Some of the Country’s Biggest Supporters of Climate Action? Latinos.
By Jeff Turrentine
More than 58 million people currently living in the U.S. — 17 percent of the population — are of Latin-American descent. By 2065 that percentage is expected to rise to nearly a quarter. Hardly a monolith, this diverse group includes people with roots in dozens of countries; they or their ancestors might have arrived here at any point between the 1500s and today. They differ culturally, linguistically and politically.
But there's one area where they tend to overlap: climate change. As a group, Latinos are far more convinced that climate change is real and human-caused, and more likely to understand that it poses an existential threat to communities than non-Latinos. They're also more likely to want the issue addressed — right now — with large-scale governmental action.
Findings from a 2017 report, Climate Change in the Latino Mind, published by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, give a glimpse of how the Latino community feels about the issue. For instance:
More than 80 percent of Latinos believe that global warming is happening, with more than 60 percent saying that they are "very" or "extremely" sure. Importantly, seven in 10 Latinos believe that human activity is the primary cause.
More than three-fourths of Latinos say they are worried about global warming, with one in three specifying that they're "very worried." Of those polled, the majority believe that climate change will lead to "a great deal" of harm to future generations, plant and animal species, the world's poor, and people in developing nations.
Three in four Latinos believe that President Trump and Congress aren't doing enough to address climate change, and 80 percent support the idea of requiring fossil-fuel companies to pay a carbon tax.
Given their numbers, geographic diversity and strongly held beliefs, Latinos ought to be at the forefront of the political fight against climate apathy and inaction. Instead they've largely been ignored. According to the same Yale study, 7 in 10 Latino say they have never been contacted by an organization working to mitigate global warming — and nearly three-quarters of them say that they've never been asked or guided, by anyone, to contact their elected officials about the issue.
The jarring juxtaposition of Latinos being so eager to engage with a movement that has dropped the ball in reaching out to them is what prompted Carlos Zegarra to dedicate himself full time to mobilizing his community on the issue of climate change. The group he cofounded and currently directs, Sachamama, aims to leverage the cultural and political power of tens of millions toward the goal of "building support for a 100 percent clean energy economy for all, and sustainable attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles within Latinx community."
The Peruvian-born and Colombian-raised Zegarra first began to sense the need for a group like his when he was working as a marine biologist specializing in fisheries at Florida International University. "About 40 percent of my work was outreach to the community," he said. Zegarra was surprised at how little of the science he was working on, day in and day out, was being successfully transmitted to his fellow Latinos. "It was clear to me that there was a gap in communication between what we, as scientists, were working on and what the community was getting," he said.
With his wife, Johana Suárez, and his sister, Vanessa Hauc, both journalists, Zegarra continues to grow Sachamama (the name refers to the jungle-protecting snake goddess of Peruvian mythology). What began five years ago in Miami with only a handful of staffers has become a conduit between the climate movement and major Latino media and an incubator for Latino activists, with a presence in eight U.S. cities.
Sachamama's Latinos por la Tierra initiative focuses on messaging: crafting, honing and sharing information with news outlets and social media influencers who are in a position to disseminate it to millions. Once the message is out and it's time for action, that's where the Climate Innovation Lab comes in. It's a series of workshops that Sachamama holds around the country to nurture community involvement and share advocacy tools to make sure the voices of Latino people are heard by their political representatives.
For Zegarra, there's little question as to why Latinos are so impassioned and energized on the issue of climate change. "We're deeply affected by it," he said. "We're often living in some of the most polluted areas of the nation, and many of us are holding jobs that are on the front line of climate change: agriculture, services, construction. We have to deal with this not only at home, but also where we work."
As for why there's been such a disconnect between this community and the larger climate movement, he's philosophical yet optimistic. "People in the larger movement, with the best of intentions, haven't always taken the time to understand the community. They may come in with specific goals, or a specific agenda, or time constraints. But building relationships takes time — and it takes trust. There's so much that needs to happen right now, and it needs to happen so quickly, that a lot of groups don't have the capacity to get the relationship right."
I spoke with Zegarra shortly after last month's massive, worldwide Youth Climate Strike, ushered into being by teenage activist Greta Thunberg. In the young strikers — which included many of the 1,000-plus participants of Sachamama's advocacy workshops — he finds hope and inspiration. "What I like about them is that they're really raw and open in the way they see things," Zegarra said. He has faith that Latino youth, as well as others, will continue "speaking truth to power, but also taking strong actions and following through, really pushing governments to bring attention to this issue. Because, obviously, our lives are at stake."
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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