Mariel Nanasi and her assistant at New Energy Economy recently moved into a new office with a corner fireplace and the smell of recently installed carpet.
In the spacious adobe on E Alameda Street, the white walls show none of the dings and dents of a lived-in abode, only a poster for the documentary Broken Rainbow—about Navajos relocated from their land by the government—a print reading “Clean Coal Is a Dirty Lie” that could have come out of SITE Santa Fe’s Agitated Histories exhibition, and a paint-on-glass artwork depicting cash raining into a field. Rockets blast off from the field—one reads “Viagra”; another takes the shape of a cigarette. And a sign on the fence separating the money from passersby reads, “Public Access Restricted.”
NEE’s executive director, Nanasi opens a door in the back of the office—past her assistant’s room and through a dining room hosting a feast of documents. “It’s cold back here because we’re not using it,” she says, while feeling the wall for the light switch. “But we’d like to rent it out.”
I’m in Nanasi’s office because she sent some information to SFR about the nonprofit’s upcoming film series, Getting Reel, which begins 7 pm Thursday at the Center for Contemporary Arts. She followed up with an email, explaining, “Artists see truth in a different light and can express ideas that can raise the consciousness of those who [view] these films. They expose the hidden truths of our fossil fuel dependency and provide ideas for local action to transition from coal to renewables.”
Once a civil rights attorney, Nanasi found her way into environmental advocacy after attending a Bioneers conference on climate change. “I came home and said, ‘How can I tell my kids that I know about this and I’m not doing anything about it?’” she says. She began as a volunteer at NEE and worked her way up.
NEE’s main target is the Public Service Company of New Mexico, which she says could shut down one of its coal-burning units right now, without losing output, through the use of efficiency measures. But PNM is resisting, and Gov. Susana Martinez isn’t helping NEE’s cause, Nanasi says, pointing to Martinez’ October 2011 public excoriation of EPA regulations that would affect PNM’s San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant, as “meaningless, incredibly expensive and symbolic,” as reported by the Associated Press.
From behind a metal-framed, glass-topped desk, she explains that between NEE and her work helping other organizations, fundraising is nonstop. “Money’s tight,” she says. “But there’s money out there.”
Fundraising, however, is only part of the motivation behind Getting Reel, Nanasi says. NEE also needs bodies—not organizers, but people who are fed up and want to do something, people like those in the four documentaries NEE is screening. The Last Mountain, which opens the series, follows activists in West Virginia, fighting Massey Energy Co. and its coal-recovery procedure, known as mountaintop removal. On Jan. 26, If a Tree Falls gets inside the enigmatic, oft-labeled “eco-terrorist” group Earth Liberation Front through one of its members. Dirty Business, on Feb. 2, attempts to explain clean coal energy and suggests pathways to replacing it with solar and wind energy. Split Estate closes the series on Feb. 9 by focusing on the practice of fracking in Garfield County, Colo.
Each screening ends with a moderated discussion, and Nanasi hopes the series ($10 suggested donation per screening) brings more people to the organization, adding that the ELF member in If a Tree Falls says he became an environmental activist because a documentary inspired him to do something about deforestation and climate change.
“You never know what’s going to make someone an activist,” Nanasi says.