Javier Sierra, a nationally syndicated columnist and Latino media consultant for the Sierra Club, has been named by PODER magazine as one of the Top 100 Latino Green Leaders in the United States.
Sierra's monthly column about Latinos and the environment, Sierra & Tierra, is regularly published by the country's leading bilingual publications, including Los Angeles' La Opinion and New York City's El Diario-La Prensa.
PODER, a leading Latino business-and-lifestyle publication based in Miami, says "Sierra has played an essential role in putting the environmental movement on the Latino map by helping the Hispanic community engage with environmental issues such as toxic pollution and climate change."
"It's a wonderful thing that I'm being recognized, but the Sierra Club is also being recognized," Sierra says with characteristic modesty. "The Club was the pioneer in bringing Latinos into the environmental community, so this is really a recognition for the organization as well as myself."
Sierra is a former Deputy Director of Associated Press Television News, where he ran the Latin American desk's day-to-day operations, and prior to that he served as Senior Producer and reporter at CNN en Español, of which he was a founding member. He began his journalistic career at United Press International's Latin American Desk as an editor and reporter. This April was his 11th anniversary with the Sierra Club.
"The Club was the first environmental organization to establish a dialog with the Latino community," he says, "and at the same time they established a presence with Latino media. Blogs were not that big when I started in 2002, and Latinos were mostly focused on TV and radio. But shortly after I started writing my column, La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country, picked it up, and since then they've run 90 percent of my columns."
Writes PODER in the introduction to its Top 100 list: "Two of the hottest issues in the United States today are the significant growth in the Hispanic population and the increased emphasis on green issues. Less publicized is what is happening at their confluence: more Latinos are playing important roles in environmental issues than ever."
"I do see exponentially greater engagement on environmental issues," says Sierra. "Ninety-two percent of Latinos believe something serious must be done about climate disruption -- a much higher percentage than in the American population at large."
The first national survey on Latinos and the environment, which Sierra helped conduct and promote, was taken in 2008. "It confirmed that Latinos are committed to a clean environment and are for clean energy instead of dirty energy," he says. "In 2012 another national survey confirmed those findings and additionally showed that awareness of climate disruption is much higher now, and that Latinos are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. They've identified the daily bombardment from toxic pollution as the problem and connected the dots."
"Latinos have skin in the game," writes PODER. "According to a Sierra Club poll … 83 percent of Latinos favor moving from coal plants to clean sources of energy. In California, according to Tulchin Research, two-thirds of Latino voters considered themselves 'conservationists,' while 90 percent believe we could 'protect the environment and create green jobs at the same time.'"
Asked about his influence on these numbers, Sierra allows that his column has helped get Latinos involved with the environmental community.
"At first there was an awareness of environmental degradation and the health impacts of environmental problems, and over the years we've been able to demonstrate that Latinos suffer disproportionately from environmental pollution. At first the connection wasn't clear, and the community didn't know who or what to blame. 'Why are my kids getting nose bleeds? Why are my kids getting asthma?' It turns out that in most cases a major polluter was right down the street spewing poisons on a daily basis. We have now made so many Latinos aware of environmental degradation and that it's the polluters' fault."
Latinos and the Sierra Club are natural allies, Sierra says. "Their commitment to a healthy environment and a clean energy future is extraordinary. We need to strive even harder to make them feel at home here at the Club and at any other environmental organization."
Sierra & Tierra is distributed to 500 bilingual publications throughout the U.S., and is regularly published in English by the Huffington Post, Alternet, and many others. Sierra is regularly featured on the national and international newscasts of Univision, Telemundo, and Voice of America networks (to name just three), as well as several national and regional radio networks in the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and elsewhere. During the nuclear catastrophe in Japan in 2011, the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Sierra became one of the country's most visible bilingual environmental experts both here and abroad.