How Conservation Groups Confront Distrust from Communities of ColorNews Type: State, Regional, Federal Source: High Country News
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In 2018, when Noé Orgaz, an organizer from Conservation Colorado, first attended the all-women’s group Mujer, Fuerza y Sentimiento (or “Women, Strength and Empowerment”) in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood, he was told to sit quietly at the back of the room. “You’re welcome to be here, but not to speak. You can observe,” a facilitator politely explained.
The group, which started in a McDonald’s lobby in 2015, helps Latina women empower each other and advocate for changes in their community. Orgaz, who came on behalf of Protégete (“Protect Yourself!”), the organization’s Latino organizing arm, wanted to ask the women to testify in support of House Bill 1261. Known as the Climate Action Plan, it set Colorado on course to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 90% in 2050 and improve air quality, a critical issue for the women’s group. But getting their support wouldn’t be so easy.
The group had good reason to be wary of outsiders. After a previous Conservation Colorado organizer abruptly stopped attending meetings, the women feared that their information was being used without their consent. Even though that wasn’t the case, they no longer trusted people like Orgaz. “You guys are a transactional organization,” he remembers the facilitator telling him. “You come in, take what you want, leave, then come back when you need something else.”