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As climate change threatens the planet, CT Hispanic leaders address community impacts

Immigrants from Venezuela cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States on Sept. 30, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas.
John Moore
Getty Images North America
Immigrants from Venezuela cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States on September 30, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas.

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Hispanic leaders and environmental advocates gathered this week to address environmental issues that have historically marginalized those communities. The event was organized by the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity, with Acadia Center and Save the Sound.

Historical disparities in the impacts of climate change have led to significant health issues within Hispanic communities, according to Alexander Rodriguez, an environmental justice specialist at Save the Sound.

“We have a big problem right now. We have big incinerators in the state of Connecticut, they are in Preston, Lisbon, Bristol and Bridgeport,” Rodriguez said. “Bridgeport has the largest incinerator in the state of Connecticut; it used to be Hartford. Burning trash is not a sustainable solution and the burning of that trash harms, and is a trigger for asthma.”

The speakers also touched upon the impact of climate change on immigration. With rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and resource scarcity, people have left their homes to seek refuge in other countries. This has become a major concern for Hispanic communities.

“That greenhouse effect impacts global climate change and is found to impact island nations,” Rodriguez said. “Puerto Ricans aren't the only climate change refugees after Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria displaced Dominicans, it displaced Haitian people and the effects of climate change are still rampant today.”

But even as some people may relocate to places like Connecticut, the impacts of climate change are still present, according to Jayson Velazquez, a climate and energy justice policy associate at Acadia Center.

“As floods increase in coastal communities, and as our urban cities continue to get inundated with flood water, there's a lot of loss in finances when it comes to repairing flood damage," Velazquez said. "That's such a big issue up here in the Hartford area.”

Hispanics are 43% more likely to live in areas with the highest projected reductions in labor hours due to extreme temperatures, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report.

One of the attendees, Daniel Rosales, a co-founder of Future Island Impact, said he’s committed to implementing energy efficiency in his business. Rosales said that businesses have a crucial role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change and promoting environmental justice.

“I'm looking for the technology that would advance resilience and support for all the communities. We are all affected by this,” Rosales said. “I do feel the effect of climate change, on migration, on community, and how we're living our lives. And if we don't lead our dominion, how are we gonna make sure to live in the world.”

The roundtable concluded with a discussion on how to educate and inspire future generations to address climate change. The attendees agreed that it is crucial to instill a sense of responsibility and stewardship in the younger generation. They brainstormed ideas on how to incorporate environmental education into school curriculums and engage children in hands-on environmental learning.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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