Latino Conservation Week doesn’t draw the crowds that Cinco de Mayo does and it definitely is much more of a sober celebration. Seriously though, I personally had not observed Latino Conservation Week before starting my Master’s program in social work. As I’ve been exposed to the dynamics that keep marginalized populations in the shadows I have begun to realize that the only way to get a piece of the “pie” is to speak up. Speaking up isn’t just about asking for equal treatment or equal access all of the time though. With equal rights come equal responsibilities. This year I am going to observe Latino Conservation Week in hopes of motivating all of the Latinos I know to use our passion and voice to protect our planet, or the little part of it we call our own.
So what IS Latino Conservation Week?
Well, it’s an initiative by the Hispanic Access Foundation. It was started with the hopes of improving the lives of Latinos by improving access to open public spaces as well as motivating us around the task of conserving the natural resources we enjoy now.[i] The moto for Latino Conservation Week is “Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra”, which translated into enjoying and conserving our land/earth. The hope with this initiative is to foster interest in Hispanics to explore and make responsible use of the outdoors while advocating for the conservation of the planet.
Locally, we have a program called Protégete and it is run by Conservation Colorado. This program goes all year and attempts to recruit Latinos that want to advocate for conservancy as well as access issues. They have identified that there is an underrepresentation of Latinos in issues dealing with clean air, water and access to natural resources. Unfortunately, we are also the same people that feel the most detrimental effects of climate change and pollution.[ii]
Latino Conservation Week and local programs like Protégete with Conservation Colorado address the need for improved social justice in the way we all access the great outdoors.[iii] In Colorado as well as other states in the nation Latinos make up a large portion of the population but a tiny part of the voice. I would venture to say that it’s because we have given up our power and let others make decisions that impact us or even that we aren’t legally able to speak up even when we don’t agree. The dignity and worth of every person should be protected and programs like Protégete ensure that we are brought to the table and can have a safe space to express what we think is necessary for our people and the planet as we see it.[iv]
[iii] Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2016, from https://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/default.asp