When I began trying to rally Latino leaders around climate change in 2004, I raised a few eyebrows: “Does she know the number of Latinos without health insurance? Don’t Latinos really only rally around immigration reform? Aren’t jobs and the economy so much more important?
With the plethora of important issues facing Latino communities, I wasn’t surprised that the informal consensus was climate change was not a Latino issue. Among Latinos, however, we knew we cared deeply.
Today, there is new consensus: Our issues are interrelated, and climate change is one of them.
Polls from the past few years show that Latinos have consistently been ahead of the curve in understanding the impact and risk that climate change presents. For many striving to build a solid future for their families, living paycheck-to-paycheck or unable to access health insurance, an extreme weather event could be what pushes them over the edge.
The impacts are also real. One in two Latinos still lives in counties that frequently violate air quality standards. Higher temperatures lead to smoggier days that will only make this worse and accelerate the already evident uptick in asthma attacks and the impacts on families like missed work and school days.
Latino workers are also heavily impacted since we make up a large part of the outdoor workforce in the construction, agricultural and landscaping trades which are all more likely to be exposed to poor air quality and dangerous or even deadly heat waves.
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