Students gathered at the Santa Fe Plaza and marched to the Roundhouse on Friday to protest lack of action on climate change as part of a nationwide "climate strike" and student walkout. Students and organizers then packed the floor of the state capitol for nearly two hours to listen to activists and young people speak on issues of energy production and natural resource extraction in New Mexico, and the anxiety of facing an uncertain future.
"In the past the reality was that we would have a future," Liana Star, an 8th grade student from Mandela International Magnet School told the crowd, "but at this point, that isn't our reality. We are no longer told that the world will live forever or that we will have so many things to look forward to, and that's sad. … At this point stopping climate change isn't just a choice, it's a necessity, and we stand together."
Data released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that New Mexico ranks third in extraction of oil. Activists pointed out that the revenues from oil extraction fund New Mexico's education system and stressed that students could get left behind if the state does not come up with an alternative, sustainable source of funding in the next decade.
Kim Smith (Diné) told the students at the Roundhouse that the electricity we use to light our homes, schools and workspaces is currently generated primarily by coal, followed by nuclear power and natural gas. She explained how the negative health consequences of extractive industries including uranium and coal mining have disproportionately impacted Native people.
If signed by the governor, legislation passed by the House and the Senate this session will decrease the state's dependence on coal and could increase the state's renewable energy portfolio to a 100 percent zero carbon resource standard composed of at least 80 percent renewable energy by 2050. However, some advocates remain concerned about the role that nuclear power and natural gas could continue to play in powering the state.
After the sit-in at the capitol building, SFR spoke to three seventh grade students from the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences about the role young people play in addressing climate change.
"After learning these facts about New Mexico's energy sector I just think it's even more important to come to the protest and show the government that we are demanding change. We are the future, it's our futures that are at stake and also we'll be able to vote soon," said Isa Clark.
Clark also told SFR she began to take the climate action seriously after learning about climate change in school.
"It was very scary to me. For a month after I just kept thinking wow, everything I do impacts how the world works," Clark told SFR. "I feel angry at adults because it's so hard to pass laws that involve climate change because it's still such a controversial thing. Some people don't believe in it, but I believe in our right to grow up in a world that is not destroyed by humans."
Despite the magnitude of the problem, the young women say events like the march today give them hope, and hearing from other kids is inspiring.
"I want to run for president one day," Clark said, "because I really care about the fate of the world."