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Earth Day: a time for environmental justice

Thursday, April 22 marks the 51st Annual Earth Day or El día de la Tierra. This year, I am celebrating the renewed sense of urgency around environmental justice I see from community members, elected officials and organizations. Continued calls for justice and equity could not be more important as we face the greatest challenge of our generation, a rapidly warming planet and its effects on every aspect of our lives.

During this devastating pandemic and an exhausting year, I have found peace and comfort by being in touch with my gente – the amazing local and national Latinx leaders whom together we are building our collective power and elevating calls to action. Each day, I work with these leaders to plant seeds of hope in our community that will yield a better, more just society. A society that guarantees all people – regardless of skin color, ethnicity, language, country of origin, economic and political power – have clean air and water, easy access to nature, and a stable climate.

During the 2020 election, these leaders and our communities organized like never before and turned out in record numbers to elect officials that are tackling the intertwined health, economic and climate crises. Right now, the Biden-Harris administration is centering climate change and environmental justice in many of their policies at the federal level. A new bill would help us do the same here in Colorado.



The Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community Bill, HB21-1266, was introduced at the statehouse just last week. Rep. Dominique Jackson, Senator Faith Winter, and Senator Janet Buckner backed this bill that seeks to address environmental justice inequalities at a state level. The bill requires the Air Quality Control Commission to promote outreach to engage with disproportionately impacted communities. The commission would create new ways to gather input from communities across the state by using multiple languages and formats.

Additionally, the bill creates a task force to propose recommendations to the General Assembly regarding practical means of addressing these environmental justice inequities. This task force will create a state agency-wide environmental justice strategy and a plan to implement that strategy, including ways to address data gaps and data sharing between state agencies and the engagement of disproportionately impacted communities. While this is just a beginning and doesn’t address all environmental justice issues, it’s a great first step.



April 19-23, organizations all throughout Colorado are observing Climate Justice Week, which centers people and communities to create a world where everyone thrives. I encourage you to join Defiende Nuestra Tierra and Wilderness Workshop in our support of HB21-1266, which is scheduled for a House Energy and Environment Committee hearing on April 22. Please visit http://www.wilderenssworkshop.org/Take-Action to let your elected officials know you support HB21-1266 and celebrate Earth Day by taking action on environmental justice!

Beatriz Soto is the Directora Defiende Nuestra Tierra at Wilderness Workshop. She is an immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico and mother to a first-generation Coloradan. She and her family live in New Castle.

 


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