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Americas Latino Eco-Festival is a six-day CONFERENCE for people of every color 

Note to Boulder County citizens who care about the environment: the Americas Latino Eco-Festival is not an event intended solely or even primarily for Latino audiences. While the festival is hosted by some of the most respected and well-known leaders of the global Latino community when it comes to the arts, sciences, environmental activism and public policy creation, it is hosted for the benefit of everyone who cares about the future of our planet and believes that each of us, regardless of the color of our skin or where we live, has the right to clean air and clean water.

The bottom line is that the green movement needs to get a lot more brown sooner rather than later, or else stopping global warming and creating environmental justice for all peoples simply isn’t going to happen. The message of this year’s festival as presented in its mission statement puts it succinctly:

“Mother Earth has been the backbone of the indigenous peoples of the hemisphere for more than 20,000 years. Today it still drives the spirit of the Americas of the South. Latin Americans have ‘nature’ in their genes and it resonates in their religions, their social structures, their agricultural practices, and their arts and crafts. Reverence for Mother Earth and what we now call ecosystems and ecology is not a recent achievement but an organizing metaphor for daily survival and resilience.

“Reconnecting with our ‘Green’ legacy and infusing the shifting demographics of the North with the ecological legacy of the South is the new shade of green.”

When current demographic trends described in the festival’s mission statement are considered, it becomes clear why browning the green movement is essential to its success at every level.

Latinos in the United States tend to live in places with greater environmental problems, such as high levels of ground level ozone. Nearly half of all Latinos live in counties with above average ozone that can be life threatening to those with asthma and other breathing disorders. As a result, Latinos are three times as likely as whites to have an asthma attack requiring a trip to the emergency room.

Globally, 80 percent of Latinos live in areas which fail to achieve EPA airquality standards. That’s 15 percent higher than the African American population and 33 percent higher than for whites.

In only seven years, more than half of all Colorado high school students will be Latino, a full third of Denver County’s population will be Latino and even 24 percent of Boulder residents under the age of 18 will likewise be Latinos. In less than 50 years, Latinos will make up more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population. And as a matter of global perspective, almost 70 percent of the total population of North and South America are Latinos.

Despite such facts and figures, Latinos have been largely left out of North America’s organized environmental movement. Common sense says it’s hard to change the environmental direction of a hemisphere if 70 percent of the population isn’t represented at the negotiating table. And it’s not just any 70 percent. It’s the 70 percent most impacted by global warming and toxic polluters and the 70 percent who are already living more sustainable lifestyles connected to the Earth. Such an oversight is a recipe for failure.

Consider this warning from the festival’s website; “If conservation initiatives do not become relevant to our cities, engage with Latino youth and diverse communities in general, our ability to shape the future of our planet will be undermined.

“The Latino community in the United States, vibrant, young and enthusiastic, is fundamental to the development and prosperity of our country. We want to be direct participants contributing with ideas, examples, inventions and resolutions in favor of the environment.”

Considering the current, corporatesponsored state of most national environmental organizations, which are increasingly at odds with grassroots environmental activists fighting toxins in their own backyards, inclusion of the Latino perspective could be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to the health of the planet.

This is why Boulder County is so fortunate to have been chosen as the location for the Americas Latino Eco- Festival. It gives local environmentalists a seat at the table where the future of the planet will be shaped. It is both a privilege and a challenge.

This year’s festival includes a wide variety of speakers and panelists such as actor/activists Edward James Olmos and Ed Begley, Jr., along with other speakers such as Bianca Jagger and Jean-Michel Cousteau.

Some of the world’s best-known Latino artists, poets, writers, musicians, dancers and filmmakers will be present as well as inspiring grassroots environmental activists from around the world such as Juan Pablo Orrego, a Chilean environmentalist who won a Goldman Environmental Prize in 1997 for his fight against a series of dams on the Biobío River.

With dozens of inspiring and enlightening panel discussions, presentations, readings and talks sprinkled throughout this six-day festival, the largest of its kind in the world, there is surely something of substance and interest for everyone.

This year’s second annual ALEF will also be partnering with Boulder Green Streets on Sunday, Sept. 14, for its annual Boulder Ciclovia, the oneday, car-free, environmental festival that allows bicycle and foot traffic to take over miles of Boulder’s streets for the day. Attendees on Sunday will find miles of car-free streets filled with live music, healthy foods, exhibits, local products for healthy living, along with many free workshops, classes and demonstrations, including some affiliated with ALEF.

Boulder County residents understand that time is running out for our planet. We need to live in a sustainable way or we will cease to live at all. That is why BW has dedicated much of this week’s issue to the Americas Latino Eco- Festival. We believe that, over time, this festival can play a pivotal role in bringing more Latinos into an organized and politically powerful grassroots-oriented environmental movement. We think that incorporating the tens of millions of Latinos living in this country and those living in communities from here to Cape Horn will revitalize the environmental movement in many important ways. We also believe that there are many valuable lessons that Latinos throughout our hemisphere can teach all of us when it comes to sustainability and living in harmony with our environment.

And lastly, we don’t believe that we can win the fight against global warming and create a world where everyone has the right to clean air and clean water without working together with 70 percent of the Americas’ population. And we need to win.

We hope you enjoy our coverage of this important event and encourage all of you, our readers, to make this festival a success by way of your attendance and participation.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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