Photo: Caitlin Eddolls.

Latinx Leaders in Conservation

Jul 20, 2020 by Deschutes Land Trust
July 18-26th is Latino Conservation Week. Across the country, folks are coming together to celebrate, recognize, promote, and continue the work Latino leaders are doing to protect our land, water, and air. Here are five Latino conservationists and a bit about what they’re working to protect.

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Conservation is all hands on deck. Learning from these leaders, we can work together to protect the places we need for future generations.


Zavier Borja. Photo provided.
Zavier Borja. Photo provided.
The first conservationist we’re learning from also calls the high desert his home. Meet Zavier Borja, Zavi is the Latino Outdoor Engagement Coordinator for Latino Outdoors in Central Oregon. Along with the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon, Discover Your Forest, Bend Parks and Recreation, the Land Trust, and other partners Zavi is working to make the outdoors a more welcoming and inclusive place for Central Oregon’s Latino community. Born and raised in Madras, Zavi has a passion for connecting with people and the environment. Zavi told The Source he "want(s) to create a sense of stewardship over time, beyond just getting people outside." We’re so excited to learn from and work with him, and know his excitement and energy for conservation will be contagious in Central Oregon! Read more about his work with Latino Outdoors here.


Self-determination, comunidad, y corazón, that is how Chela Garcia Irlando, Conservation Programs Director at the Hispanic Access Foundation describes her work. Irlando is creating a more holistic conservation movement, one that not only focuses on land but also thinks critically about people, their truths, their stories, and their futures. She thinks of “conservation as taking care of people, communities, and the environment that sustains us. I don’t see taking care of nature and the environment as separate from taking care of people and their communities.” She is working to make sure people feel welcome and invited to the outdoor spaces she loves and has had access to. For her, this work is collaborative and she is working within her community to make space for everyone in the conservation movement, “from rural places, from urban places, conservatives, progressives, young, old, people who identify as Central American, or Mexican, or folks from the Caribbean… I really strive to make sure that we serve as a platform for these voices and for these leaders, to make sure that they don’t just have a seat at the table, but that we are the ones making decisions for the protection of our clean air, water, wildlife, and public lands.” Read the full interview with Chela and learn more about her work to strengthen Latino Conservation Week.


Patricia Espinosa. Photo: Wiki creative commons.
Patricia Espinosa. Photo: Wiki creative commons.
A bit further from home, Patricia Espinosa from Mexico serves on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Espinosa’s work was critical to the UN climate agreement in Paris and she continues to be a leading advocate for action on climate change, sustainable development, gender equality, and the protection of human rights. On one of the largest stages of the world, Patricia is working to protect the land, water, and air we depend on for future generations. In a 2018 interview on the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, she remarked, “we are all responsible for emitting greenhouse gases, so we all have a role—whether in our work, or in our personal lives—in taking concrete actions to reduce emissions.” Read her full interview here.


Originally from Queretaro, Mexico, surfer and snowboarder, Jorge Guzman founded Vive | NW in Portland connecting his outdoor adventures with his Latinx heritage. Vive NW empowers community members to live more active lifestyles, while also fostering feelings of ownership and environmental stewardship. (Who wouldn’t want to save the snow after shredding some powder?) Jorge says “it wasn’t until I experienced the outdoors that I started to feel a sense of ownership and personal connection to the PNW... I discovered I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.” Now, Jorge and his team at Vive | NW work to connect, educate, and empower others to also enjoy all that the northwest has to offer. From paddles on the Willamette, to adventuring through Portland’s green spaces, to snowshoe hikes and even tree planting parties they are on a mission not just to enjoy Oregon’s natural wonder, but to care for it as their home. Read more of what Jorge has to say about his connection to place.


Finally, meet Astrid Caldas, a senior climate scientist, environmentalist, butterfly enthusiast, and self-proclaimed climate geek from Brazil. Caldas’ work focuses on climate change adaptation and science communication, with practical policy implications for ecosystems, the economy, and society.  – including equitable and just adaptation and resilience measures. Through her research, she connects people and the planet. Caldas is leading the charge in understanding how climate change and its impacts are disproportionately and compoundingly affecting marginalized people. In a recent blog piece highlighting the need for climate justice she wrote, “Climate justice is about giving everyone equal treatment and equal opportunities to face the challenges of climate change, and leaving nobody behind.” Through her work she continues to research the big picture, but also to connect with local community members and leaders to see that all voices are heard. Listen to learn about her current work to keep our planet cool.

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