La Madre Tierra Blog

Read our latest musings.

A message to the world’s youth from the Kid Warrior

A message to the world’s youth from the Kid Warrior

When Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh was just 6 years old, he realized that climate change would be the defining issue of his time. Almost 10 years later, he is still committed to fighting for a sustainable and just future for his generation and generations to come. Last month Xiuhtezcatl traveled to Paris for the COP21 talks to take a stand on climate change and to make sure the voices of young people were heard and seen during this historical moment. During the two weeks of COP21, Xiuhtezcatl rallied and marched with the Indigenous Rising delegation, he also performed eco-hip hop with Earth Guardians and spoke at high-profile events, including Earth to Paris and Solutions COP21, calling on world leaders and decision-makers to honor Indigenous rights and to make bold commitments to mitigate climate change. Sadly, to Xiuhtezcatl’s (and the majority of the world’s) dismay, the Paris agreement was not bold nor did it promise to uphold indigenous rights, or human rights for that matter, as part of the commitments to address climate change. Nonetheless Xiuhtezcatl has not lost his passion for this movement; in fact, these results inspired him to turn his message from world leaders to his peers. To continue the momentum created at COP21, Xiuhtezcatl and BLKFILM released “Kid Warrior Paris”, the second part to the Kid Warrior series. Kid Warrior Paris: A Generation’s Call to Action from BLKFLM on Vimeo. In this short film, Xiuhtezcatl calls on his generation to unite and to do something meaningful about climate change. “Where world leaders fall short in their actions, our movement will make up for their fear of change. This... read more
José Gonzalez: Leading us toward a sustainable future

José Gonzalez: Leading us toward a sustainable future

This week Grist released 2016’s #Grist50, a list of “50 innovators, organizers, and visionaries who will lead us toward a more sustainable future, in the coming year (and beyond).” We are thrilled that our friend and partner in fighting for a more inclusive conservation movement, José Gonzales, , made it on the #Grist50 list, where he is characterized as “The Outdoorsman.” José is founder of Latino Outdoors, an organization that’s “focused on expanding and amplifying the Latino experience in the outdoors; providing greater opportunities for leadership, mentorship, professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement.” José describes his work in Grist as a way to “bridge the gap between Latinos and the mainstream conservation movement.” In 2015 La Madre Tierra teamed up with José to amplify the voices of Latinos who are working in conservation and on environmental and social justice issues. Over the course of the year we interviewed Latino leaders, educators, organizers and youth to hear their stories about how their cultural identities and their passion for environmentalism intersect. These interviews and the lessons learned from meeting these leaders, led to the creation of the Verde Paper, which explores the challenges and barriers Latino conservation leaders have encountered, as well as the opportunities for environmental funders and NGOs to engage them in more authentic and constructive ways. In this paper you will find context how on the mainstream environmental movement has at times created mistrust with the Latino community and you’ll also find case studies on what’s worked in addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion.... read more

#VerdePaper: Gracias, totales!

Mil Gracias to everyone that has downloaded and shared the Verde Paper: Latino Perspectives on Conservation Leadership. We are so pleased to see it circulating on Twitter, Facebook, blogs like Latino Rebels, and even in Congress. Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva said of the report: “Protecting our nation’s land, water and wildlife is a value shared by many. Yet, conservation leaders in America do not reflect the rich cultural backgrounds of the American public. The Verde Paper provides a blueprint for diversity and inclusion within the environmental movement. Building a strong, diverse, sustainable and inclusive environmental movement requires more than a conservation project, it requires an ongoing commitment to a new way of doing business, of working to overcome environmental injustices and creating the kind of community where equity and opportunity exists for everyone.”  ... read more
New “Verde Paper” a celebration of Latino Environmental leadership

New “Verde Paper” a celebration of Latino Environmental leadership

Contrary to what some may have you believe, Latino environmentalism is not a new thing.  I’m not just talking about the pellizcos your mom would give you if you left the water running, but rather, about decades of Latinos mobilizing through political and civil action to protect their community’s health. Our “Verde Paper” (get it?) published today in collaboration with Resource Media and Azul, is our celebration of Latino environmental pioneers and grassroots voices, as well as an invitation to established environmental organizations to collaborate as allies. It’s not an easy conversation, but we didn’t shy away from the reality. Several factors have played a role in forming the erroneous idea that Latinos don’t care about the environment and the troublesome dynamics that this creates. We spent 18 months listening and interviewing some of the most effective and successful Latino changemakers in the field who generously agreed to share their stories with us. The lessons are clear: our comunidad is as passionate about protecting Pachamama as they are about jobs, immigration and education, but we usually don’t have access to what has been an exclusive, middle class movement, or the resources that power it. We trekked from Delano, CA, to Las Cruces NM, passing through Denver, CO and Washington DC to meet icons of community leadership like the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment’s Lupe Martinez, an organizer who worked with Cesar Chavez in the historical campaigns of the United Farm Workers in the 1970s and 80s. Don Lupe now brings that same passion and experience to his work with Latinos fighting the dangerous effects of fracking in... read more

Latino Outdoors Interview: A Conversation with Luis Guillermo Benitez

Guest post by Jose Gonzalez, Founder and Director of Latino Outdoors Luis Guillermo Benitez is the Director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. He is also one of the more experienced and respected professional guides in the outdoor field and leadership development. He has summited the top of the famed “Seven Summits” 32 times, including being a six-time summiteer of Mt. Everest. Tell us your story, what is your connection to the land and conservation? My connection to lands and conservation started as a young boy in Ecuador. My father’s family all grew up on a ranch outside of Quito and that is where I also spent most of my childhood. I was taught at a very early age if you take care of the land it will also take care of you. How is this connection celebrated? How is it understood or misunderstood in our community and culture—as well as in the broader conservation community? This connection is celebrated in my community and culture mostly by being outside! But in the larger conservation community I think we have a responsibility to ask ourselves some larger questions. The Latino culture has always faced challenges with accessing some of our outdoor resources in Colorado. They are a huge resource here in our state and when you start to ask the question of what access could or should be, I think access is trying to understand if there is a better way to approach permitting and access on federal lands because when you think about it, for smaller rural towns, that access translates into economic development opportunities. When it comes to... read more
Tierra Y Agua: The Land & Water Conservation Fund

