Climate change hurts the Latino community.
Much of climate change is driven by carbon pollution that power plants pump out around the clock. Power plants contribute to a third of our greenhouse gas emissions. Breathing the soot and particulate matter in dirty air is connected to asthma and other serious respiratory diseases.
So how does this impact Latinos? Latinos became the majority in 191 U.S. cities and are exposed to more harmful air pollution by living in higher traffic areas, and closer to power plants than other residents. So it’s no surprise that Latinos have a higher rate of asthma, which, together with the fact that Latinos made up 41 percent of all uninsured Americans in 2012, suggests that Latinos are less likely to receive treatment for asthma and other health issues impacted by climate change.
The Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO) recently conducted a research project that measured the Latino community’s perception about climate change. Interestingly, the majority of bilingual or multilingual participants understand that climate change is different than global warming, as opposed to the majority of English-only respondents who believe these two are the same.
The results highlight the importance of culture and cross-cultural understanding of climate change and its impact on the Latino community. Bilingual residents are more likely to be engaged in both the Latino community and the larger English-speaking American community. Addressing differences in cultural understanding will be very important to deal with the problem of climate change, since not every culture views climate change in the same way. That is why researching Latinos and other communities about their perceptions of climate change is an important step in understanding these potential differences and how to make positive changes.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will begin to curb carbon pollution from power plants by 40 percent and soot and smog by 25 percent. This will make our air cleaner and healthier, not only for Latinos but for all Coloradans.
But if we are going to make sure the Clean Power Plan directly addresses the health of the Latino community, Latinos need to be at the strategy table, whether convened by the Governor, our Congressional Representatives and Senators, mayors or the private sectors. Latinos need to represent our community’s interest and recommend real steps that protect our families, including outreach, community education, involvement in the public policy process and of course, voting.
As part of this process, CLLARO will host a Research Expo at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts on August 13th at 5:00 p.m., where we will release our research findings and host a panel discussion and town hall meeting. The general public is welcome to attend.
CLLARO supports the Clean Power Plan and will encourage members of the Latino community to support it, too – improving the health of Latinos depends on it.
Christine Alonzo is the executive director of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO).