Voces in Action
Renewables & Business: New Rays of Light from Latino Leaders
Renewables & Business: New Rays of Light from Latino Leaders
March 18, 2015

"Climate change touches us all. Climate change affects the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe and our open spaces. It's about wildfires and drought, hurricanes and floods. It's about extreme heat, public health and choice of whether we want our children to grow up as healthy as they can be. It's about the kind of world our children will inherit." - Hilda Solis, Former United States Secretary of Labor; Member, First District, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

Happy March! The end of another school semester is already upon us, and here at Voces Verdes, we've been fielding various requests for spring and summer internships from college students who are eager for the opportunity to put their environmental studies skills into action.

I personally remember the internship and job hunt all too well - a stressful period of weeks of searching, applying, and then the dreaded waiting. At that time, my options were pretty limited given the state of the economy and job market. Fortunately, that climate has been improving, and we are excited to be welcoming a new intern onto our team soon! That's at the very micro level, and we are pleased to be providing a pipeline to future jobs in the environment sector.

But we are also pleased at the macro level situation, too. Recent stats from the Labor Department reveal that employment among Latinos/Hispanics has increased 5% over the last 12 months nationally. Furthermore, Latinos/Hispanics were the only ethnic group in the country who had returned to their pre-recession unemployment levels as of last year.

Couple this data with the fact that the renewable energy industry is also growing at an impressive rate, and we can see the door of a larger pipeline opened towards both economic and environmental opportunity for our Latino communities everywhere. Did you know that the US solar industry now has more employees than Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter combined?

And these jobs are increasingly occupied by Latinos - we are the demographic most represented in solar jobs, just after women. It is even more heartening to learn that solar jobs are projected to grow eight times greater than jobs in the oil, coal, and gas industry all together, and specifically, the installation sector of the solar industry added nearly 50% more jobs than in 2014 than than the total created by the oil and gas pipeline construction industry and the natural gas extraction industry.

One of VV's steering committee members, Jorge Madrid, commented on this in a recent blog:

"The range of solutions available to reduce climate change should yield significant multi-faceted benefits for Latino communities. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will reduce air pollution and help stave off the impacts of climate change that disproportionately burden US Latino communities, while simultaneously improving the economic conditions that render them especially vulnerable...Strong growth in the clean economy, coupled with policies and programs aimed at increasing access to jobs, could produce a valuable source of economic stability and growth for many Latino workers."

Overall, 75% of "minority voters" agree that new carbon emission standards will spur research and innovations that will not only keep costs down but, more importantly, create new industries with good-paying jobs. One of our leaders, Olga Torres, President of the Hampton Roads Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Virginia, reiterated this fact in a recent op ed in the Richmond Times Dispatch. She stated:

"The economic and personal toll from all this (climate change impacts) could be very high. That's why I, and many in the Hispanic community, believe the time has come to fight back against climate change, and to create a clean energy economy that will be good for our health and livelihood...We see this as a problem that affects us personally. We feel strongly that taking action against climate change is a part of creating a brighter, more hopeful future for our children. It's part of the pursuit of the American dream. And it connects community values to global goals."

VV leaders are intentional and vocal in emphasizing that this is the legacy they want to leave for their states, communities, families, and future leaders. We are demonstrating that we are not a one-issue community by creating a clear pathway to health, wealth, and opportunity for all Latinos, and especially those who are living in impacted communities, via the lens of environment and our respective sectors, including business. As the emerging majority, we know precisely what is at stake and must make choices and take action on the solutions that are in best interest of our community on all fronts - health, education, environment, and jobs.

This commentary originally appeared in the NRDC Switchboard.

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