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New Polling About Latinos & the Environment

November 21st, 2010 · 7 Comments

I have always thought that many of my Latino peers and elders were a bit more green even before it became en vogue or more timely because of the climate change debate. For instance, many I know will reuse items squeezing out the last bit of utility before finally tossing something in the trash or recycle bin. Many will readily grow gardens for fresh produce and along with that start a compost pile for fertilizer. And so many of our brothers and sisters will take public transportation and/or ride bicycles or carpool, and this transportation issue may be one that is more driven by economic circumstances than a desire to “be green” but nonetheless, many in our community have a level of environmental awareness.

This weekend a new poll was released by the Los Angeles Times and USC showing that majorities of Latinos polled worry about global warming, air pollution, and soil contamination. More specifically, the poll revealed the following:

“For example, 50% of Latinos and 46% of Asians who responded to the poll said they personally worry a great deal about global warming, compared with 27% of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos and 51% of Asians polled said they worry a great deal about air pollution, compared with 31% of whites.

Similarly, 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asians said they worry a great or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, compared with 71% of whites.

The poll surveyed 1,689 adults by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.”

I wasn’t particularly surprised by these findings given some of the recent environmental concerns in California’s Central Valley. But I checked in with conservation advocate Marce Gutierrez for her reaction to this polling. When I asked her why she thought so many Latinos expressed concern about these environmental issues compared to other groups, she offered this, “Because they suffer the consequences of pollution the most. Period. People of color and lower income people either tend to live next to transportation corridors (freeways, ports, truck yards), and industrial complexes will increasingly be placed next to these communities as well. In the Central Valley, which could be the posterchild for environmental justice in California, air pollution is so bad that one out of five kids gets asthma. This has galvanized the community to become vigilant and politically active to the point where you can see large groups of valley residents at the capitol in Sacramento advocating for a clean environment on a regular basis.”

When asked about why there don’t seem to be as many Latinos in the upper leadership of traditional conservation organizations, Gutierrez expressed that minority communities have not been accepted or viewed as legitimate stakeholders within the conservation movement, while these communities have always tended to express a desire for clean air and water. She expressed that this may have to do with the tactics employed to engage Latino and other ethnic communities. My sense is that the environmental justice and conservation movements present opportunities for our communities to express our policy concerns more widely, especially given these latest poll results.

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Tags: community organizing and activism · Environment

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tweets that mention New Polling About Latinos & the Environment -- Topsy.com // Nov 22, 2010 at 8:03 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Vivir Latino, LatinoPolitics and New Latino Movement, Izzy Ortega. Izzy Ortega said: new poll was released by @latimes showing that majorities of #Latinos worry about global warming http://bit.ly/c3HXwF #latism #environment [...]

  • 2 Jennifer // Nov 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I live in Mexico and people throw garbage everywhere even when cans are present. The streets are a dump full of trash and plastic bottles. I do not believe your statistics at all unless you are talking about a wealthy neighborhood in San Diego. I have to laugh out loud that you think Mexicans care about their environment. That would be NO they don’t.

  • 3 Anna // Nov 23, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Jennifer, the poll wasn’t taken in Mexico. Since you live there, maybe you should help clean things up. That being said, many of the immigrants need to be taught how to keep their environment clean. I used to live across the street from a park where many of them would hold birthday parties, and oh my God, it was a mess by the end of the day, and they left it that way. They need to be taught how to do things in this country. (We need another Hull House.) It’s not hard to throw things in the trash can, or to wash down your driveway and sidewalk/gutter with some soap and water. It’s not hard to keep your lawn mowed and green. They need to be taught all of these things. LA is full of these problems and I’m tired of it. Then they blame the government because their neighborhoods look like crap. And dont even get me started on grafitti. Why can’t they teach their kids not to deface property? I don’t get it!! If they refuse to keep things clean, then they should be fined.

  • 4 Chicano future tense // Nov 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I wouldn’t make such a blanket statement about Mexican people being such litterbugs in their neighborhoods and public places.
    When I lived in San Jose years ago I read an article in the San Jose Mercury written about Public health inspectors and their findings.They interviewed and and asked the inspectors what were some of their observations about San Jose’s different neighborhoods.

    And I distinctly remember their comments and observations.

