Nicole Hernandez Hammer
Nicole Hernandez Hammer is a Guatemalan-American climate scientist and activist studying sea level rise and the disproportionate impacts of climate change on communities of color. She is a climate advocate for the Union of Concerned Scientists and former deputy director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies.
Interview on Latina to Latina podcast (2019) Edit
- If we avoid the worst and we're able to adapt in a way where we really kind of changed our approach to things like equity and how we deal with the environment. If we do that, and I want my son to know I was a part of it, even just a small part of it, but part of it, and if we don't and we fail, I want him to know that I tried.
- being the only Latina in most of my science classes and certainly not having any Latinos, let alone Latinas to look up to in terms of mentors, kind of put it upon me to do better, to represent my community. So that's tough. So you kind of have to do both. You have to represent your community at the same time. You want to hold your own as a scientist and not feel like you're going to only be doing research that affects your community.
- The research for a long time had showed how Latinos and in general communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of pollution. But at the time we weren't talking about how those same communities are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
- There are some impacts that are already baked into the system that we can't avoid and we need to learn to adapt and adapt in a way that's equitable. But we also need to do everything we can to prevent the worst.
- So ocean acidification for folks that work in, for example, fishing industries, storms for anybody that lives along the coast, sea level rise for folks that live along the coast as well and heat, which is pretty much everybody. So I think to think that anyone is immune to the impacts of climate change is delusional.
- How can we look at our kids and say we're fighting climate change and we're driving SUVs and eating steak every night and soaking up energy. It's hypocritical. We need to kind of walk the walk.
- Reduce the amount of meat that you eat. Think about transportation, how you can reduce the amount of flying that you do. How can you not drive as much as you do? If you're going to buy a house, think about energy efficiency and think about what you really need in terms of house. Do you need a 5,000 square foot house or 15,000 or 1500 be okay?
- The sea level rise that we’re going to see in the next 15 years is going to transform Florida, it’s going to transform many parts of the world, it’s going to create major problems with flooding and drinking water. We’ve got a lot of science, we know that climate change is happening, we know that it’s human-caused, and we know that we’re starting to see the impacts now. But this information is not being sufficiently reflected in our policies at the state or the federal level.
- The list of places that have the largest and/or the fastest growing Latino populations are also the places that are most vulnerable to sea level rise. And practically speaking there’s a large portion of the Latino population that works outdoors in the environment whether it's agriculture or construction, and so we are more sensitive to environmental changes.
- I also think that because we have more international perspective we’re not as susceptible to the campaign of disinformation that’s being pushed by the polluting companies. These arguments seem to be most upfront in American media. But when you look at international media, whether Telemundo or BBC, they’re presenting the information in a more practical way. They’re talking to scientists, they’re talking to experts, and when you do that, there is not a debate.
- Whether you like it or not, we’re going to have to deal with climate change, and we’re going to have to adapt. A lot of people say, just do what they do in the Netherlands, or New Orleans, build seawalls, but we can’t. We sit on a very porous limestone rock, so when the sea level goes up, it doesn’t just come up over the coast on the beaches, it comes in underground into the acquifer, and we get our drinking water from that acquifer. It raises the water table causing inland flooding and it also contaminates that potable water. Communities are spending millions of dollars moving well fields inland because of salt water intrusion.
- Migration is a huge issue, not just for the Americas, but also for other parts of the world. When we talk about the many impacts of climate change, what they mean, I think a major end result are climate refugees.
- We’re dealing with multiple impacts… wet periods, dry periods, sea level rise, increased temperatues. That’s why there’s such a sense of urgency behind adaptation and mitigation, because the window for us to make decisions on how we’re going to prevent the worst is closing, and if we don’t take action now, then we’re going to be dealing with, in the words of the IPCC, “horrible” consequences.