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Social Justice and Environmentalism: How Activists Say They're Connected

Desolation Canyon
Adam Swisher, National Outdoor Leadership School

Environmentalists in Utah examined how conservation and social justice issues impact each other during Latino Conservation Week, which wrapped up Sunday. 

“Latino Conservation Week can remind other Latinx individuals that we are here and that this is our space, whether through outdoor activities, natural resources careers, or activism,” Lucila Fernandez with Latino Outdoors Salt Lake City said in a statement.

The Salt Lake City chapter helped organize events, including a panel on environmental justice Friday evening.

During that panel, the Sierra Club’s Jackie Ostfeld said more than 70% of communities of color across the U.S. live in “nature deprived areas,” according to a report from the the Hispanic Access Foundation 

“Time outdoors and access to clean air and places to run and play and improve your physical mental health are not shared equitably,” Ostfeld said. 

Activist Manuel Belmonte said he wants to make sure policies that improve the environment also help people of color. 

“Things don't happen in a vacuum,” he said. “These food deserts … the pollution that disproportionately affects black indigenous people of color, all these things are things that are happening into people's environment.”

According to a recent survey by Colorado College, 53% of Utahns think that action should be taken to curb climate change and 95% think air pollution is a serious problem in the state. 

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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