    They concluded that the Mexican areas-neighborhoods were in their opinion some of the cleanest,tidiest,most well tended areas of the entire city.despite being low income residential single family housing areas Mexican homes were for the most part well kept,clean yards,gardens,plants,fenced,well painted,tidy decent small homes that despite being humble and small were for the part clean and tidy.

    In my own experiences having lived in the barrios of several western states can say that in even the poorest barrios Mexicanos are proud of their modest homes and try to keep them nice and presentable.

    Since were talking about litterbugs and other polluters of the environment
    I’d like to criticize the US government and many of it’s corporations who are 1000 times worse than any Mexicano litterbugs in parks or in some other parts.

    The US government and many US corporations have paid off Mexican government officials bribe money to allow them to dump millions of tons of toxic,bio-hazardous chemical and radioactive waste on the Mexican side of the border.many of these toxic dumps are located near densely populated residential areas where many mexicanos live,work,play and send their kids to school.

    many of these bio-hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials leech into their water supplies and agricultural areas..sometimes even open streams run near them choked with toxic american garbage and trash from hospitals,factories and other installations and facilities that produce mountains of toxic materials deemed to hazardous to dump in American communities.

    So instead they dump them in Mexico where the safety laws and envirnomental regulations are non-existent or circumvented by corruption and bribery.Being racist of course in American eyes Mexican lives are cheap and for the most part worthless so it’s ok if they die,they don’t give a damn about Mexicano babies and little children.

    So you see if were going to point fingers at people who are litterbugs and polluters then let’s be fair and point them at the really big litterbug polluters-
    the US government and corporate america.

  • 5 revolutionary and joyful // Nov 24, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Thank you for this great article. It was wonderful to see alternative views on environmentalism from people of color.

    I can’t believe the first two comments on here immediately bring up littering as an environmental issue. Littering is barely (if at all) a green issue. Waste is still waste whether you throw it away in a garbage can or in the middle of a park. It seems like the first two commenters are only bothered because they had to see the waste instead of it being hidden in a landfill in some poor community of color.

    Mowing one’s lawn seems more appropriate in a conversation about property values than one about the environment.

    I’m glad the third commenter brought up the issue of environmental racism. As the US continues to produce increasing amounts of waste these instances of exporting said waste will only increase. At least until (if) the govts of these countries decide that enough is enough.

  • 6 Anna // Nov 26, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Re: “I can’t believe the first two comments on here immediately bring up littering as an environmental issue. ”

    Are you kidding? I can’t believe that nobody has ever taught you that littering is an environmental issue.

    People want to talk about corporations, etc but can’t even clean up after themselves! Yes, litter is a huge environmental issue, especially in areas with illegal immigants. I can just tell by the condition of the freeway if a particular area has illegal immigrants in it. I don’t even have to get off. Everybody here is trying to skirt the issue, but the fact is that they (and others) need to be taught not to litter. If you can’t do the basics, how are you going to do the big things? Parts of LA look downright awful, and it’s because the people who live there don’t clean up after themselves. This can be changed through education.

    http://www.praguepost.cz/PPEF/09SC030219.pdf

    “Litter is an important environmental issue. It is
    amazing that 94% of people identify litter as a
    major environmental problem and yet people still
    litter. Carelessly discarded garbage affects every
    member of society: it causes harm to people and
    animals, damages our waterways, costs us money
    and suggests that we do not care for our environment. Fortunately, we can all do something to help prevent and reduce litter.”

  • 7 Anna // Nov 26, 2010 at 9:55 am

    http://www.praguepost.cz/PPEF/09SC030219.pdf

    Ten Primary Sources of Litter:

    1) Pedestrians dropping garbage in the street or gutters.
    2) Motorists discarding garbage out of windows.
    3) Uncovered loads. Items that are not secure can
    easily be blown out of trailers and cause roadside
    littering.
    4) Household refuse disposal and collection.
    Animal scavengers and the wind can dislodge unsecured items placed out on the corner for collections.
    Litter can also result from overloading containers.
    5) Commercial refuse and disposal. Poorly secured
    commercial refuse can easily become litter.
    6) Construction projects. Litter can come from
    uncontrolled building waste and workers’ lunchtime
    refuse.
    7) People at leisure.
    8) Entertainment events. Events create a large
    amount of litter, which can overflow onto neighbouring
    areas when measures to control it are not
    carefully planned.
    9) Illegal dumping.
    10) Intentional or habitual littering, for reasons
    such as laziness or acts of rebellion.

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