Despite the comfortable denialism of some, for Latinos, climate change is real, and the evidence is right across the street.
Social inequalities have forced Latinos in the U.S. to live in overlooked, low-income neighborhoods subjected to higher temperatures and less access to resources. These conditions are reflected in chronic respiratory diseases and higher incidences of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis and the American University of Beirut concluded last year that poor and Latino neighborhoods in 20 metropolitan regions in the Southwest endure temperatures several degrees higher on the hottest days putting them at greater risk for heat-related illnesses.
Also, researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Kentucky have shown that Latino neighborhoods are more vulnerable to flooding. Large Latino populations live in coastal cities such as Miami and Houston, which experience the sea-level rise and hurricane threats.
“The majority of the Latino population, from mainland Latinos to Puerto Ricans, lives at the forefront of climate change. They’re first and hardest hit,” said Michael Méndez, an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine.
“Because of racism and other social inequality, structural inequalities, most of these communities have aging infrastructure that is crumbling, even before a disaster strikes,” Mendez added.
Coincidentally, a Pew Research Center study released last fall showed that seven in 10 Latinos say climate change affects their communities somewhat. In contrast, only 54 percent of non-Latinos said it affects their neighborhoods. The self-administered web survey of 13,749 respondents had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.
Similarly, Colorado College’s “Conservation in the West” survey, released this year, showed notably higher percentages of Latino, Black, and Native American voters in eight western states concerned about climate change, pollution, and the impact of fossil fuels.
So it’s no wonder Latinos have taken action to fight climate change.
As reported by The Associated Press, after experiencing the effects of global warming firsthand, U.S. Latinos are leading the way in climate change activism, often drawing on the traditions of their ancestral homelands.
Latino activists are sounding the alarm about the risks of global warming to their neighborhoods and the world. They include a teenager who protested every Friday for weeks outside U.N. headquarters in New York, a Southern California academic who wants more grassroots efforts included in global climate organizing, and a Mexican-born advocate in Phoenix who teaches young Hispanics the importance of protecting the Earth for future generations.
Studies have found that Latinos are more likely to identify themselves as “active supporters” of environmental movements, and this has materialized in the many Latino organizations fighting Climate Change.