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3 Latina environmental organizations to support this Earth Day

This Earth Day we want to amplify the voices of Latina environmental organizations that are advocating for our planet and communities affected by climate change.

Rural and indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to the harsh effects of climate change, with poverty and lack of resources negatively impacting the quality of life for these communities. Organizations Azul, Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance, and Her Justice are working to amplify voices, advocate for underserved communities, and push for reform and legislation to protect the environment and vulnerable populations.

Azul 

Founded by Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, an environmental justice advocate who began her career in the commercial fishing and aquaculture fields, Azul is a grassroots organization working with Latinos to conserve marine resources and bring Latino perspectives and participation to ocean conservation.

After experiencing how mainstream ocean conservation efforts and campaigns were leaving Latinos out, Marce decided to start Azul to engage her community in protecting coastal resources and marine life.

“Long before things like canvas bags were in vogue at organic markets, our abuelitas used their reusable bags to shop en el mercado. We believe our culture can lead the way and inspire our conservation efforts.”

Through her work, she has helped design and implement a statewide network of marine protected areas as well as a sustainability and marketing program for local California fisheries.

As a leader in the campaign to ban single-use plastic bags in California, she has worked to reduce marine pollution and protect ocean wildlife. In addition to the single-use plastic bag ban, Azul has been instrumental in policy victories such the Shark Fin Ban which bans the sale and possession of shark fins in California and establishing the right for the Coastal Comission to impose fines to private property owners who illegally block access to beaches.

 

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“We treasure the life-sustaining force of the ocean, as well as the physical and spiritual nourishment it provides us. We are a Gente powered and led effort, focused first on celebrating our rich Latino conservation traditions and connecting them to current solutions. Our work is based in authentic engagement, community building, and collaboration.”

Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance

classroom inclusion environment, climate change,

Maria Santiago-Valentin, speaker at climate change rallies in New Jersey

Former Latinas in Business board member, Maria Santiago Valentin is the Founding President of Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance (ACJA), whose mission is to  “[apply] the power of deep grassroots organizing to win local, regional, statewide, national and international shifts” regarding climate change and unjust exposure of marginalized communities to its damaging effects.

The organization is committed to building and strengthening a wide culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity issues affecting communities of color. 

“ACJA is very personal to me. I wanted for so long to alleviate conditions of communities of color impacted by climate change in many states, including Puerto Rico,” said Maria Santiago Valentin. 

Through a variety of projects and campaigns, the non-governmental collective of rural and urban community-based organizations focuses on education and advocacy of underrepresented communities, race and ethnicity, economic development, and poverty alleviation — all with the wider aim of addressing climate change.

Some of their projects include policy reform efforts, educational presentations, marches for environmental justice, calls to action, forums, and more. 

ACJA also has a bilingual podcast, Green Latinas Podcast, which features Latino and non-Latino leaders in the EJ and Climate Justice movement. 

Justice for Migrant Women

Through public awareness and educational campaigns, art activism, and strategic media initiatives, Justice for Migrant Women is bringing the issues and struggles of migrant women to the forefront of national conversation and advocating for their rights.

The organization was founded by Mónica Ramirez, a long-time advocate, organizer, social entrepreneur, and attorney who, for over two decades, has fought for the civil and human rights of women, children, workers, Latinos/as, and immigrants.

One of the organization’s many projects focuses on amplifying the voices of farmworkers, who historically have been undervalued and negatively impacted by climate issues.

Photo via Justice for Migrant Women on Instagram.

Farmworker Awareness aims to raise awareness about farmworker conditions and to honor their important contributions to us every day. In partnership with Student Action with Farmworkers, Justice for Migrant Women hosted a virtual celebration for farmworkers to initiate the week of action for national and local partner organizations.

“Part of my mission has been making sure that these stories are heard, but largely my mission has been focused on doing all that it is in my power to change these conditions so that we can remove the barriers,” said Mónica Ramirez.

The Humans Who Feed Us is another campaign that focuses on sharing the stories thousands of individuals who work across the food supply chain ranging from agricultural workers, restaurant workers, grocery store employees, truck drivers, meat and poultry workers, and so many others.

Immigrant community members are among those who help to feed us through their work. Many of these workers are often invisible to people and the communities where they work and live even though they touch our lives every day through their life-sustaining labor.

Magadalena and Efrain from The Humans Who Feed Us, an initiative by Justice for Migrant Women. (Photo courtesy Justice for Migrant Women)

The Humans Who Feed Us campaign seeks to center these workers, their stories, their contributions, and their priorities. The project humanizes workers across the food supply chain, shows the interdependence among businesses, the workers they employ and consumers, and fosters a sense of belonging for these incredible community members in the places where they live and work.


