The stereotypical environmentalist is white and wealthy, but it’s a dangerous and self-sustaining idea. The best-known environmental organizations may have little involvement from people of color, but people of all races care about the environment. In fact, a recent Yale University poll found that Latinos take climate change more seriously than any other ethnic group. And they’re not waiting to be welcomed into the mainstream movement. Environmentally conscious Latinos form their own ecological movement.
Like the Yale poll, the State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West survey shows that about two-thirds of Latinos are concerned about environmental issues and willing to take action on climate change. Latinos are 20% more likely than whites to express concerns about climate change. The only ethnic group surveyed to place climate among the top 10 issues they would consider when voting, Latinos ranked climate as equally important to immigration reform and gun control.
More than 80% of respondents support the national goal of conserving 30% of America’s land and waters by 2030; transition to 100% renewable energy; protection of Bears Ears National Monument; and creation of new national parks and sanctuaries for outdoor recreation.
It should come as no surprise that Latinos have an increased awareness of the importance of climate change. One of the most immediate consequences of climate change is an increase in extreme weather events. One in three Americans report being directly affected by an extreme weather event in the past two years, and nearly two-thirds say climate change is already affecting their community in some way.
Latinos make up almost 20% of the American population and live in every state. But half of the Hispanic population lives in four states: California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. These are also among the states hardest hit by increasingly severe wildfires, hurricanes and rising sea levels. Latino communities often receive less help in emergencies: think of the nation’s inadequate response to Hurricane Maria. Latino communities also face the same everyday environmental injustices as other minority groups.
Despite the responsibility to pay attention to the specific concerns of those most affected by environmental degradation, major national environmental organizations have a complicated history with Latinos — most notably the Sierra Club’s past anti-immigrant stance — that has discouraged many from joining them. But Latinos don’t wait for an invitation to action. Instead, they become their own environmental leaders. Here are a few Latino-run organizations that are doing a good job and could use your support – regardless of your ethnicity.
Corazón Latino is a national non-profit organization dedicated to creating social, environmental, and conservation initiatives to advance the stewardship of natural resources. They work with two approaches: youth participation programs and culturally relevant campaigns to engage different communities in grassroots actions.
Green Latinos is a national coalition of Latino leaders dedicated to advocating for environmental, natural resource, and conservation issues that significantly affect the health and well-being of the US Latino community. Your political priorities are climate change; public lands; clean transportation; water law; and environmental justice.
Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) provides a platform for Latinos to contribute to public land conservation, with a focus on access to recreational and traditional cultural activities. They are also working to increase Hispanic participation in public-land decision-making.
Latino Outdoors is a national organization focused on expanding and enhancing the Latino experience of the outdoors through recreational, conservation, and environmental education programs.
Azul brings Latinx perspectives and involvement in marine conservation, coastal resources and marine life. Her campaigns include Deja el Plástico to reduce plastic pollution in California; Latinos Marinos, who recruit Latinos activists to lobby California legislative offices on behalf of the marine environment; and Vamos a la Playa, which encourages Latinx families to enjoy outdoor experiences through beach access.
TEJAS stands for Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and empowers individuals to advocate for environmental justice by educating about health issues that result from environmental pollution. about environmental laws and regulations; and community building skills and resources. TEJAS created the Toxic Tours, which show first-hand the refineries and chemical plants that affect Houston’s East End and advocate for healthier schools and better chemical safety.
Working to build support for a clean energy economy for all, Sachamama is offering a 7-week accredited climate curriculum in communities across the country. Her campaign, Latinos por la Tierra, aims to bring climate change to the forefront of mainstream conversations. The Florida-based organization also provides resources and experiences that help communities connect to and sustain oceans and beaches.
For a longer list of Latino-led and Latino-supported conservation organizations, see La Madre Tierra’s website.