Latino Conservation Week Was the Country's Most Important So Far | Opinion

Latino Conservation Week wrapped up at a crucial moment when all voices that call for environmental justice and conservation are most needed. A moment when climate action in Congress has been stalled, and the opportunity for Congress to deliver meaningful legislation for climate justice that will help address and mitigate climate change seems further away.

For nine years, Latino Conservation Week has been dedicated to supporting conservation efforts, helping Latinos protect our most precious land, water, and air, and providing more opportunities for time outdoors together. We are a community that loves and cares for our "Madre Tierra" and treasures its blessings as part of our history, our past, and our future. We believe that if we care for Madre Tierra, she will also provide for us.

We know that Latinos care about this celebration as much as they care about the future of our planet, the current climate crisis, and its impact on our neighborhoods.

Latinos have shown the highest outdoor participation rate growth, increasing about six percent annually over the past few years. We also know that 81 percent of Latino voters are very concerned about air and water pollution. The majority see clean energy as the next necessary step to move forward to get a healthier environment for our community while creating jobs and boosting our economy.

The reality is that we are at a breaking point.

This month about 50 million people in the United States were under heat warnings or advisories. A new study found that most major U.S. cities are unprepared to handle record-high summer temperatures. At the same time, experts warn us that climate warming could deepen environmental injustice in urban areas.

Drought is at a critical point now, especially in the West. Water levels in Lake Mead have dropped to record lows, putting the nation's largest reservoir less than 150 feet from reaching "dead pool" status, which could have enormous consequences for millions in Latino-heavy states like Arizona, California, and Nevada.

A Billings 4AJ helicopter refills with water
A Billings 4AJ helicopter refills with water to drop at the Oak Fire near Mariposa, Calif., on July 26, 2022. DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

Climate change, drought, heat, and the increasing number of intense fires that accompany it are threatening to wipe sequoia trees off the planet. Recent reports showed that 79 large active wildfires have burned 2,765,545 acres across the nation, and overall, 38,579 wildfires have burned 5,585,727 acres already this year.

This is a crisis we cannot solve alone. We need everyone to speak up and fight for our community, country, and planet. When we are together, when our voice is one, we are stronger. Last week, voices like Corazon Latino and those of our own organizations joined Latinos in Congress to attend Latino Conservation Week in Washington to sound the alarm. Our unity was a reflection of our work to elevate the voice of our community in this crucial moment in the fight for the planet.

Bold and significant climate action, anchored in meaningful clean energy expansion and fair environmental justice provisions, is the only way to secure the health, safety, and future of our families. This was an important week for all of us, and especially this year. We will not step aside, and we will not be silent. We are committed to this fight.

Maite Arce is executive director of the Hispanic Access Foundation.

Esther Sosa is the program manager for the Environmental Defense Fund's Diverse Partners initiative.

Antonieta Cadiz is the managing director for Latino engagement at Climate Power.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.