Hundreds of youth got permission to leave school Friday for Santa Fe's Climate Strike, an event organized by Santa Fe youth advocacy group Youth United For Climate Action.
The oil and gas corporations "throw their money around, influencing our leaders, telling them to pillage our state. They are not welcome here! They are not our voice! We need clean energy and we need clean jobs!" Artemisio Romero Y Carver shouts into a microphone to strikers gathered outside the Oil and Gas Association building in Santa Fe. Other groups marched to the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, the state Land Office, and the Public Regulation Committee to protest New Mexico's dependence on gas and oil before reconvening in front of the state capitol building.
"This is our home! Yet you turn a blind eye to the flooding cities and the destroyed land. We will not stand for this!… We will fight, not only for our survival, but for our future!" Capital High School Sophomore Juan De La Riva calls emotionally into the cheering crowd.
Desert Montessori Elementary, Mandela International Magnet School, Capital High School, the New Mexico School for the Arts, Monte Del Sol Charter School and the United World College were only a handful of the schools that brought students, teachers and school administrators to the strike. Nearly the entire student body from the Santa Fe Indian School High School—about 400 students—were in attendance at the strike.
The youth organizers with YUCCA came with a list of demands for the state's elected politicians, which hung from a banner from the top balcony inside the capitol building.
The demands call on state politicians to collect fees from oil and gas companies to fund the research and planning for a transition away from fossil fuel dependence that would benefit all communities, including non-white groups. They want legislators to call a moratorium on fracking to protect water and air quality and to pass community solar legislation in the next legislative session. Finally, they call on the Legislature to move the goal for achieving carbon neutrality from 2045 to 2030.
"We need people to know why we are here and what this is really about," Santa Fe Indian School junior, Jamie Ortiz of San Felipe Pueblo, tells SFR outside the capitol as she sits on a wall with her friends. "People like the grownups, they are not going to be here in a few years. It's us and future generations who are gonna have to deal with the world when things are not good anymore."
This was an explanation echoed by nearly all the students with whom SFR spoke at the strike. All were there joined in the sentiment that their future is at stake, that they will have to bear the burdens of the chaos and unpredictability of a potentially disaster-torn world, and adults are not taking action to turn things around.
YUCCA also asks the governor and other elected officials in New Mexico to declare a climate emergency, and to pledge to stop taking fossil fuel & utility money for their campaigns.
In New Mexico, oil and gas revenues are a primary source of funding for the state's public school system. SFR asked YUCCA organizers how the state should pay for education in a just transition away from New Mexico's dependence on fossil fuel royalties to grease the state economy.
"We are kind of screwed if we just stop using oil tomorrow because of the financial position that oil and gas companies have put our state in, so because of that we are asking our state to ask oil and gas to pay for a plan for a just transition," says YUCCA organizer Ruby Lopez.
Lopez says the billion dollars that come into education coffers from oil and gas revenues is nothing compared to what oil and gas industries spend on continued drilling efforts.
"If you look at the amount of money that oil and gas companies are getting ready to put into infrastructure in the area for drilling, it is closer to 200 billion," Lopez says. A billion dollars is "not a huge amount of money for these industries and they are the ones who put us in this situation and they are the ones who need to get us out of it."