By Ruby Lopez [Printed in 9.18.2019 edition of Santa Fe New Mexican
On Aug. 28, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, reached New York City on a slow, solar-powered boat after 15 days at sea. By avoiding airplanes, a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, this is one way she is taking a stance against a “business as usual” approach to dealing with the climate crisis. In the U.S., she will attend the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday, and she will be in New York City for Friday’s Global Climate Strike and the following week of action, when she will join thousands of other young people who have been organizing globally for months. In New Mexico, young people have been organizing around the strike as well, and we have plenty to organize around.
New Mexico receives about $2 billion in oil and gas revenues, about 25 percent of our entire budget. We rely so heavily on the blood money from fossil fuel extraction that it has led to these industries having a tight grasp on regulatory legislation. The Bureau of Land Management has approved hundreds of fracking wells for the Greater Chaco Region without adequately consulting tribes or setting any protections for the water and health of the people living there.
The Public Service Company of New Mexico has lauded itself for planning to be carbon free by 2040, but estimates of our global temperature rising beyond intolerable levels say that the damage will have already been done by then. Our planet may begin to become unlivable as early as 2036, four years before the so-called Public Service Company is ready to stop gassing people of the Four Corners area with methane and coal ash. What is not often mentioned is the fact that the utility’s “carbon-free” plan includes relying on nuclear power when we are already facing pollution from the toxic abandoned uranium mines that have never been cleaned up.
Our state is historically a dumping ground for the industries that pose most threat to people’s quality of life. From the groundwater pollution by the Air Force (“State suit seeks action by Air Force on plume,” July 25), to the plutonium contamination by Los Alamos National Laboratory, even our federal government has shown a lack of accountability to the havoc wreaked on our land.
Oil and gas have made their fortune on the backs of hardworking, underpaid New Mexicans for too long. It is time we demand a radical shift in how we interact with these destructive extractive industries and hold them accountable for the financial position they have put us in.
It is time we demand from our elected officials true accountability to our youth for the climate crisis. It is time we demand a just transition for energy in our state.
Our youth are calling for the state to allocate funds to do an economic transition study to ensure our economic and physical well-being, as well as to create a fund for our communities to study, develop and implement their own transition plans.
I am only 21 years old, but I have seen in that short time people warning of the climate crisis without taking real action, leaving young people to pick up the slack and work to save our own future.
I am a sustainability justice educator, and I believe that our young people have the drive and skill to do what generations before were unable and unwilling to: save our planet. This is why I will be striking Friday, Sept. 20, with the Youth United for Climate Crisis Action outside the Roundhouse, making my voice heard on the issue of our dying planet and our exploited people, and I hope to see you there as well.
Ruby Lopez is an organizer and educator with Earth Care. She lives in Santa Fe. For more information, go to climatestrikenm.org.