Press Release: Latine Legislators, Gov. Leaders, Academics, and Community Leaders Speak Up for Climate Justice in Forum Hosted by CWCSEO and Save the Sound

Hartford, CT – Following the conclusion of Hispanic Heritage Month/Latine Heritage Month, the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity, and Opportunity (CWCSEO) partnered with Save the Sound in convening a “Latino and Puerto Rican Voices for Climate Action Roundtable” featuring community leaders and academics, in addition to government and legislative officials. The event, held October 18 in Hartford, was convened to raise awareness about the remarkable contributions of leaders of Latin American ancestry to the environmental movement in Connecticut and sparked meaningful dialogue regarding how climate change impacts Latine communities and what should be done to combat the issue.

“Latine leaders in Connecticut’s environmental organizations are incorporating environmental justice principles in their approach to advocacy,” said Jayson Velazquez, climate and energy justice policy associate at Acadia Center, who delivered the keynote address. There is a balance between operating within systems to deescalate existing environmental, energy, and housing injustices while envisioning and building a just transition that repairs harm and prevents future injustices from occurring. Environmental organizations in Connecticut are responsible for playing a role in that process, and Latine leaders in these organizations must stay rooted in community.”

Participating academics and community leaders had the following to say regarding the importance of bilingual communications, representation, and supporting community-based organizations:

“Latine visual artists are key individuals that can support meaningful cultural and bilingual engagement to raise awareness about climate change with our communities,” said Daniel Pizarro, creative director at For La Diáspora.

“At COEEA, we work to advance environmental literacy to all residents of Connecticut and acknowledge that the key path to achieve such broad goals is through collaborative actions and community engagement,” said Gustavo Requena Santos, president of Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association. “Latine leadership is essential to bring multiple voices to make decisions about how to better engage with communities and build relationships and trust. We must meet community members where they are to learn and respond to their lived experiences and demands as a way to ensure the community is better and stronger as the result of such authentic collaborations.”

“Protecting our environment encompasses more than just protecting our parks and our waters, because our environment is also our living and working conditions. As a Latina, I believe our representation in environmentalism is necessary to bring light to intersectional approaches which will ultimately lead to environmental liberation for all,” said Andreina Barajas Novoa, community organizer with Justice for Our Streets.

“With much of its wealth concentrated in suburban communities, our region’s urban and rural neighborhoods are routinely faced with pollution and public health threats. To advance environmental justice, we must equip Latine- and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-led organizations with policy solutions and with tools like the Long Island Sound Community Impact Fund to increase access to land and waterfronts and to build capacity to participate in decisions that impact their health and environment,” said Alex Rodriguez, environmental justice specialist at Save the Sound.

Pictured here from left right include the following persons: Werner Oyanadel, CWCSEO, Ashley G. Benítez Ou, CT DEEP, Alan Tan, CWCSEO, Rep. Hilda Santiago, Alex Rodriguez, Save the Sound, Rep. Anabel Figueroa, Rep. Hector Arzeno, Gustavo Requena Santos, COEAA, Rep. Geraldo Reyes, Bryan Garcia, CT Green Bank, Andreina Barajas Novoa, Justice for Our Streets, Jayson Velazquez, Acadia Center, Daniel Pizarro, For La Diáspora, and Hilda Nieves, CWCSEO.

Government officials stated the following regarding an equitable green economy and equity in advancing public policy:

“As we work to advance our vision of ‘…a planet protected by the love of humanity’,” the Green Bank is helping provide our families and businesses with the capital they need to realize the benefits of the green economy,” states Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank.  “As we celebrate our Hispanic heritage, let’s recommit ourselves to ensuring clean energy for all!”

“Embracing the current progress in Latine representation is a testament to our evolving society. Yet, the importance lies in recognizing the work ahead. Incorporating diverse Latine voices in decision-making processes enriches perspectives, fostering empathy and ensuring equitable representation. My hope for the future extends beyond representation; it envisions a world where Latine individuals actively shape policies for a more inclusive society, cleaner air, improved education, and other pressing issues that affect Latine communities, creating a better future for all,” said Ashley G. Benítez Ou, environmental analyst 2 with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Following an insightful panel discussion, state legislators offered the following remarks:

“We all have a shared responsibility to increase sustainability and build resilience to climate change. The residents of many cities, such as Waterbury, are often exposed to above-average amounts of environmental burdens. We must act and support legislation tackling the climate crisis that will benefit everyone, in particular Latino communities,” said State Representative Geraldo Reyes, member of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee.

“Very few issues are as critical as the environment for our health and for future generations and this is especially important for our communities as historical environmental discrimination affects many in our urban areas,” said State Representative Hilda Santiago. “I am strongly committed to changing passive attitudes toward climate change and advocating for policies and actions that contribute to the survival of our planet.”

“The residents of our towns in Connecticut are impacted by the climate changes. In the town of Greenwich, we have 30 miles of shore lines plus rivers and streams that are also vulnerable to flooding. Scientists say the the sea level will rise 20 inches by 2050. The time to act and support legislation that will address the climate crisis that affects everyone, including our Latino residents, is now,” said State Representative Hector Arzeno, member of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee.

“Our planet—and our future—are in crisis. We are constantly hearing calls from experts to take concrete and tangible action to protect the environment before it’s too late. As legislators we have a choice. We need to decide wisely and act with urgency in order to protect current and future generations from a world crushed by climate change, pollution and nature loss. Elements that unfortunately affects our Latino community more than others,” said State Representative Anabel Figueroa.

CWCSEO’s executive director Steven Hernández offered the following comment after the roundtable discussion concluded:

“The outcome of our ‘Latino and Puerto Rican Voices for Climate Action’ roundtable is a testament to the profound dedication of Latino leaders to a more sustainable and equitable future. This event not only addressed the unique environmental challenges and opportunities in our Latino communities but also spotlighted the invaluable contributions of these leaders. With a firm commitment to sustaining this essential dialogue, we are encouraged by the active participation of younger generations in climate action, recognizing their pivotal role in shaping a greener and more just world. Your collective voices and actions are driving transformative change, and together, we are forging a path towards a sustainable future for all. We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who joined us in this vital discussion of climate issues,” said Steven Hernandez, executive director of Connecticut’s Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity, and Opportunity.

A recording of this roundtable discussion can be found at


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