From Brown to Green

Written by Krystal Ayala

“Latinos.” When one hears this term, it triggers various definitions of what a Latino is. The Oxford American Dictionary defines a Latino as a Latin-American inhabitant of the U.S.—simple as that. Personally, in my biased opinion as a Latina woman, I would define Latinos as a hard working class of people who carry a rich and diverse culture and history in their veins. But regardless of the definition of what a Latino is or is not, as census data illustrates, we are a people worth being acquainted with.

In California, Latinos will make up 40% of the population by the end of this year (2013), and 48% by 2050 (Medina, Jennifer), so it should be no surprise that as one of the leading ethnic groups in the state, Latinos currently have, and will continue to have, a vast amount of influence. It is this sway that Latinos possess that should be channeled towards pressing societal issues: immigration, education, job opportunities, and the environment.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is a national, nonprofit environmental organization comprised of lawyers, scientists, and environmental specialists established in 1970. With a goal of protecting the Earth and its inhabitants, the NRDC ultimately “…strives to help create a new way of life for humankind, one that can be sustained indefinitely without fouling or depleting the resources that support all life on Earth.” (NRDC). Although the NRDC has many issues they are working to resolve—global warming, energy, air, oceans, wildlife, health, and sustainable communities—it recognizes the impact that Latinos have on environmental issues in modern times, just as they did years ago during the agricultural movements headed by César Chávez and The United Farm Workers of America.

Latinos And The Environment Stats

In the midst of the current political climate, with Senator Marco Rubio denouncing a need for action on climate change, the NRDC conducted a survey that polled Latinos on what they really felt about climate change:

• 74% of Latinos believe climate change is a serious or very serious problem ( higher than the 65% of all American adults)
• 68% of Latinos support the president using his authority to reduce dangerous carbon pollution (as opposed to 60% of all American adults)
• 64% of Latinos agreed with Obama’s promise to make addressing climate change a priority in his second term
In addition, the NRDC sheds light on a phenomenon called “environmental racism,” which highlights the correlation of air pollution, poor water quality, and environment health to minorities, stating “communities of color, which are often poor, are routinely targeted to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts” (Skelton and Miller).