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A lesson on mitigating climate change by a returned Peace Corps Volunteer

Climate Change Meltdown

The Hispanic and Latinx Organization recently held a virtual session on climate change and the Latinx community in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Natalie Rivas was the main guest.

Rivas, a climate change research and policy manager at the Chisholm Legacy, illustrated how the world is being affected by climate change and outlined mitigating actions that must be taken. Rivas, who has 10 years of experience in climate resilience work, served in Cameroon as a Volunteer and spearheaded science education, founding an award-winning composting program in the process. In her current role, Rivas looks at root causes of climate change and how to collaboratively find solutions.

“Climate change is the existential crisis that humankind is facing today," she said.

"Latinx communities are on the frontlines of climate change, experiencing climate impacts first and worst. These communities are generating less greenhouse gases, so there is a paradox there, [in that they are] disproportionately suffering the effects. This directly affects food and water security, livelihoods and income, it drives climate-forced migration in the Latinx community."

Rivas’ parents are from the Dominican Republic, and she spent her childhood summers there. She recalled sending used clothes to the island nation, and how her parents would reduce consumption and reuse items. Her family acknowledged the precious resources of water and air, and instilled in her a sense of climate consciousness. She advocates for reducing waste by recycling, as it has a direct impact on the climate.

“Each climate solution has co-benefits associated with it. When we are gardening in schools, if we do this countrywide, we are increasing the health of the youth and reducing food waste. When we compost in our own homes, we are diverting greenhouse gases. No action is too small,” Rivas said.

Climate change is disproportionately affecting countries where Peace Corps serves, so the audience discussed how to mitigate the effects. Ideas included increasing awareness of environmental conservation and the resulting financial benefits, supporting renewable energy programs, and highlighting co-benefits of climate mitigation/adaptation projects that the host community perceives as important.

"If you are someone who breathes air and drinks water, you need to care about climate change," she said. "Climate solutions are rooted in ancestral, indigenous practices. Listening to the community is important; work to support needs of the community in their vision of success. Build that trust, listen, collaborate. We need all hands on deck,” Rivas said.