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At Shippensburg University, Latino community members talk about climate change challenges, possible solutions

  • By Amaury Abreu
Amaury Abreu (at right) of Climate Solutions partner Q'Hubo News leads a climate-focused listening session in Spanish at Shippensburg University on Oct. 8, 2023.

Scott Blanchard / WITF

Amaury Abreu (at right) of Climate Solutions partner Q'Hubo News leads a climate-focused listening session in Spanish at Shippensburg University on Oct. 8, 2023.

Climate Solutions | StateImpact PennsylvaniaIn a dynamic dialogue on climate change held at Shippensburg University, members of the Latino community came together to voice their concerns and strategies for addressing the pressing issue.  

Participants covered issues ranging from the importance of leadership, to education, to corporate responsibility in mitigating the effects of climate change. 

Climate Solutions, a collaboration among news organizations, educational institutions, and a theatre company, worked with partners at Shippensburg to hold the dialogue on the college campus. Four people talked for an hour, led by moderator Amaury Abreu, founder of Q’Hubo News, which along with Shippensburg is a Climate Solutions partner. The collaboration’s other members are Franklin & Marshall College Center for Public Opinion, La Voz Latina, Sankofa African American Theatre Company, StateImpact Pennsylvania, WITF and the York Daily Record. 

The conversation was held in Spanish, and was recorded with the participants’ permission. You can hear the entire conversation, or read a transcript, at the website Fora, operated by Cortico, which describes its mission as “to bring underheard voices to the center of a stronger public dialogue.”

The conversation was designed to hear lived experiences as a way of uncovering potential solutions to climate challenges. It was one of two held Sept. 21 at Shippensburg. You can see the other conversation, with several Shippensburg students, at the Fora site.

Participants were: 

  • Asunción Arnedo, originally from Spain, lives in Carlisle, lecturer in Spanish at Dickinson College 
  • Ana Moraña, originally from Uruguay, lives in Mechanicsburg, Spanish professor at Shippensburg  
  • Arangelin de Jesús, Shippensburg student from Reading 
  • Karina Ramírez, originally from Mexico, lives in Chambersburg, case worker at The Salvation Army 

Leadership matters 

One of the central themes of the discussion was the critical role of leadership in the fight against climate change. As the world grapples with the climate crisis, it’s clear that effective leadership is needed at every level of society, Ana said. 

“I feel that we need responsible governments in the world,” she said. “I am not talking about a particular government. We need responsible governments, with attitudes that face this emergency.”

Arangelin echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need for responsible governance.  

“An individual can, and we see it now, there are people who protest and try to organize movements and communities; but in the end the only ones who have power are the governments that can pass legislation to reduce climate change,” she said.

Karina brought up the role of grassroots leadership within communities, saying: 

“I am very proud of the town where I am from. Since it is a small town, the man in charge – who is like the delegate – has put a law among them, that plastic bags should not be used. So, you go to the market and you don’t see a single plastic bag.”

Asunción also mentioned the importance of sustainable agriculture as a form of contributing.

“Well, it occurs to me: one of the things we have done in our house has been, instead of buying at the supermarket, we go to the farmer and buy from their community sustainable agriculture,” she said. “So, that is where we see that the farmer is growing his fruits and vegetables, and we buy them directly.”

Education to empower 

Another crucial aspect of the conversation centered on education and its potential to empower younger generations to tackle climate change. Karina shared her personal experience of learning about the environmental impact of food choices and plastics, highlighting the importance of early education. 

Climate change and Pennsylvania

There’s overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is warming Earth at an unprecedented rate. It’s already responsible for extreme weather, rising sea levels, and more severe droughts worldwide. Pennsylvania is on track for more intense heat waves and stronger storms in coming years, the Department of Environmental Protection says.

Scientists stress that rapid action is crucial to avoid the worst effects. Pa.’s most recent Climate Action Plan calls for an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

Doing that will require hard choices by the nation’s fourth-largest carbon emitter: Pennsylvania must figure out how to cut emissions while planning for the future of people and communities that rely on the fossil fuel industry.