Tierra Y Agua: The Land & Water Conservation Fund

Guest post by Jose Gonzalez, Founder and Director of Latino Outdoors Mention the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to a room of mainstream conservation organizations and you are likely to get common responses on the value and importance of LWCF, as well as the urgency of ensuring it is re-authorized and funded before the Sept 30th deadline, when it is set to expire. This is an important and simple program started in 1964 with a history of bipartisan support and with designated funding from offshore oil and gas development—but today’s politics have put it in danger. Nonetheless the mainstream conservation movement has been pushing hard to ensure that the fund continues because they know the value it brings to the conservation field at the local, state, and national level. You can see this reflected in the membership and messaging of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, the main coalition of conservation organizations advocating for LWCF. In its 50-year history, LCWF has conserved iconic landscapes in every state, helped preserve America’s history through heritage conservation, and provided outdoor access to hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts—there is much to lose if LCWF is not reauthorized.   Mention the LWCF to a room full of Latino leaders and organizations and the reaction may be different, but more and more it has been coming in sync. Obviously not from a lack of having connections to, and caring for, land and water—we have shown we have a history of heritage and involvement in the environmental and conservation movement. Rather, there is a push and acknowledgement in the role and impact that Latino... read more

Heat Waves and Clean Energy in San Diego

Guest post by Roddy Jerome, an advocate for social change with the Environmental Health Coalition. San Diegans have been feeling the heat this summer, and more is coming — unless we do more than just turn up our air conditioners. We will feel the effects of climate change and pollution with more intensity, including more frequent heat waves and wildfires. And heat is not the only thing breathing down our necks — more storms and rising sea levels threaten us from the horizon. Emissions from fossil fuels have already polluted our air and low-income communities, like City Heights — the community I organize with the Environmental Health Coalition— and San Ysidro — the community where I live — are bearing the brunt of it. In Sacramento, something else is heating up — a political fight over whether our state will get its energy from fossil fuels or from clean energy. Kevin De Leon’s proposal,the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 (SB 350) would increase our state’s commitment to stop climate change and make sure that communities of color reap the benefits — cleaner air, local renewable energy, healthier lives and shared prosperity. But the oil industry has been trying to torpedo the proposal, blanketing the airwaves with fear mongering ads about the dangers of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. What the oil industry did not talk about, though, are the dangers of not reducing our use of fossil fuels for our communities. When you look at neighborhoods like Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, Logan Heights, City Heights, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa in the City of San Diego, as well as National City, you see a... read more
Tó Éí Ííńá (Water is Life): The impact of the Gold King Mine Spill on the Navajo Nation

Tó Éí Ííńá (Water is Life): The impact of the Gold King Mine Spill on the Navajo Nation

  In early August approximately 3 million gallons of toxic waste spilled from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado making national headlines. News reports describe the plume of toxic waste as containing lead, arsenic, copper, calcium cadmium, aluminum and other heavy metals. Photos shared over social media showed the river transformed into a bright, almost neon orange color. The spill polluted the San Juan River and the Colorado River, which run through Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Governors from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah declared states of emergency as the plume of toxic waste flowed all the way into Lake Powell. Although there are hundreds of communities that have been affected by this contamination, the community I am most concerned about is the Diné (or Navajo). I am Diné, my paternal ancestors come from Dinétah (Navajo Nation) and this land is the foundation to our culture and identity. This Nation is among the most vulnerable to climate change, where the people face economic depression, and where access to resources, especially water, is very challenging. Many families in Dinétah live without running water or electricity, yet it is our land that provides big cities in the Southwest with cheap energy via the extraction of oil, gas, and uranium. Days after the August 5th spill, drinking water and irrigation water was turned off to parts of the Navajo Nation. The impact of this has been extremely heavy for people in the community, especially farmers. In an effort to protect the soil and plant life, famers have not been irrigating and so some have lost their crops. Liz... read more
How can we make California beaches more accessible?

How can we make California beaches more accessible?

The beach is on every Los Angeles visitors’ itinerary. But did you know many Angelenos have never been there? That’s because it can take hours to get to the coast by public transit. Last week Parks Now launched a video about the challenges youth face in accessing California’s beaches. In this video we follow two young Californians from the San Fernando Valley, as they make their way to the beach. Nuvia, 17, takes a city beach bus from Calabasas to Zuma Beach. The total length of her trip was 45 minutes. Dan, also 17, used public transit. From his neighborhood, Mission Hills, to the Will Rogers State Beach, it took 1:45 minutes. Nuvia’s experience of getting to the beach seems to have been relatively convenient, however Dan’s experience was the opposite. After making the trek Dan says, “even though it’s beautiful and all; the nice waves, the nice breeze, I don’t think I’ll be making that two hour trip again just to come here. Man, I wish there was an easier way to get down here”. This video points out the challenges many communities of color face when it comes to accessing parks and the outdoors. Right now, Parks Forward commissioner Manuel Pastor says, California State Parks “visitors don’t look like California.” And, as this map shows, parks are often located further away from low-income communities. There are efforts already underway to improve access to some parks, like the Transit to Trails program in Los Angeles that connects low-income communities to the Santa Monica Mountains, but more work is needed. So, Senator Kevin De Leon and Parks Now are... read more