I have to be honest — we’re less than 50 days away from the November 3rd election, and I’m feeling a mixture of emotions. In 2016, I campaigned for my preferred candidate and did the best I could as a freshman in high school. Although I was unable to vote, I still felt that I could have done more.
This year, on November 3rd, I’m determined to vote like my life depends on it — because it does.
Recently, I learned about a campaign launched by Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria, Desi Perkins, Jessica Alba, and many other fierce women who are a part of a community aiming to promise to vote for the future of their kids. The #VoteLikeAMadre initiative empowers every single one of us to vote for candidates that place environmental justice at the forefront of their platforms.
There’s a lot at stake in this election, so why should you make climate change a priority when casting your ballot?
Like many voting campaigns, #VoteLikeAMadre wants us to be aware of statistics, logistics, and facts. For instance, 56 million Latinos are extremely vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change. How many of us actually put numbers like these into perspective? They encompass what many of us fail to recognize — the climate gap. The disproportionate and unequal impact the climate crisis has on low-income communities and people of color. A main contributing factor is their lack of access to basic environmental amenities: healthy foods, open space, health insurance, affordable homes, and public transit.
Many Latinos and Black Americans that live in urban neighborhoods are exposed to an increased frequency of heat and heatwaves, and these areas trigger the “heat island effect”. This occurs in urban areas because dark-colored materials that are used to make roads, buildings, and homes for many families absorb this heat and don’t let it disperse at the same rate as grass, soil, and forests. I never would have thought that having a backyard and some palm trees in my childhood home was a luxury, but it really is.
Communities all over this country are at the frontline of these environmental risks, we can’t afford to take basic necessities for granted. Many of these risks include exposure to air pollutants and soil or water contamination. It’s been six years since the Flint Water Crisis, and they still don’t have clean water. Yet, Flint is not alone. In 2015, 18 million people were served by water systems with lead violations. How does this make you feel?
The reality is that heatwaves, toxic red tides, poor air quality, water shortages, wildfires, floods, and rising sea levels are just the tip of the iceberg. Whether we like it or not, these devastating effects influence every aspect of all of our lives.
Ever thought about how much easier it is to buy a pack of Cheetos over a carton of strawberries? This is partly due to the impacts that droughts and flooding have on the availability and affordability of healthy food.
So, how can you take steps towards fighting environmental injustice and climate change?
Not to be the one to quote one of my favorite musicals (In the Heights), but with a little pacienca y fe, and a lot more passion to do what’s right for our world, we can take this fight to the ballot box this November. However, it’s not enough to just vote, we must consider who we are electing at the local, state, and national level.
Here are a few things to consider when researching a candidate’s environmental policy:
Do they acknowledge that climate change is real and man-made?
Do they support pushing for more climate-smart water strategies, like boosting water efficiency and building more green infrastructure?
Do they support funding alternative energy projects to replace fossil fuels? other energy sources include: solar, wind, nuclear, water, synthetic fuels, and many more
Are they pushing to set strong standards to limit pollution and toxic fracking waste? Are they open to funding better testing technologies to ensure that the air and water are safe for all of us?
Are they committed to building community resilience, especially for those who face socio-economic inequalities? Are they committed to getting rid of toxic chemicals in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink?
I know it’s a lot, but we don’t have a Planet B, and we certainly don’t talk about this enough. This is our future, and it’s time we stop letting a generation of leaders that don’t represent who we are, dictate how we move forward.
Supporting grassroots campaigns, volunteering for non-profit organizations, reaching out to local community groups, and just learning about the issues that plague your community, can all make a difference.
In the wise words of Greta Thunberg, climate activist and icon: “I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.” And she’s right.
In 2020, one-in-ten eligible voters will be between the ages of 18-23 — that’s us. We have a lot more power than you think. Register to vote, mobilize your friends and familia, and make a plan to #VoteLikeAMadre, because as long as we stand unidas, we can change the course of an election.
Visit www.votelikeamadre.com to make a voting plan that includes registering, finding polling locations within your area, early voting dates, requesting your mail-in ballot, and a lot more. For additional information on voter ID requirements, the election process, requesting an absentee ballot, and much more, visit www.usa.gov