivera, President of the National Hispanic Environmental Council, (NHEC) began his speech this morning by saying, “You may be surprised to see that today’s agenda is focused on the Environment, after all, the environment is for rich white people, “we” don’t do the environment. Well, we’re a green group with brown folks and I’m here to tell you that the environment today is one of the most important issues facing the Latino community and we can no longer make this a back burner issue.” Roger Rivera’s comments and the roaring applause that followed them are both a testament and wake-up call to our movement."

The blogger went on to address the issue of sustainining an environmental movement inclusive of all types of people:

"We cannot effectively fight this fight as a group of white middle class people no matter how committed we may say we are to issues of environmental justice. Our movement MUST be reflective of the communities across the nation that are impacted by climate change, we must not only talk the talk on environmental justice, we must walk the walk."

Does anyone know of any groups in North Carolina already "walking the walk?"

Alejandra, I think your idea of getting funds to develop a social campaign targeting the Hispanic/Latino community on environmental and social change is a great idea. Who should the key players be? It's something to think about!
Anonymous May 10, 2007 02:19 PM
It's encouraging to see that the Congreso, based on the exerpt, brownfields are a priority concern, although many latinos don't live in urban areas. Cleaning brownfields improves communities.

Focusing on environmental justice would be a less productive, more negative approach. Certainly it's unjust that many latinos live in poor environments out of necessity, but its also unfair that they earn $6 for hard labor, etc. It's impossible to isolate whether environmental inequities are the result of income disparity or discrimination is not possible. Environmental justice is generally not a productive route to environmental improvement.
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