Latino Voters Need Climate Action Champions

by Jennifer Molina

Imagine living in a community where some days you just can’t go outside. It’s either too hot or the air is so bad that its dangerous. But it is not just being unable to go outside, the air you breathe places you and your family at higher risk for asthma and other respiratory illness. This means higher health care costs and a higher likelihood of missed schools days – which means increased childcare costs.

This is the climate reality for far too many Latino families across the country, but especially here in California. The Climate Crisis is creating environmental, health and economic challenges on a daily basis.

In San Bernardino – home to thousands of Latino families – there were over 100 bad air days last year as measured by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Families who were already forced to live hours from their work due to skyrocketing housing costs are surrounded by rail yards and shipping centers that emit some of the worst levels of air pollution in the country.

But it is not just inland Latino families facing the worst environmental consequences. It is also families who live near our ports. Dirty vehicles – that the Trump Administration is only trying to make dirtier by rolling back critical environmental protections – pollute the air in our communities and are heating our planet in ways with real life consequences.

These consequences include droughts that are raising our food prices as farmers are forced to adjust their practices to account for less water. And let’s not forget the real human impact of hotter days for the farm workers who put food on our tables.

But even more than increasing food insecurity and placing farm workers in the Central Valley at risk, hundreds of Latino families in Northern California lost their homes due to devastating wildfires. Our families now have to prepare for longer and more severe wildfire seasons that risk our safety, homes and communities.

The climate crisis is real, which is why the California League of Conservation Voters changed our scorecard to hold California legislators accountable. It is no longer time to say one day we will protect our environment and fight climate change. The time for action is now. We are grading legislators on what they are doing today to stop the climate crisis. You can see where your legislator stands by visiting the 2019 California Environmental Scorecard.

On Tuesday, we will be starting the process to determine which legislators in California will be leading us into a critical decade for our environment. We are also electing our potential next president.

Democratic candidates and national media coming to our state this week need to know that Latinos are watching who will fight for us. Immigration is all too important to our community. But we are more than a single-issue community and climate change touches every aspect of our daily lives.

The reality is that Latinos and immigrant families breathe the dirty air from diesel engines too. We see the impact that pollution has not just on our physical health but our health care costs. And we know all too well how climate inaction is putting our food security and the safety of our homes or future homes at risk.

We need leadership locally, on the state level and most especially on the presidential level. Science tells us that we have 10 years to solve our climate crisis. 10 years to start deploying clean energy solutions, like solar, in an equitable way that benefits all communities. 10 years to start deploying electric vehicles and other clean transportation options at our ports, railyards and shipping centers, so neighboring communities no longer breathe dangerous and dirty air. 10 years to prevent a future filled with droughts and wildfires that jeopardize our homes, jobs and communities.

Climate change is a Latino issue that impacts our daily lives. We cannot afford inaction.

Jennifer Molina is the Communications Director for the California League of Conservation Voters.

Posted on March 2, 2020 in Groundswell Blog.

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