Friday, October 27, 2006

Hispanics & Environmentalism

It appears their entrance into this special interest area will be one of reason and common sense, desperately needed in a field congested with hyperbole and ideology driven science.

An excerpt.

Hispanics Show Growing Clout in Environmental Debate
By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer

Published: October 16, 2006

EL MONTE, Calif. (AP) - Maria Valdez didn’t consider herself an environmentalist when she pressed this city east of Los Angeles to buy land ringed with factories and railroad tracks for a new neighborhood park.

The trash lot is now on its way to becoming a green oasis with a butterfly sanctuary and community garden and Valdez is undergoing a transformation of her own. Next month she will be sworn in as president of the El Monte chapter of Mujeres de la Tierra, a two-year-old environmental group that caters to Hispanic immigrants and translates as “Women of the Earth.”

“When you get involved and you know that you could make it happen, it feels good,” said Valdez, a stay-at-home mother of six. “I’m interested in the water, the air for our kids.”

Spurred by high rates of asthma and lead poisoning among their children, Hispanic immigrants such as Valdez, a U.S. citizen who left Mexico as a child, are embracing green values like never before on their own terms.

Hispanic activists and politicians talk openly about building a unique green movement that distances itself from mainstream environmental groups, even as those organizations hope to tap into newfound Hispanic political clout.

Those involved in the nascent movement cite a gap between the priorities of traditional environmentalists, who may focus on saving endangered species and preserving roadless areas, and the practical concerns of many Hispanic immigrants, who confront thick smog and lead-laced water every day in inner-city neighborhoods. Many also are wary of groups like the Sierra Club, which has debated whether to make U.S. immigration control part of its platform.