Leaders in politics, business and advocacy said Wednesday that the Latino community is one of the most involved in the fight for conservation during an event at the Davidson Conference Center.
Experts at the California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund’s “Salud, Familia, Comunidad: California Latino Voters and Our Air, Land, and Water” also said that global preservation should be a more pressing issue for state policymakers.
The conference’s panel featured Sen. Kevin de León, representing California’s 22nd Senate District; Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, representing California’s 50th Assembly District; Veronica Gutierrez, vice president of local public affairs for Southern California Edison; Irma Muñoz, CEO and president of Mujeres de la Tierra; and Marta Segura of Diverse Strategies for Organizing, Inc.
Other featured commentators included Sarah Rose, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund; Ben Tulchin, president of Tulchin Research; and moderator Victor Griego of the Diverse Strategies for Organizing, Inc.
While introducing the panel, Rose said that the state can improve its current environmental policies.
All the panelists agreed that California needs to become more active in its policies regarding the preservation of the earth, but also that Latinos serve as one of the most active communities regarding these issues.
Lara, a state representative, emphasized the effect of environmental issues on Latino communities. Latinos in Southeast Los Angeles had an 80 percent chance of contracting some sort of cancer, Lara said. Children in Latino communities are forced to play in the street because there are no parks and water is not affordable, he said.
According to a study from the CLCV Education Fund that looks at the environmental attitudes of California Latino voters, 90 percent said they believe that protecting the environment and creating jobs are not exclusive. Additionally, 66 percent refer to themselves as conservationists.
Veronica Gutierrez places her faith in the various communities with agriculture backgrounds who immigrated to the United States. She referred to Latinos as the “original folk with the reusable bag,” arguing that Latinos come from a history of farming and agriculture, and understand more than most the importance of conserving our natural resources.
Some of the issues that Latinos list as important in the CLCV survey include water pollution, renewable energy, energy conservation, toxic pollution resulting in disease and conserving fish and wildlife habitats.
Concerns from the Latino community seem to be substantiated by recent data. According to Executive Summary from the California League of Conservation Voters, 25 percent of Latinos in California have at least one household member suffering from asthma.
“We’re speaking different languages at times, but we all want the same thing — we want clean air and clean water,” said de León.