Since the presidential election, many in the Latino community have wondered if we have stumbled into a time warp.
After years of moving forward on multiculturalism, women’s rights and environmental justice, we suddenly seem to be hurtling into the past. While we find our footing, we need anchors to hold onto: some things remain constant.
Demographics are changing.
By 2050, the population of the United States will not have one racial majority, but a veritable melting pot. Our diverse electorate mandates -- and ultimately, ensures -- a diverse and inclusive approach to public policy. Latino organizing power is ascending. Latinos are more politically charged than ever, and are ready to fight not only for our “classic” issues like the economy, education, immigration and health care, but also for the overarching priority of a safe and sustainable future.
Climate change has not changed. Or rather, the climate is still changing, with the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere soaring dangerously past the 400 parts per million mark in September of this year.
Scientific proof of climate change has not changed. It continues to pile up even in the face of climate deniers who will be dangerously in charge of our climate policies for at least the next four years. Scientists recently declared 2016 the second-warmest year on record, on the heels of 2015, which was hotter than any other year in recorded history.
This year saw a spate of freak wildfires across the Southeast due to unusual drought patterns, and much of the United States just got slammed by another “polar vortex,” another manifestation of the extreme weather that comes with climate destabilization.
Faced with yet another year of scientifically incontestable evidence, our president-elect denies the reality of climate change and vows to dismantle the landmark progress our country has made, from the Clean Air Act to the Paris Climate Agreement.
The impact of man-made climate change is real, and it’s getting worse. The more extreme and unpredictable our climate becomes, the more we feel the impact on our health, our safety and our wallets. Latinos are particularly affected by a changing climate. We are geographically vulnerable, with the majority of Latinos living in Texas, Florida, California and New York, all of which are hit hard by the flooding, smog, and extreme heat that global warming brings.
Latinos are also disproportionately likely to work outside on farms or construction sites, and approximately three times more likely to die on the job due to heat-related medical problems than people of other ethnicities. On top of that, climate change exacerbates the other injustices that Latinos already face, such as lack of access to health care, poverty and inadequate infrastructure.
It is no surprise, then, that Latinos lead the nation in our awareness of the of the climate crisis. A post-election poll by the Sierra Club and GreenLatinos showed that nine of 10 Latino voters feel that environmental issues directly impact their families’ quality of life.
Eighty eight percent say that they are concerned about climate change, and 71 percent want our country to uphold its commitment to the Paris Agreement to curb climate change.
As our president-elect tries to turn back the clock, appointing discredited climate deniers to top cabinet posts and scrambling to revive the obsolete coal industry, Latinos have their eyes on the future. We want a sustainable, low-carbon economy that creates high-quality jobs and helps stabilize our runaway climate. Like most Americans, we see that the health of the environment and our economy are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependent.
Ninety-seven percent of Latinos believe that we have “a moral responsibility” to take care of the environment. That is bigger than the results of any one election; our commitment to the planet is measured in generations, not four-year terms.
I am proud to stand with my community and Voces Verdes, a coalition of Latino leaders from all sectors, to move forward with this vital task, for the next four years and beyond.
I hope you will join us.
Maria T. Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.
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