“Rolling Deep”: Here’s How Latinos Are Reshaping California Environmentalism
“As an immigrant and a person of Mexican descent, I felt really proud,” said Alvaro Sanchez, vice president of policy at the Greenlining Institute.
Rings of power
The configuration of the UN Annual Conference of the Parties is organized around concentric circles.
At the center of this year’s meeting, countries unveiled details of a new climate change deal. While some countries have pledged more ambitious reductions in heat-trapped pollution, others have not agreed to limit emissions fast enough to prevent the world from the worst damage caused by climate disasters, NPR reported.
States like California did not participate in these negotiations. But accredited insiders were allowed access to a restricted circle, what participants call the “blue zone”.
The next circle is the “green zone”. It is designed to provide limited access and is where experts and advocates lobby and network.
Beyond the official conference and outside the secure area, the demonstrators demonstrate to be heard.
“The idea is that when people come in through the blue zone, they see all this advocacy,” said Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, COP veteran and founder of the San Francisco-based ocean conservation group. Azul.
The view from the blue zone
Lawmakers, scientists and big names in the climate world are in the blue zone, as are thousands of people who want to get closer to them for a while. State decision-makers are always very much in demand from their counterparts in municipal and regional governments during these meetings.
Garcia had access to the blue zone as a member of the official state delegation. He said California is an international model of climate policy, adding that the “role of the state at this conference is to continue to be a world leader on climate change.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says California is where new ideas are tested in the real world – proof that cutting emissions won’t destroy the economy.
The state is generating climate solutions, such as electric vehicles, emission regulations from power plants, and original research into the consequences of global warming.
But, said Rendon, the California model is not perfect and needs to be improved. Millions of Californians drive cars and use air conditioners, producing emissions that heat the planet, just like other industrialized economies.
“We have to tell the story of what we did,” Rendon said. “But I think we need to do more. [California’s emissions reductions] weren’t as aggressive as I would like. “
The view from the green zone
Of course, California has a lot of ideas to share, said Sanchez of the Greenlining Institute, but it’s also an oil-producing state where some residents – especially working-class people of color – suffer from the extreme heat. and air pollution.
“We see time and time again that people of color are very concerned about the climate, that people of color want the government to take action on the climate,” he said.
Sanchez has attended previous COPs as a guest of the state delegation, but watched it from home.
He and other environmental groups are working with a new generation of climate activists who value rules to protect public health and equal access to nature over traditional conversational priorities, like extended protections of the earth. wild nature.
“When we talk about climate, we are also talking about access to technology and economic opportunities,” he said.
Sanchez emigrated from Mexico City as a child. He and Gutiérrez-Graudiņš both described being shaped by the experience of becoming the only person of color in the hall of traditional California environmental organizations.
“It’s so frustrating when I’m in environmental spaces where it’s mostly white dominated,” Sanchez said. “It isolates me as a Latino. Often to this day, I’m one of the very few people of color in space.
Gutiérrez-Graudiņš said the environmental movement will have failed if Latinos, who make up 40% of the state’s population, continue to feel this way. But some movement organizers just don’t get it.
“People would be having meetings at an Orange County yacht club and wondering why no one else came,” she said. “There was a lot of genre, Hey Marcela, can you bring some like Latinos for that?” As if I had baskets of people.
The view outside the rings from the streets
Marco Lemus, Food Justice Organizer at Richmond’s Urban Tilth, attended a recent climate protest in San Francisco. He also attended the Glasgow meeting, demonstrating in the streets
Its aim was to “highlight that the climate crisis is the product of our systems” and to argue that “it is not something we can just get out of”.
Lemus grew up in the shadow of the Richmond refineries. He said he didn’t believe anyone at the COP had their best interests in mind. This is why he preferred to get involved in climate justice through direct action.
For Lemus, California is not the model. This is where city children suffer from asthma and farm workers die of heat exhaustion. He fears that his generation will spend their entire lives dealing with climate disasters.
This is why Lemus made his first international plane trip to protest against COP26.
24-year-old Violeta Vasquez is not interested in international climate conferences. She said diplomats, politicians and COP experts should return to their hometowns and examine what is helping communities, including Latinos most affected by climate change and the fossil fuel industries.
Last week, she and a friend moved some mulch there, bundling stems of teosinte, a wild ancestor of corn that the indigenous peoples of southern Mexico domesticated many years ago. She turns to the indigenous peoples who built civilizations around corn and whose traditions are still celebrated by Mexican Americans,
“Indigenous peoples, since before colonization, have always been very aware of our relationship between humans and the Earth, of the need to live in harmony,” she said.
She says that whether through direct action or community gardening, the most effective strategy is one that builds a constituency and demands urgent action.
Sanchez agrees: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Sacramento or at the COP. It is the political capital that you have behind your advocacy that will make the difference, ”he said.