—Madison Goldberg, StateImpact Pennsylvania

“I remember that after a class I had at school, I came and told my parents why eating chicken can help the environment,” she recalled. “It might not change my diet, but it’s a small step toward reducing our carbon footprint.” 

Arangelin emphasized the need to instill environmental consciousness in youth. 

“So, one by one, today you start with your family, tomorrow with your friends, then with your neighbors, until the entire community understands the seriousness of the problem and everyone wants to do something about it,” she said. “And when people begin to understand each other one by one, there you have your base; and as a leader, you can start the movement outside your community to finally do something about it.”

Business responsibility 

The discussion turned to the role of corporations in climate change. Participants pointed out the responsibility of businesses, particularly large ones, in addressing environmental issues. 

Karina complained how many times she goes shopping and gets many plastic bags, and she does not know what to do with them — all while she is trying to minimize her carbon footprint.

Ana shared an image she said made her think about how much consumerism is affecting the environment.

“I saw a photograph of the Atacama Desert where there are mountains of clothes that are not used, new and old; but, come on, it was like mountains,” she said. “The truth is that that impacted me a lot. And that is consumerism; we have to change our mentality.”

Global impact, local action 

One of the themes that emerged from the discussion was the idea that climate change, though a global issue, requires local action — that each person, regardless of its size or demographic makeup, can contribute to a sustainable future. 

Arangelin said, “That’s why I want to better inspire and motivate people to be that leader, to be the ones who wake up and stand up and say: ‘That’s enough, I want to do something.’”

Recognizing disproportionate impacts 

The discussion also delved into the concept of climate justice and the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities, including many within the Hispanic community. 

“The people most affected are people who are not in power now,” Karina said. “But I think that something that I talk about personally, to friends and acquaintances, and I think that it is difficult for them to accept.”

Facing irreversible consequences 

The participants agreed that the urgency of climate action cannot be overstated. They said that while progress has been made, much more needs to be done to prevent irreversible consequences. 

Ana emphasized the need for immediate action. 

“It’s just that perhaps it’s a conversation that’s being had more and more, not necessarily with better results being put into action,” she said. “The other time someone said on a radio — I think it was (WITF) — that human beings are bad at slow motion emergencies. And this is an emergency whose speed is increasing.”

In the face of such urgency, the speakers encouraged individuals, communities, and governments to take concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote sustainable practices, and prioritize environmental conservation. 

A unified front 

Despite the challenges and complexities surrounding climate change, the participants left the discussion with a sense of unity and determination.   

Arangelin summed up the sentiment, saying, “So now that climate change is kind of out of control, now it’s impacting more people who thought it wasn’t going to impact them, who thought the problem wasn’t theirs. And now that they are missing their sriracha, they are missing the ability to travel to the countries that they have always wanted to visit, which were luxury places, like the Caribbean or Italy, now they are paying attention.”

As the event concluded, the speakers emphasized the importance of continuing this dialogue within the Latino community and beyond. They believe that by sharing their experiences and concerns, they can motivate others to join the cause, emphasizing the global nature of the climate crisis. 

Collective efforts for a sustainable future 

As the discussion ended, the participants left with a resounding call to unite and act. They emphasized the power of collective efforts and stressed that addressing climate change requires a comprehensive approach involving governments, businesses, communities, and individuals. 

“And I would like to add something to that,” Karina said. “That is why I also think that it is very important to teach our children. Because, as you say, we are guided by example. As humans, that is our nature, to follow the other. What the other does, we do. That is our survival instinct. … I believe that leading by example is very important.”

Climate Solutions partners are StateImpact Pennsylvania, WITF Education, Q’Hubo News, La Voz Latina, Franklin & Marshall College, Shippensburg University, Sankofa African American Theatre Company, and the York Daily Record. 

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