Yaritza Perez from USA

I am Yaritza Perez, from Orlando, Florida. As a second-generation Puerto Rican, I get to represent the state of Florida as a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I am a Floridian, a Latina, a United States Marine Corps veteran, and most importantly, a mother.

There are close to 2 million Latinos living within a half mile of existing oil and gas facilities. Due to high levels of poverty, low levels of health insurance, and lack of access to adequate health care, Latinos are disproportionately burdened by the health impacts from methane and other air pollution. Latinos experience over 153,000 asthma attacks and over 112,000 missed school days each year due to oil and gas air pollution. Rates of asthma are often higher in Latino communities. Latinos are three times more likely to be negatively affected by air pollution because of where they live and work. We live in counties that are frequently violating ground-level ozone standards. We are literally living in environments and communities that are toxic and full of contaminants that are harmful to our children’s lungs.

We owe it to our children and to their future to clean up the air. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our parents and grandparents who sacrificed so much for us to be here. This is a basic human right. I should feel comfortable when stepping outside knowing that the air is clean. Knowing that I sacrificed 12 years of selfless service to this country only to be treated as a second-class citizen will be no more. Latinos have sacrificed our children for generations in honor and service to this country, and we deserve to come back to a healthy clean land. No matter where that land is.

The current climate crisis has caused millions to migrate to the state of Florida to seek refuge and stability. In order to welcome those families, we must provide and implement drastic change now. We have had veterans who have fought wars abroad only to come home and die from a toxic environment and bad health care. Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites and nearly 10% of Latino children under the age of 18 suffer from chronic respiratory illness.

The time for change is now.

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