In this moment of political and social turmoil, as we reckon with the injustices of institutionalized racism and continue the fight against COVID-19, it can seem easy to push environmental concerns to the back seat. Yet the impacts of environmental policies in the US are a direct reflection of the institutions that created them, and racism is woven into how we treat our environment as much as it is woven into the fabric of how we as a society treat each other.
Environmental racism has been brought into the spotlight by Black Lives Matter protesters this month. This past Thursday, Indigenous community leaders and allies demonstrated on the Plaza to celebrate the removal of an obelisk bearing a racist inscription. Here too, speakers made the connection between the way we treat the environment and the way we treat the Indigenous peoples whose ancestral land we occupy.
Here's what one speaker, Beata Tsosie-Peña had to say:
“This has been an inspiring week, this has been an emotional week... We are unlearning. These baby steps of abolishing racism and abolishing colonialism so that we can address the major issues facing New Mexico today. Like nuclear colonialism contaminating our water and our lands...
Like children being locked in cages in the Southeast part of the state.
Like our children not being educated of their culture in ethnic studies in schools.
The ancestral sites of Native Indigenous peoples being under constant desecration from environmental violence like Chaco Canyon, Mount Taylor, Bears Ears National Monument. Those that have not even acknowledged the vast territories of Indigenous Peoples, return these places to our Indigenous Peoples so that we can care for them the way we know how. We have a lot of work to do."
To SFR, she said, “We work to liberate the people so that we can ultimately liberate the land... When the values of this country shifted to ownership over land and bodies, black, Indigenous, women—all of the violence that has happened and continues to happen stems back to that very original violence. It is time for us to think very deeply and hard about what it means to restore. Can any of us be free from institutional violence if we abuse the land we depend on for our very life?”
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- New Mexico delegates and the state Oil Conservation Division pushed the US Interior Department to fund a stimulus program to fill 700 abandoned oil wells in New Mexico. Abandoned wells are an environmental hazard, leaking methane and pollutants into the air.
- The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission voted to stop a costly project to divert and store water from the Gila River for agricultural use. Officials said the project, which so far has cost the state $16 million just in the planning process, had been poorly managed and cost prohibitive.
- New Mexico State University and ExxonMobil entered an agreement to research "produced water," the wastewater created by fracking and other oil extraction processes. In 2018, New Mexico generated more than 42 billion gallons of produced water. The environmental impacts of produced water are still largely unknown.
- New Mexico officials have charged two oil companies with civil penalties for dumping produced water into the environment. In February, the state gave teeth to the state Oil and Gas Act with a change that allows officials to issue penalties for violations.
- Los Alamos is building low income housing on top of a former Los Alamos National Laboratory site where construction workers continue to unearth radioactive waste and debris.
Around the Web
- The Trump administration plans to end a 100-year-old law that protects wild birds. Researchers estimate that billions of birds could die as a direct result of the change.
- It's fire season, and the Southwest is once again burning up at neat record rates. A Bush fire outside of Phoenix that has burned over 151,000 acres is now the fifth largest fire in Arizona history. Other fires continue to rage around the state, including along the Grand Canyon.
- Black Lives Matter protests shine a light on environmental racism. African Americans are three times more likely to die from air pollution and other negative environmental conditions than the general population, in part due to Americas history of radicalized housing and urban development policies that dictate where different demographics live and where polluting industries are located.
- Trump issued yet another executive order that jeopardizes people's heath and the environment: citing the need to stimulate the economy in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump's order directs federal agencies to bypass the environmental review process for new infrastructure projects.
- In a win for NASA, which has opposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations of chemicals found in rocket fuel, the EPA announced that it will roll back regulations federal limit for the chemical perchlorate in drinking water.
SFR’s Environment News
Food Gone Wild
Author Gina Rae La Cerva’s new book explores the past, present and future of foraging
Julia Goldberg interviews La Cerva about her experience eating wild foods around the world, the identity politics of going elsewhere to forage, the negative environmental impacts of picking mushrooms on the ski basin, and how the experience of growing up in rural New Mexico influenced a lifetime of eating and interacting with the wild.
The fetishization of wild food is also a kind of mourning for the natural environments that we have destroyed and lost in this human-caused sixth mass extinction.
What’s Up with Water?
Santa Fe reports a drop in commercial water use during shutdown, increase city uses more water overall and future water plans
Commercial use dropped and residential went up, leading to an overall increase in the amount of water Santa Fe has used since the pandemic started compared to the same period last year, the city reports.