Millions of Latinos need a breath of fresh air, now more than ever. California, which boasts the largest Latino population in the US, is the state that needs it the most, according to the latest State of the Air report by the American Lung Association (ALA).
The study indicates that many US cities — including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and New York City — have equaled or broken their record levels for unhealthy air quality. It also comes as no surprise that the report concluded that the climate crisis “is making it harder to protect human health.”
This asphyxiating reality is in dire need of community heroes, such as those featured in the short film “Clean Energy Changemakers: Tucson,” filmed in Arizona, another state with particularly poor air quality. In the piece, high school teacher Oscar Medina and solar technician Sal Amador explain the overwhelming advantages of clean, renewable energy over the daily bombardment of fossil fuel pollution their community suffers.
“The truth of the matter is more needs to be done to bring clean, renewable technology to the people who need it the most,” says Amador. “That’s why I am here, that’s my end game. I want to bring clean energy technology to my people.”
South Tucson disproportionately suffers the consequences of this bombardment as it is home to all the area’s major polluting sources, including a gas-burning plant, a major freeway and a Superfund site.
“We are becoming more educated about these old industries that are hurting our families and our children,” indicates Medina. “I think it’s common sense to do what’s healthy and what’s right. We know climate change is here, is not going away, and we need to build communities that are more resilient.”
South Tucson is one more example of Latino communities across the country unfairly punished by pollution and the climate crisis. Now, however, they can count on a hopeful alternative — new, renewable energy sources that fight climate change and toxic pollution, while creating good-paying jobs for Latinos across the country.
Regardless of the relentless efforts by the most hostile US administration ever toward the environment and climate action, the good news on this front keeps pouring in. In April, for the first time in US history, the output of clean energy surpassed that of coal — something totally unthinkable just five years ago.
According to a study by Energy Innovation, an energy and environmental research firm, it is now cheaper to shut down most coal-burning plants and replace them with clean sources, such as solar and wind, than it is to keep them running.
This progress is worldwide. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that thanks to the phenomenal technological advances in renewable energy, in 2018 a third of the world’s energy capacity came from renewable sources, and solar and wind accounted for 84% of that growth. In another study, IRENA predicts that because of falling costs and enormous technological leaps, clean, renewable energy could save the world economy $160 trillion over the next 30 years — which would also allow humanity to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
As school teacher Medina says, “The solutions are here, the technologies are here, and I think Latino families are going to push more and more in this direction of renewable energy.”
It is the just and necessary thing to do.
Javier Sierra es un columnista del Sierra Club. Sígalo en Twitter @javier_SC
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