These Latina environmental organizations are doing their part to spread awareness and uplift Latino and Hispanic voices regarding climate change issues and the communities affected. Latino perspectives are valuable and representation is necessary in these spaces. Together we can all work to preserve our planet and protect vulnerable communities.

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A world on fire: How to survive the rising heat

During the past few months, we have witnessed some of the dangerous effects of climate change. We have seen drought, wildfires, and superstorms ravage communities. Earlier last month, the ocean burned when a gas pipeline burst in the Gulf of Mexico. These are some of the extreme events recently brought on by climate change and harmful human practices. But there is another dangerous crisis at hand that is affecting thousands of lives, and that is heat illness. 

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Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash

In the northern hemisphere we have been experiencing the summer season, a warm and sunny time of the year many look forward to as a pleasant and relaxing season. However, in recent years, this season has become a dangerous time for some. Just last month, many countries  experienced extreme heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures, putting many individuals at risk for heat-related illnesses and even death. 

Many areas, especially far up north, are not built to handle extreme heat and in fact, some northern buildings were built specifically to keep heat in! 

As the climate change crisis continues to impact our lives, it’s important we learn how to navigate these rising temperatures and keep ourselves and at-risk individuals safe. 

Watch for symptoms of heat illness

According to the CDC, about 700 people die in the U.S. each year from heat-related exposure. Most often these individuals are older adults, young children, and people with chronic illnesses. 

Heat illness is also unfortunately more likely to affect low-income individuals as low-income areas are often less protected from heat or not equipped to properly handle increasing temperatures. Historically, low-income and urban housing has been occupied by minority ethnic groups and people of color, meaning these groups are likely to suffer more from the effects of rising temperatures. 

Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat illness. Common heat illnesses include, from mildest to most dangerous: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heat illness should rest, stay hydrated, and remain cool. 

Early symptoms of heat illness include headaches, dizziness, or extreme tiredness. Symptoms of heat stroke, which is life threatening, include: 

  • Change in mental state, such as confusion, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things) and slurred speech
  • Increased body temperature — 104 degrees F or higher
  • Hot, red, dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Trouble walking
  • Seizures

[Source Mayo Clinic

Staying cool during unprecedented heatwaves 

This summer temperatures have risen to record highs in parts of the world that have never had to grapple with intense heat. 

While southerners may scoff at what some consider “hot” we need to remember that many areas up north historically were built with the purpose of keeping heat inside. Before rapid global warming, northern regions typically did not experience high temperatures and remained fairly cool throughout the year. Homes and buildings were created with the purpose of keeping inhabitants warm throughout the harsh winter months. Now, these buildings are becoming hazards to individuals as the summer months have shifted from pleasant temperatures to scorching heat. 

Heat alone is not the only concern. Humidity is another important factor that affects the body’s experience of heat. Humidity actually makes it harder for our bodies to cool down. When there is humidity, it becomes harder for sweat to evaporate off the skin. The evaporation of sweat is what allows our bodies to cool down. Because of this, humidity is often factored in with temperature in what is known as the “heat index.” The heat index describes what temperature it “feels like” to our bodies, since humidity can often make temperatures feel hotter than the number on the thermostat. Those living in humid areas should keep an eye on the heat index and not only the temperature. 

To keep yourself cool during unprecedented heatwaves and avoid heat illness, there are a few key strategies to follow. 

Stay hydrated. Drinking water or sports drinks is best when battling the heat. Avoid alcohol as it can actually make you more dehydrated. 

Dress appropriately. Wear light-colored, loose clothing. Dark colors will absorb heat, which will only make you feel hotter. Light colors will reflect sunlight, keeping you cooler. 

Remain in cool, shaded areas. An air conditioned indoor area is best for staying cool during extreme heat, but if AC is not an option, then remain in shaded areas with good air ventilation. During the day you can practice “passive cooling” techniques such as putting down the shades on windows as soon as the sun comes up, installing reflective materials or painting roofs white, and taking advantage of natural shade from nature. Using fans indoors is also recommended but only if the temperature indoors is below 95 degrees. Fan-use in higher temperatures actually makes it more difficult for the body to cool down

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The passive cooling movement is particularly effective for those who live in buildings where AC is not an option. AC use also contributes to much of the pollution affecting the atmosphere today and causing the rise in temperatures. Part of the movement to combat heat illness and issues includes advocating for green policies and reforms. Individual action will not be enough to combat the effects of rising temperatures moving forward. Communities need to come together to plant more trees, providing more shade and shelter, especially in urban areas that are prone to becoming urban heat islands. Other community initiatives to combat rising heat dangers include replacing materials in buildings to retain cool temperatures, such as installing tile on floors, painting roofs, and adding external shutters to windows. 

Supporting these initiatives and staying informed about the dangers of heat illness and rising temperatures is the first step to combating this climate crisis and reversing the effects of climate change.