As “Latinx Heritage Month” comes to a close, 350.org and Movimiento Cosecha teamed up to call attention to how climate change is impacting Latinx communities, and the many powerful ways these very communities are fighting to stop the climate crisis.
First, it’s important to note that this month is commonly referred to as “Hispanic Heritage Month” and we want to acknowledge the exclusionary and harmful impact of both the terms Hipanic and Latinx. This video from The Root breaks down the history of these terms.
Nevertheless, we felt this moment was important to spotlight the ways that people of Latin American descent are impacted by climate change and leading the fight towards climate solutions.
Fighting for Clean Air
Almost half of Latinx people in the US live in the 15 worst urban areas for ozone pollution and around one fourth of the Latinx population live in the 15 worst areas for particulate pollution leading to high rates of asthma related hospitalization and death in Latinx communities. Environmental Justice activists know that this is no accident as low income and communities of color are targeted for the placement of polluting industries.
That’s why many Latinx activists are leading the fight for clean air. Dania DeRamon’s story of fighting for pollution free communities in the Inland Empire is just one of many inspiring examples. The Inland Empire in California is home for many Latinx communities, many of which are subjected to some of the highest particulate pollution levels in the US largely due to nearby railyards and transportation routes for diesel burning trucks. Dania has been advocating for clean air policies alongside other youth and community members.
This past month, they won a restricted truck route, which would keep diesel burning trucks away from residential neighborhoods. Read more about Dania’s story here.
Climate Justice in Puerto Rico
Latin American countries, particularly in the Caribbean, are experiencing the threat of increasingly powerful superstorms. Youth and students in Puerto Rico are taking their future into their own hands by leading the fight for climate justice in Puerto Rico. On Sept 20th, the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria they organized a climate strike to call attention to the impacts of climate change on low-income communities and communities of color and hold legislators and corporations accountable to perpetuating climate change.
“Nearly 700 people showed up to demand justice for the millions of Puerto Ricans who have been, and will continue to be, affected by the effects of the climate crisis—we’ve said enough is enough, and we won’t sit by and let our government’s inaction kill us.” – Tristan Queriot, Youth Climate Strike Leader in Puerto Rico.
Agricultural Workers and Climate Change
Latinx workers represent a large part of the outdoor occupation workforce working in agriculture and construction jobs. Climate change directly impacts the health and livelihoods of these workers due to extreme heat, sustained drought, floods and superstorms. Migrant workers, many of whom come to the US from Latin American Countries for economic opportunities in farmworking are seeing their livelihoods destroyed due to climate change fueled disasters like storms and floods.
In the aftermath of climate disasters like Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas in September 2018, many migrant farmworkers experienced challenges accessing relief aid due to language barriers and fear of immigration authorities.
In this video from 100 Days In Appalachia, Yesenia Cuello, Executive Director at NC Field, talks about the impacts of storms like Hurricane Florence on migrant workers. NC Field works on empowering migrant farmworkers through leadership development and connecting migrant and seasonal farmworkers with needed services and opportunities.
Yesenia Cuello from 100 Days on Vimeo.
Riquezas del Campo is a new cooperative farm in Hatfield Mass, now finishing its first season. The organic vegetable farm is led by six worker-owners, all recent immigrants to the US and all leaders at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. Nearly all of Riquezas owners currently work full-time as farmworkers on nearby tobacco or vegetable farms. Most come from farming backgrounds and grew up helping grow the corn and beans needed to sustain their families.
Claudia, an immigrant from El Salvador, is one of the founders of the farm and also a member of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center’s Board of Directors. A mother of two and a full time farmworker from Springfield, Claudia believes that with the creation of the farm, “we are growing another world for each other.” The goal of the farm is different for each person involved but is rooted in the community. The radical nature of the farm is an extension of the work community from the local immigrant community, as nearly all of the immigrant worker-owners are also leaders in the workers center and leading a state-wide fight for drivers licenses in Massachusetts alongside Movimiento Cosecha, and the Driving Families Forward coalition.
Latinx communities around the US are experiencing first-hand the impacts of climate change, and also on the leading the fight for climate justice. This month and beyond it is important that we uplift and support the many powerful ways Latinx activists leading the climate movement by fighting for healthy communities and a just and sustainable future.