COPAL’s environmental justice team frequently visits colleges,
festivals, and other community events to highlight their work in
the struggle for climate justice and get the community involved.
This year, Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15, although -- as NPR discusses -- some are referring to it as Latinx Heritage Month, or even Hispanic/Latino/Latinx Heritage Month. No matter what you call it, the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club is using this heritage month as an opportunity to uplift and highlight some of the amazing Hispanic/Latinx organizations and activists in Minnesota, including COPAL MN.
COPAL stands for Comunidades Organizando el Poder y la Acción Latina, which translates to Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action. The organization’s mission is to “unite Latinos in Minnesota in a community democracy that builds racial, gender, social and economic justice” through community organizing, education, and political advocacy. Some of COPAL’s top priorities include immigration reform, drivers licenses for all, and the fight for environmental justice.
Here at the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, advancing environmental and climate justice is integral to our mission -- and COPAL is an important partner and leader in a number of spaces including the 100% Campaign, where we work together to secure an equitable clean future. COPAL is taking that mindset of “think globally, act locally” and putting it into practice across Minnesota. Here are a few COPAL projects that are particularly noteworthy:
2019 Delegation Trip to Honduras & El Salvador
In 2019, a COPAL delegation of organizers, students, and folks from allied organizations made a trip to Honduras and El Salvador to look at impacts of the climate crisis, as well as climate wins: A town that declared water as a human right, an area that banned disruptive and harmful mining, and many conversations with local activists about how to continue their work back in Minnesota. Upon returning to Minnesota, COPAL organizers met with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to discuss parallels between pipeline protests in the United States and disruptive mining in Honduras, as well as the problems that arise when climate migrants are forced to live in unsafe or unhealthy areas (like, say, near the HERC incinerator in North Minneapolis).
Working with Climate Migrants
COPAL works alongside organizations fighting against companies like Enbridge that build pipelines as
well as their investors such as Chase Bank. The devastating effects of such pipelines disproportionately
affect not only Indigenous peoples but also other communities of color, such as the Latinx community.
Similar energy megaprojects and the resulting climate destruction in Central and South America are also
one of the root causes of migration.
Many immigrants who live in Minnesota came to the United States as climate migrants: For many, the climate crisis not only means hotter weather and reduced access to clean water, but it can lead to civil unrest and even violence. But climate migrants may not always know that they’re climate migrants--they may not be aware that the root causes of regional instability tie back to climate change. This isn’t just about migration, but about what happens after immigrants settle in their new communities. That’s also why COPAL is focused on the Minnesota Frontline Communities Protection Act, which would help communities address the same types of issues happening in Minnesota--pipelines, trash incinerators, filthy water, polluted air -- that caused immigrants to journey to the United States in the first place.
COPAL’s online radio station Radio
Jornalera hosts a weekly radio show
highlighting recent international and local
environmental-justice-related news. Tune
in Thursdays from 5:00 - 6:00 PM CST.
Radio Jornalera, COPAL’s online Spanish-language radio station, is the only radio station focused on defending the rights of migrants and low-income workers. According to COPAL, “It is a space where humble people tell their truth and pride in our identity is fostered. In addition, Radio Jornalera builds the power of the people through popular education and the knowledge and exercise of our rights. Radio Jornalera dignifies the worker, the immigrant and elevates the identity of our people, in order to change the wrong ideas about immigrants and workers.”
Want to get involved?
Visit copal.org to learn more about the amazing work COPAL is doing across Minnesota. You can also listen to Radio Jornalera, learn about COPAL’s environmental justice work, donate to support COPAL’s work, or offer your services as a volunteer.
Rebecca Kling is Associate Press Secretary for the Beyond Coal Campaign.