By Vanessa Suarez, policy advisor
Preface on terminology
Inclusivity is a key piece of Carbon180’s work and core values. We strive to do work and foster environments and communities that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Throughout this blog, we refer to people and communities from demographic groups in the United States with cultural ties to Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, typically referred to as “Latinos.” The Spanish language is quite different from English in that it is a gendered language, with nouns being categorized as masculine (often ending in -o) or feminine (often ending in -a). A few gender-neutral alternatives have been proposed to Latino, such as Latinx and Latine, but carry understandable criticisms in their origin and usage. Because of this, we use the term “Latino” throughout the blog in a gender-inclusive manner, referring to people of all gender identities that stem from these demographic groups.
In the midst of a global pandemic, climate change may not be at the top of the roster for crises to worry about, but it certainly hasn’t gone away. There is an important lesson we can take from COVID-19 and apply to climate change — vulnerable groups are experiencing disproportionate impacts right now, including minority communities such as Latinos. More than 50% of Latinos live in three states already experiencing climate effects and expected to encounter more — California, Texas, and Florida. Within these states, Latinos are experiencing increased droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, sea level rise, and other extreme weather events. Additionally, Latinos are more likely to live in low-income and/or frontline communities. In these communities, people are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, such as air and water pollutants, hazardous wastes, pesticides and other toxic chemicals, and have less access to green spaces. These communities also often face the biggest hurdles to participate in politics and government, or to prepare and adapt for environmental and climate impacts. For this reason, climate conversations and movements, including those surrounding carbon removal, need to be accessible and meaningfully engaging. To this end, Carbon180 has been at work over the past nine months to translate our first set of materials into Spanish — one step towards justice and equity in the carbon removal space.
The climate action and carbon removal spaces have historically not been accessible or inclusive — this needs to change. Environmental movements and organizations have been predominantly white led, with little to no representation from marginalized groups. This gatekeeping has impacted climate work by unjustly minimizing the concerns of frontline communities and creating barriers to their equitable participation in decision-making. Despite this, efforts by NGOs and community based organizations (CBOs) across the country have done incredible work on environmental and climate justice, advancing frontline community needs in the face of these obstacles and the exclusive history of environmental work — and we applaud the advances they’ve made for frontline communities across the nation. At Carbon180, we are reflecting on our role in the greater climate community, and how to best leverage our resources to make a difference for vulnerable and marginalized groups.
The importance of Spanish and language justice
Across the United States, Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language. Approximately 13% of the population are native Spanish speakers, totaling close to 41 million people. Following native speakers, there are 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers in the US. Additionally, there are many communities that are predominantly Spanish speaking, or that heavily integrate the two languages across the community. We can see examples of this in Carbon180’s own home city of Washington, D.C. Columbia Heights, a neighborhood in northwest D.C., has a prominent Latino population that continues to grow. Spanish-language billboards and advertisements, along with Latin-based businesses and restaurants, line the streets of the neighborhood. It’s common to hear Spanish spoken aloud as you walk down 14th street and throughout the neighborhood.
Studies have shown high awareness about climate change among Latinos in the US. Research from Yale University showed that compared to other racial and ethnic demographic groups, Latinos are significantly more concerned about climate change and more willing to engage in advancing political actions. For example, 84% of Latinos think global warming is happening right now compared to 70% of non-Latinos. This concern spans English- and Spanish-speaking Latinos, with 78% of Latinos in the US worried about climate change, including 43% of Spanish-speaking Latinos.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has found evidence of community engagement and concern regarding climate change in Latino communities. This community engagement is compelling and understandable, as over 55% of Latinos live in states already experiencing serious climate change effects. The EDF’s findings show that Latino communities are more likely than white communities to attribute current climate changes to human activities, with 85% of Latinos believing it’s very important to reduce pollution. Latinos are also more likely to support action to protect the environment, with 75% of young Latino voters believing it’s very important for the new administration to combat climate change.
Clearly Latino populations prioritize addressing climate change, but the systems and cultures in place have excluded Latinos and other minority groups from participating in climate conversations and decisions. We are working to play a role in bridging this gap at Carbon180 by generating materials in Spanish.
Announcing the launch of our Spanish fact sheets
Our carbon removal fact sheets are designed to promote understanding of the carbon removal solutions available to help fix climate change. As we continue to produce resources on carbon removal, our materials will be available in English and Spanish in an effort to foster a space of accessibility and inclusion. Throughout the process thus far, three overarching goals have driven our work:
Increase accessibility of Carbon180’s work
We aspire to increase the accessibility of Carbon180’s work and the field of carbon removal in general. Our Spanish-language materials can be shared with new stakeholders and audiences as we aim to make space and share space — one of our core values at Carbon180.
Engage and develop meaningful relationships with new partners and stakeholders
Through our Spanish-language work, we hope to engage and collaborate with new partners in the carbon removal and climate fields. We aspire to connect with other ENGOs, environmental justice organizations, research groups, and institutions that work in Spanish and/or with Spanish-speaking communities.
Grow Carbon180’s “braintrust”
We strive to expand our understanding and participation in the carbon removal field. By increasing accessibility and engaging with new partners, we can evolve our frameworks and approaches to carbon removal solutions.
The journey is only beginning
Gatekeeping of carbon removal and climate advocacy and work has occurred for far too long. People and ecosystems across the US are only going to continue feeling the impacts of climate change, with vulnerable and marginalized populations bearing the brunt of the burden. Latino communities undergo disproportionate exposures to climate and environmental risks, and face barriers to participating in climate conversations, advocacy, and decision-making.
Language justice is one component of an accessible, inclusive, and equitable carbon removal and climate movement, but it can’t end there. Vulnerable and frontline communities must have a seat at the table and play significant roles in developing and advancing climate solutions. True climate work is climate justice work. Sooner or later, climate change will be felt by all. In a very realistic sense, we’re all in one boat, and we need all hands on deck.
Below is our first batch of translated fact sheets.