Jose Cardenas: The league of conservation voters held an open house last month to kick off Chispa, a new effort to engage Arizona's Latino community to clean up Maricopa County's air quality and boost the economy. Here to talk to us is Jennifer Allen, outreach director for the league of conservation voters. Jennifer, the Latino vote is a big thing. We just devoted a segment to that. What is the particular interest of the league in the Latino vote?
Jennifer Allen: It's a good question. It's a little known fact that Latino communities and Latinos specifically are probably the strongest environment lives we have in the United States. Some of the communities that are the least involved in environmental organizations. The league of conservation voters, we recognize that and Latino communities are a critical, important part of the puzzle, the movement that we need to be putting in place so we can have strong policies that can combat climate change, that can ensure we have healthy communities, and that we're working towards a clean energy economy for health and well-being of all of our communities here in Arizona but across the country.
Jose Cardenas: I think you're right; it is a little known fact. I think people would be surprised to hear. That what basis does the league have for thinking that Latinos are more concerned about the environment than other groups?
Jennifer Allen: Poll after poll conducted by league of conservation voters, natural resources defense council, Sierra club has shown for the last five years at least that Latinos want to see government action around addressing fighting climate change at a rate that is higher than U.S. population as a whole. For example about 88% of Latinos say that they want to see government action on climate change. It's about a little over 60% for the U.S. population as a whole.
Jose Cardenas: Is there any explanation for why that would be? Because I think most people would think Latinos are concerned about a whole bunch of issues. They would be concerned about that as well but there may be other things that may be higher priorities. Why is it or why do you think it is that Latinos seem more concerned about this issue and the population as a whole?
Jennifer Allen: We have tried to dig into that and what the motivations are and why that is, why it continues to show up poll after poll. One of the reasons is that -- Latinos care about our family. We care about future generations, and ensuring we are leaving our planet, our community a place that is better off than what we have right now.
Jose Cardenas: Part of it would be cultural values may lend themselves more toward being worried about this issue than otherwise.
Jennifer Allen: Absolutely. Is it an economic factor? Latinos comprise about to 30-40% of clean energy jobs. When asked whether it's an economic motivation behind strong support for environmental action, it's about culture; it's about the responsibility for Stewardship of our earth and our planet, protecting it in the interests of our families and future generations.
Jose Cardenas: So now you're trying to direct that energy with Chispa.
Jennifer Allen: Chispa is really exciting. We kicked off a couple of weeks ago in the Phoenix area, opened an office at a great organizing them that has been knocking on doors, calling families on the phone to talk with them about what they know about what happens behind your light switch in your home. Where does your electricity come from? Where does energy come from? There's tradeoffs that are made. Those tradeoffs are often done by our electric companies that result in polluting our air. Maricopa County continues to get failing scores for air quality from the American lung association. We have an ongoing and increasing air quality issue here and a lot of that has to do with the decisions about where our energy comes from. Specifically about the reliance in using coal fired power plants. Arizona has six of them. Our utility companies in the state of Arizona, the roller manages them and there's a monopoly about where energy comes from and how it gets to our homes. When we flip off the switch it's all controlled by our utility companies. The tradeoff has been our health and our economy. It's been one that's been limited by an interesting keeping the power plants burning coal, continuing down that path as opposed to supporting the past that's -- the path built on creating a robust, clean energy economy with things like investing in solar and wind, which Arizona obviously has an abundance of.
Jose Cardenas: So part of it is an education effort. How are you providing the education? You have people providing that information in Spanish as well as English?
Jennifer Allen: Spanish and English; People are knocking on doors, calling families on the phone there are community events. When they find somebody who is interested, a volunteer, they have house meetings for that volunteer maybe invites friends and family over to talk about our air quality and pollution, how those issues affect us, and providing people with opportunities to step up and take action and to really start to show that in a real, substantive, quantifiable way that Latino communities in Arizona want to see us investing in clean energy.
Jose Cardenas: And how many people are involved?
Jennifer Allen: We just started a couple weeks ago. We have six organizers and like I said every single day they are recruiting more volunteers joining them on the phones, joining them knocking on doors who are inviting their family into their home. We are -- the program keeps growing and growing.
Jose Cardenas: So you're telling people what the issues are, the problems. Are you giving them some ideas as to what they can do about it?
Jennifer Allen: Absolutely. One of the things we're really excited about kicking off is a component that first focuses on how people can make their homes much more energy efficient. Because there are just a lot of easy things you can do, seal up your windows, cut your energy costs. That's at the real personal level within decisions in your own home but we're also talking with people about how they can let their opinions and their voices be heard by policy makers.
Jose Cardenas: So give me an example of that. What is it that you do that shows them how they can make their voice heard?
Jennifer Allen: We're going to be encouraging folks to let their voices be heard in front of their utility company, and in front of their elected officials so we can start to demonstrate that Latino families in Arizona want to see clean energy, clean air be a priority issue for our decision makers in our state. We're bringing people directly to decision makers so they can hear their concerns about air pollution and people's interest in really seeing greater investment in clean energy.
Jose Cardenas: So give me an example. Are you taking people to meetings with SRP, APS, Tucson electric power. How are you doing this?
Jennifer Allen: And city council members. They will be meeting with state legislators, meetings with members of Congress. Really getting out in the community so that decision makers have opportunities to hear from families talking about issues that they don't normally hear. Putting them in front as well leadership around utility companies so they can be hearing directly from their customers about the types of policies and practices we think should be in place.
Jose Cardenas: What about impact in elections. What are you telling people about that?
Jennifer Allen: We're not really talking with people about the elections at all. Much more focused on this as an issue that's important for the community. We encourage people to be involved in civic engagement because letting your voice be heard through your leaders is part of being civically engaged in your community. This election cycle we're not specifically involved in.
Jose Cardenas: Solar power, though, seems to have been injected as an issue into, for example, the Arizona corporation commission races. Are you saying anything about that?
Jennifer Allen: We're not.
Jose Cardenas: And this is a multi-month effort as I understand it.
Jennifer Allen: It is.
Jose Cardenas: How are you going to measure success?
Jennifer Allen: A lot of what we're looking at is larger question. We specifically are we able to make this issue be seen and felt as a priority by decision makers in our state, that Latino communities want clean air and clean energy. We're also looking at we're a national environmental organization. Environmental organizations have not had a good track record of working within communities of color.
Jose Cardenas: So this is one example of that effort?
Jennifer Allen: This is an example of an organization --
Jose Cardenas: We're out of time, I'm sorry. We wish you the best in this effort. I'm sure we'll have you back on the show.
Jennifer Allen: My pleasure. Thank you.
Jose Cardenas: An important programming note we want you to know. Starting September 4th Horizonte will be moving to new time slots, Thursday nights at and Sunday afternoons at. That is our show for tonight from all of us here I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.
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The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) launched Chispa: a grassroots campaign to mobilize the Latino community and urge Arizona utilities to invest in clean energy. Jennifer Allen, Latino outreach program director for the League of Conservation Voters, talks about the campaign.