April 6, 2007

Focus on community
By Patty Chavez
Good to Be Brown and Think Green

With global warming taking center stage as the pre-eminent issue of our time, Latinos need to start taking notice. We are already seeing a change in the world’s climate. Unless global warming is halted scientists are predicting disastrous consequences such as a rise in sea levels damaging coastal communities, new diseases, increased pollution and a growing number of natural disasters.

There is often a misconception that Latinos don’t care or are not involved in the environment. Maybe it is because large populations of Latinos are often found in dense urban settings. But even us city Latinos like the outdoors and in our own way embrace the environment. Growing up I spent many weekends at city parks for family picnics. We walked to the local market and often rode transit. Later in life, camping at California State Beaches and hiking in places like Yosemite National Park helped me further develop my environmental ethic, but the foundation was established at city parks.

Latino communities may be hit the hardest by global warming. According to Redefining Progress, a web site dedicated to sustainability, global warming could seriously affect the health, economic and social well being of Latinos. For example, global warming could have devastating impacts on California’s agricultural industry and workforce which is 65% Latino. Low-income Latino families are more likely to live in older, poor quality housing and in the event of a natural disaster will be less financially prepared to evacuate or relocate. Mobile homes are especially vulnerable to wind and water damage.

The good news is that if we act now, we can stop the worst effects. Just because we are brown doesn’t mean we can’t be green too, but it starts with educating ourselves and taking action.

My husband and I have been active members of the National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC) since its inception in 1996. NHEC (www.nheec.org) is a growing national non-profit organization that provides a voice on environmental issues for Latinos and works closely with environmental leaders like Congresswoman Hilda Solis (CA) who is a champion for Latino causes. NHEC also educates and provides opportunities for our youth to pursue careers in environmental and natural resource fields. I have had the pleasure of addressing and working with student leaders at various NHEC events.

Working with our youth and seeing their passion for the environment is an inspiration. The next generation gets it. They understand the consequences and are willing to make the appropriate lifestyle commitments: recycling, using transit, investing in renewable energy, advocating for smart growth, turning off the TV if you are not watching it.

Recently, one of our own regional leaders, San Diego Councilmember Ben Hueso was appointed to the California Coastal Commission. The California Coastal Commission plans and regulates the use of land and water in the coastal zone. We are proud of Ben and now have a strong advocate for the South Bay Region. Pending issues loom large like Chula Vista’s Bayfront development, the South Bay Power Plant, and crumbling waste water infrastructure that fails and dumps millions of gallons of sewage into our coastal waters every year. I think Councilmember Hueso is up for the challenge and will serve us well.

Latino groups are protesting PBS’s 14-hour World War II documentary that has excluded Latino WWII veterans and their contributions. According to the protesting groups, half a million Latinos served in WWII and received the highest proportion of Medals of Honor compared to other ethnic groups. So in honor of our Latino veterans and my own Tio Enrique here is a list of WWII Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients: Lucian Adams, Marcario Garcia, Harold Gonsalvez, David Gonzales, Silvestre Herrera, Jose M. Lopez, Joe. P. Martinez, Manuel Perez, Cleto Rodriguez, Alejandro Ruiz, Jose F. Valdez and Ysmael Villegas.

“Zonzo of the Month” award goes to Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He said “We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.” So basically since immersion education is predominately Spanish … well you get it. These kinds of comments may be called slips, but they are real revelations of character. A telling revelation from a man who some say may run for the office of President of the United States.

Email Patty Chavez at Patty.Chavez@covad.net

Return to the Frontpage