Guest column: the common denominator of COVID-19 and climate change — community resilience |

Guest column: the common denominator of COVID-19 and climate change — community resilience

Beatriz Soto
Guest column
Beatriz Soto

I see many parallels between COVID-19 and climate change. 

While we are all affected by the social, economic, and public health consequences of these crises, the impacts are especially stark for Latinx families who often lack the means necessary to address — let alone recover from — such hardships. Lower household incomes, exorbitantly high insurance rates, language barriers, and other systemic issues are among the many burdens confronting Latinx residents in the face of COVID-19 and climate change.

These burdens are further exacerbated by obstacles that leave communities unaware or unprepared to cope with these challenges such as delayed notice, misinformation, and lack of translated materials. Such obstacles can mean the difference between good and poor health outcomes, a situation many Spanish-speaking Roaring Fork Valley residents experienced firsthand during the Lake Christine Fire of 2018. To this day, a number of impacted residents are facing lifelong health risks of impaired lung function, asthma attacks, and cardiovascular damage as a result of exposure to wildfire smoke. 

These are just some of the many disproportionate health harms Latinx communities are far more likely to suffer from as the public health crises of COVID-19 and climate change worsen.

That is why justice must be at the forefront of any and all solutions to address these crises, throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.

So what does that look like?

It all starts with community resilience.

Community outreach, engagement, and workforce development are essential components of a just solution to these crises. Here in the Roaring Fork, we’re providing an example for the rest of Colorado.

Through education, awareness, and applied learning, we’re equipping our workforce and community with tools and resources to shape a more equitable future for all.

Via bilingual, culturally relevant trainings, workshops, and digital events, we’re working with Latinx residents to answer the important question: how do we address COVID-19 and transition into green jobs without leaving anyone behind? The resounding response is to meet people where they are — addressing their needs, tapping into their knowledge, and connecting in a way that is effective and meaningful.

That means breaking down barriers and finding opportunities for all community members to engage and take action. 

How do we do that?

We ensure that the collective Latinx voice is central in problem-solving conversations. United, we call for inclusivity and equity as key tenets to any plan of action.

This is especially true when it comes to developing cost-effective regulations to meet our state’s climate goals.

Right now Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) — the rulemaking body responsible for implementing policies to reduce statewide carbon emissions — is beginning to draft a roadmap to put Colorado on a path to meet our state’s science-based climate pollution reduction targets of at least 90 percent by 2050, as compared to 2005 levels. An essential part of this process is soliciting input from a variety of stakeholders, including disproportionately impacted residents, workers, and communities like ours.

The COVID-19 crisis shows us the critical importance of leadership rooted in public health and science. Our leaders have taken this pandemic seriously and met it head-on.

I encourage our leaders to take a similar path on climate action: to collaboratively work together and build the resilient, justice-centered solutions necessary to shape a more equitable future for all Colorado residents.

Beatriz Soto has spent 16 years in the green building sector working on a variety of energy-related projects from net-zero affordable housing to culturally appropriate workforce development programs. Having grown up in a bi-cultural setting between Mexico and the United States, she tries to bring people together and be a liaison for geographically and racially diverse communities. She is a proud member of GreenLatinos, a nonprofit organization convening Latino leaders to address issues impacting the health and welfare of Latino communities across the nation.

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