Protégete Leadership Development Manager Patricia Ferrero opened the Environmental Training training we hosted with an activity. She asked each participant to find little white, blue, and brown scraps of paper that had been scattered on the floor around the room. Each color represented a different resource: air, water, and earth.
As the participants opened their papers, many found to their dismay that one or more of their resources was contaminated with toxic pollutants. Patricia asked how many people got three clean resources. Of the 35 people gathered, only a few hands went up.
Patricia explained that in reality, those who have the privilege of clean air, water, and earth are more likely to be people who already have power and insider knowledge of how to participate in systems of government. Latino communities in Colorado, on the other hand, face barriers to participation like historical discrimination and language access, and are more likely to live in communities with greater pollution and contamination.
“Environmental justice is manufactured,” Conservation Colorado Communities and Justice Advocate Jared Bynum explained. “The air is not already toxic, the water is not already polluted, the soil is not already contaminated. It’s a choice that industry made to make it that way, and to a large degree for communities of color.” But, he continued, Latino/a Advocacy Day is a chance to fight against these disparities. By telling their stories to legislators, advocates begin to shift power away from industry and to their communities.