Engaging Latino Parents in California in the Fight for Clean Air
By Jose Sigala When I heard the Moms Clean Air Force was launching a new initiative to engage Latino moms and dads in the greater Los Angeles and the Central Valley regions (in both English and Spanish) I was thrilled. Having grown up in Los Angeles, I always knew I wanted to help spark a greater conversation about what climate change means to the Latino community and their families – and the long-term problems they would face if we didn't address it. We know that climate change is already causing an increase in extreme weather that will only get worse in the coming decades, leading to more intense heat waves and drought conditions – which exacerbate already poor air quality and vulnerability to air pollution. So why focus on Latino parents in LA and the Central Valley? These two regions have the dirtiest air in the nation, according to the American Lung Association, and combined they account for 7 of the 10 most polluted cities in the country. These regions are also home to an overwhelmingly large Latino population, in some cities reaching as high as 75 percent of all residents. In many cases, these predominantly Latino communities are also well below the poverty line and suffer from high unemployment and a host of other challenges like a lack of basic infrastructure and green space, poor public health outcomes, and little or no access to healthcare. All of these challenges, combined with the onslaught of extreme weather and air pollution, spell disaster for many families. But despite these challenges, there is a strong fabric of community resiliency and a history of Latino moms and dads fighting for the health of their families and our future generations. Groups like the Mothers of East LA, Mujeres de La Tierra, Central California Environmental Justice Network and Latinos Unidos for Clean Air (LUCA), and similar community groups have long been fighting for social and environmental justice. With MCAF, I’ll be building upon this already rich network of moms and dads who are taking action against pollution, recruiting Latino parents to educate and discuss strategies on how to best combat the threats of climate change to public health and safety, as well as identify opportunities to increase community involvement and resiliency. MCAF will also seek to uplift and direct this chorus of voices --bilingual and both online and in more traditional venues-- to state, local, and federal lawmakers who are making decisions that affect all of our children and communities. As someone who has deep roots in both Los Angeles and the Central Valley, I’m proud to be leading this initiative. For years, I’ve made it my life’s work to be a community leader and organizer, from serving as the president of my neighborhood council to directing legislative district offices and activities of elected officials. But as a father of two beautiful daughters, the opportunity I’ve been given with MCAF is really a personal one. I want to know I’ve done everything I can to leave them and their children a better planet and provided Latino parents with the foundation to build healthier communities for generations to come. Jose Sigala is a field manager for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Moms Clean Air Force, and leads the Climate Initiative in the Los Angeles and Central Valley of California. This article was originally posted on Environmental Defense Fund.