Lots of people lost their minds recently — I mean, really went bugfuck loco — when Pope Francis said climate change is a real and grave threat to humanity.
Yes, a position that is supported by 97% of the world’s scientists and most of the industrial world’s citizens is somehow controversial. But then again, I’m not Catholic — at least not anymore — and of course, I’m Latino.
But why should the fact that I’m Hispanic matter on something as racially neutral as climate change?
Well, as I’ve written before, Latinos are more likely to revere nature and to support efforts to combat global warming. In fact, one study says that “54 percent of Latinos see climate change as something that is extremely or very important to them personally, much higher than the 37 percent of whites who answered in the same way.”
And Hispanic Catholics, who are naturally among Pope Francis’ biggest fans, are twice as likely as white Catholics to be concerned about climate change.
There are, of course, several reasons for this discrepancy. For starters, environmental racism is a factor. Toxic waste sites, landfills and polluting industries are located disproportionately in minority communities.
Basically, Latinos care more about the environment because they are more likely to be breathing in all that carcinogenic shit.
But there is more to it than simple self-preservation.
Some studies find that Latinos’ are more likely to be environmentalists because of beliefs that “grew from connections to their ancestral homelands and an understanding of nature as inseparable from God.” In addition, Hispanics’ concern about environmental degradation often arises “from values like love and respect — values they’d learned through their families, culture, and religion, which are inextricably linked.”
Well, that all makes sense. But there is even more to this complex relationship.
Some commentators have speculated that being part of a minority — any minority — makes you more empathetic to environmental concerns. For example, one survey found that 55 percent of gay people care greatly about the environment, compared to just one-third of heterosexuals.
The idea is that you are more likely to care about the planet if you don’t feel like you own the world.
Still, groups like the Sierra Club tend to “remain predominately white in part because they are not connecting with the actual concerns of minorities.”
So we have a situation where the people who are most passionate about environmentalism, and have the most to lose in a warming world, aren’t being heard.
How messed up is that?