Many Hispanics have faced environmental challenges in their lives, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and forest fires. Chispa Florida, a community organizing organization that promotes a better environment and empowers Latino communities, says many people are not aware of the causes of these problems or how they affect their communities.
A community survey revealed Wednesday’s priorities and issues for Hispanics living in Florida. 93% of participants stated they are aware about the environment. However, the polarized political environment and economic threats such as job losses and rising housing costs were identified by the participants as the most pressing issues.
They also pointed out that health, race inequality and social justice were the most important topics. The topics of greatest interest were environmental issues such as air quality, pollution and access to nature. They also highlighted the challenges of recycling, storms, floods, extreme heat, and other environmental issues.
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The research was done in late 2021 to understand how Hispanics in Florida view environmental problems and how they impact their communities. The survey and focus groups questions include data from 1,025 questionnaires and six virtual focus group discussions involving 45 people.
Maria Revelles, Chispa Florida’s state director, said that they discussed the possibility of environmental legislation and how concerned each was about the environment in relation to other issues that affect Latino communities.
Communication manager at Chispa Florida Krizia Lapez Arce stressed the importance to guide communities and provide information in their native languages so they can understand the environmental effects on their lives.
Lpez Arce stated that the organization’s mission is to provide information in Spanish, have conversations in Spanish, Creole, and Portuguese to reach the multicultural community directly and speak in their language.
Chispa Florida noted that although the sample isn’t representative of Hispanics in Florida they engaged in dialogues and conversations with Hispanics throughout the sampling process to get their perceptions and understandings of the impacts of climate change, access water, economic inequalities, and environmental injustice. They noted that although the participants were all different in age, gender and income, the overwhelming majority of them identified as people who care about the environment. Therefore, it is important to interpret the findings as representing environmentally conscious Hispanics in Florida, and not the entire Hispanic community.
Oswaldo Fonseca, Jos Javier Prez, and Jos Javier Prez, community organizers from Chispa Florida, described the different approaches they used to approach participants. These included text messages as part of community activities.
It was fascinating to see what the community needs. Fonseca stated during the announcement that the pandemic had forced them to act virtually in order to bring out and be the voice of the community.
Participants expressed concern about the possible impacts of climate change, disease, and epidemics in the research.
Chispa Floridas mission is to increase the power of Latino communities as well as to protect their rights and ensure a safe environment for future generations.
Revelles stated that the program was able to recognize the need for research in order to gather the information necessary to make decisions on key issues and to understand the constituency’s views on climate change issues.
Revelles points out that while there is an implicit importance to the climatic effects on the planet, it is important to understand how people see these issues, how they perceive the issue of climate changes, access to clean water, and environmental justice. It’s vital that people are able to understand these issues and be empowered to fight for them.
Fernando Rivera (Professor of Sociology, Director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub at University of Central Florida) spoke out about the importance of this study.
We know that this information, which is crucial for climate change, is related to our current circumstances. We also see that these issues impact all of us, not just the Latino population in Florida, the United States, or the world.
61% of those surveyed indicated that they found information they were interested in through social media networks. 58.6% stated that they did so through internet searches. 49% said they found it on television, 25.1% radio and 23% in print media, such as magazines and newspapers.
Another interesting bit of data was that when asked about their preferred term for identifying an ethnic group, the majority preferred Hispanic, Latina, Latino, and no preference for Latinx.
Mara Elena Villar, a professor in Florida International University’s School of Communications and codirector at its Steven Cruz Institute for Media, Science & Technology, attended the study presentation. She pointed out that there were many different levels of knowledge and interests in the topics among the focus groups.
She noted that the topic of drinking water, storms or floods was discussed a lot among participants who identified themselves as Puerto Rican, particularly since it is a current issue for those who have lived through Hurricane Maria and now reside in Florida. Many find extreme heat important.
Lpez Arche stated that it is important to consider this a good beginning. According to them, the study is a good starting point to learn more about Latino communities’ views on environmental issues. It will also help to identify the most pressing concerns.
This story was produced in partnership the Florida Climate Reporting Network. This multi-newsroom initiative covers the impacts of climate changes in Florida.