A recent study by Yale Climate Change Communications found that U.S. Latinos are significantly more worried about climate change than other groups and are willing to take action. They also tend to be more vulnerable to air pollution and extreme weather because of where they live and work. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, for example, hit Latino communities especially hard. All across the country, Latinos are working hard to fight polluters and protect our air, water and climate. Here are the Latino voices leading the way in fighting climate change.
Executive Director, UPROSE
Elizabeth Yeampierre leads UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. She is a national leader on climate justice who advocates for sustainable development and she was the first Latina chair of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. In 2015, she was one of the opening speakers at Pope Francis’s Climate Change Rally at the National Mall in Washington DC.
“As we face a full-scale assault on our very existence, we are planning, organizing, building, educating and resisting with an understanding of what this means for our communities.” Op-ed in the Guardian.
Executive Director, Voces Verdes
Adrianna Quintero is the founder and executive director of Voces Verdes, a national coalition of Latino business, health, and community organizations advocating for action on climate change and renewable energy. Her work has spotlighted the disproportionate impact climate change has on Latino communities.
“Our communities have been and will be more seriously impacted than others, despite the fact that Latinos and other communities of color support action on climate at higher levels than non-Hispanic whites.”
Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Juan Parras is the founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, a grassroots organization aimed at improving air quality and environmental health for the Lone Star State’s most heavily polluted communities. In 2015, the Sierra Club awarded him the Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Champion Award for his lifetime of work “denouncing and fighting environmental injustices perpetrated by polluting industries that set up shop right next to vulnerable low-income communities of color.”
“To me it’s important that all communities in a sense be treated equally… Why is it that poor communities have all the waste water treatment plants? Why is it that they get all the chemical plants?” Interview with Houston History Magazine.
U.S. Representative, California’s 44th District
Nanette Barragan represents much of south Los Angeles in Congress. She has the distinction of being the first representative to put environment on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus agenda and is the chair of the group’s newly formed environmental task force. Earlier this year, she also launched the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force with her colleagues to protect vulnerable communities from climate change. She previously served on the Hermosa Beach City Council where she defeated efforts to allow oil drilling in the Santa Monica Bay.
“Oftentimes, issues are assigned to an identity… We want to show that issues of the environment impact — and should be a top priority to — immigrants, women, Latinos, African Americans and everyone.” Interview with Latina.
Nicole Hernandez Hammer
Climate Science Advocate, Union of Concerned Scientists
Nicole Hernandez Hammer is a sea-level researcher who has studied the effects of climate change in cities, particularly on Hispanic populations near the coast. She previously worked as the assistant director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University as well as the Florida field manager for Moms Clean Air Force. She had the honor of joining former First Lady Michelle Obama as a guest at the 2015 State of the Union.
“The impacts of climate change are happening now, and communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable. The window to avoid the worst of climate change is rapidly closing.”
Actor, Composer, Lyrical Genius
The star of Hamilton needs no introduction, but do listen to his climate-themed Spotify playlist and his new single about Puerto Rico. And don’t forget his call for donations to support the island devastated by Hurricane Maria.
“I made a new mix! It’s called Climb It, Change Is Real. Theme is self-evident. This one bangs.” @Lin_Manuel
Director of Programs, CLEO Institute
Natalia Arias works for the CLEO Institute, a nonprofit that drives climate action through community education and engagement. She works to educate students, government officials, millennials and vulnerable communities about climate change and environmental justice issues.
“People need help to connect the dots between the causes and effects of a rapidly changing climate.”
U.S. Representative, Florida’s 26th District
Carlos Curbelo is a Florida congressman whose district stretches from Key West to Miami-Dade. He is the co-founder of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives dedicated to finding solutions to climate change. The caucus currently includes 30 Republican and 30 Democrats.
“I tell my skeptical colleagues: When my district is underwater, I’ll move to their district and run against them. That usually breaks the ice.” Interview with Grist.
Vanessa Huac is an Emmy Award-winning journalist with Noticiero Telemundo. Recognizing the importance of distilling climate and environmental stories to a form that entire families can understand, she started five-minute story segments called “Alerta Verde (or Green Alert)” for Telemundo. She is also the co-founder of nonprofit Sachamama to raise awareness and empower the Latino community on the importance of preserving our planet.
“I realized that the environment is one of the most important stories of our time and the Hispanic community is especially vulnerable to the changes on our planet. I realized it was important to me to communicate that message to my community.” Interview with UNLV News Center.
Youth Director, Earth Guardians
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous climate activist and hip hop artist. Martinez and 20 other young Americans have taken the federal government to court for failing to act on climate change — a suit some have called the “biggest trial of the century.” Martinez received the 2013 United States Community Service Award from President Obama and served on the President’s youth council.
“Each of us have a different story, a different voice and different ways that our communities, our families and our homes are being impacted by climate change. For us it’s about our future.”
Former Executive Secretary, UNFCCC
Christiana Figurers is one of chief architects of the Paris Agreement. As the former executive secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, she is credited for unifying political, environmental, faith and industry leaders across countries to cut carbon pollution. As the convener of Mission 2020, she is working towards bending the curve on greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
“I’m an anthropologist, so I look at the history of mankind. And where we are now is that we see that nations are interlinked, inextricably, and that what one does has an impact on the others.” Profile in the New Yorker.
Lydia D. Avila
Executive Director, Power Shift Network
Lydia Avila is the executive director of Power Shift Network, which mobilizes young people to advocate for clean energy future. She works with activists to help them develop and execute grassroots campaigns. Before launching the Power Shift Network, she spent three years working with the Sierra Club, campaigning against coal in Texas.
“When I became educated on the root causes of so many of the systemic injustices that exist in our society, and got to see what a community could accomplish if they worked together, I was hooked on climate action.”
Yessenia Funes recently began her stint as the environmental justice reporter for Earther, a newly launched news outlet that focuses on humanity’s impact on the Earth and what it means for the future. She previously worked as the climate justice reporter for Colorlines, where she wrote several national and regional climate stories from the lens of race and social justice.
“As a Latina, there are so many injustices I could be devoting my time to covering, but this one feels like the most dire to me. It’s not happening to just a single community here or there. It’s happening everywhere.”
Michael Anthony Mendez
Associate Research Scientist, Yale University
Michael Mendez is a research scientist at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He previously served as senior consultant to the California state legislature’s Assembly Select Committee on Environmental Justice and as vice chair of the Sacramento Planning Commission. He is currently completing his book, Climate Change from the Streets, which analyzes the narratives of climate advocates, experts and local governments.
“I hope to inspire the new environmental leaders to focus not only on the technical skills needed for environmental solutions but how can those solutions address issues facing disadvantaged communities.”
Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University
Dr. Sergio Rimola is an obstetrician in northern Virginia and leader of the National Hispanic Medical Association, which has worked to highlight the health risks of climate change. He is also a member of the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action.
“As a Latino, I feel compelled to take part in efforts to advocate for climate action within my community, not to mention that Latinos are disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change.”
Shravya Jain writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, politics, art and culture. You can follow her @Shravya_Jain.