And environmental justice for all
Los Angeles environmental activist Antonio Gonzalez had a big smile on his face. He stood on a large green field at the expansive Rio de Los Angeles State Park, overlooking bike paths, children’s playgrounds, baseball fields and basketball courts. Fields were packed with local teams playing soccer; joggers sped down nearby trails. Gonzalez recalled the massive effort it took from elected officials, voters, rights groups and local communities to create this green space out of the contaminated, shuttered rail yard that once sat on this land near the Los Angeles River.
This transformation was a huge victory for the mostly Latino, gang-plagued communities surrounding the park. A wide green space instead of polluted rail yard has given their children a place to play sports and helps to improve air quality in a city known for smog. “This was all contaminated land,” says Gonzalez, who heads the William C. Velasquez Institute, a non-profit that conducts research aimed at improving Latino political participation. “Now I bet you this is the most utilized park around.”
Efforts like this one are crucial to the health and well-being of Hispanics nationwide because of the immense threat that environmental hazards pose to Latino communities. According to Census data, Hispanics have become the largest minority group in 191 metropolitan districts around the country, districts that happen to be the most concentrated areas for car traffic, industry, and power plant activity, according to the environmental organization Natural Resources Defense Council. So it’s not surprising that almost one of every two Latinos lives in counties that frequently violate air quality standards, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The language barrier that many Hispanics face prevents many from getting accurate information about the risks of contamination and about how to stay healthy. Furthermore, because a large number of Latinos either don’t have health insurance or are underinsured, the illnesses provoked by pollution take a huge economic toll on families and many aren’t able to get the care they need.
Read the full story at Poder 360