Do you know someone in your community with cancer or asthma? Have you ever wondered why your neighborhood has fewer trees, fewer parks? Have you noticed that storms and heat waves are getting stronger and more frequent? These problems are not accidental, nor are they isolated. They are all part of the same problem: environmental injustices in Latino communities.
From our health to our jobs and future, environmental injustice affects everything around us. That is why GreenLatinos is fighting for environmental liberation for all. Together we must turn the tide on the environmental crisis the world is facing.
For decades, oil and gas companies have counted on our dependence on their products to silence us. Meanwhile, CEOs of oil and gas companies have profited enormously, earning more than $20 million a year, while poisoning communities of color. They get away with deadly profiteering by buying off politicians so that communities of color and African Americans are not represented when it comes time to decide when, where and how new fossil fuel facilities would operate. The system is not working for us and its failures have created scenarios that increasingly threaten the lives of people and the planet.
Communities of color meet more exposed to more air pollution than the average American. For example, Latinos experience 11% more exposure to air pollution than the average person. In addition, 74 million people of color live in counties that have received a failing grade for ozone and/or particulate pollution.
We know that in the United States close to 2 million Latinos live less than half a mile from an oil and gas facility; those within this half-mile radius are at increased risk of adverse health impacts from oil and gas-related air pollution. Some of these pollutants are linked to cancer, heart attacks, chronic diseases, and asthma.
Methane emissions released from toxic oil and gas facilities are also a powerful cause of warming the climate, making our communities more vulnerable to natural disasters, disease and heat stroke. Extreme weather events, including stronger and longer lasting hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, and extreme heat days, disproportionately affect the health, jobs, housing, and safety of Latino communities because they work outdoors in construction and agriculture at higher rates.
But this is not all. When a weather disaster leads to flooding – to which communities of color and black communities are more susceptible– Local oil refineries and chemical plants release deadly toxic pollutants into our communities’ water. For example, after Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the petrochemical industry reported releasing an additional 320 tons of toxic pollution in Houston, almost all of it concentrated within four miles of a 98% Latino neighborhood.
Latinos care deeply about environmental justice. A 2021 poll of Latino voters by Climate Power and BSP found that 86% want oil and gas companies to pay for the pollution they create. Research conducted this year by Third Way, WE ACT for Environmental Justice and GreenLatinos showed that at least 64% of those surveyed had already felt the impacts of climate change. We want solutions focused on growing jobs and saving money through climate action.
Our health and our planet are at risk by depending on an inefficient and polluting energy system that is half a century old. The old models are getting more and more expensive and they are killing us. Instead, clean energy like wind and solar are cheaper than energy that comes from oil and gas. The adoption of clean energy could improve life expectancy and quality of life.
A just transition to clean energy is critical for communities of color to address this climate and air pollution crisis and build a more environmentally just future for our communities. GreenLatinos is lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create more stringent regulations that reduce methane leaks and emissions along with the toxic co-pollutants emitted by new and existing oil and gas wells. For a fossil-free future, we demand that Congress approve $550 billion in climate investments for this essential energy transition. Tell your leaders that this is not only a health issue, but also a justice issue: Environmental Justice. We have run out of time. The time to demand change is now.
Up, my people! For our people, for our people, for our Mother Earth.
Mark Magaña, Founding President and CEO of GreenLatinos