More than a thousand New Mexicans in Albuquerque and Las Cruces protested inaction by the nation’s leaders on climate change Friday, joining in a day of action that swept through cities across the globe.
In Albuquerque roughly 1,500 climate protesters, young and old and from various backgrounds, began in Robinson Park at Central Avenue and Eighth Street where speakers motivated the crowd to fight for change and to demand no more delays.
A sense of determinism rippled across the crowd as people urged the speakers on, including the city’s mayor, Tim Keller.
“For the first time in decades our city has to issue ozone warnings again,” Keller said in a raspy voice to a rapt crowd. “We have to tell children not to go to soccer practices because the ozone levels are too high if you have asthma. I am not making this up. It is because of climate change. It is because of carbon.”
From Robinson Park, the crowd marched along Central Avenue to the offices of U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, where they demanded the two sign the Green New Deal. It’s an ambitious plan that advocates say would wean the U.S. off fossil fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions across the country.
Young people were shouting into megaphones outside the senators’ offices, saying they need to take action and they do not want to clean up after this generation’s mess.
The senators weren’t there, but representatives spoke in their place, saying the men would sign the Green New Deal and noted the number of young people who turned out to fight for the cause. Later, Udall tweeted his support.
A few hundred miles south, in Las Cruces, about 100 people gathered under the shade of native cottonwood trees in Albert Johnson Park in front of Las Cruces City Hall to call for action on climate change. It was one of several gatherings in southern New Mexico and the border region, including Silver City and El Paso.
The climate strike was organized by Doña Ana Community College faculty, the Sierra Club, Southwest Environmental Center, NM CAFé and Friends of Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. Speakers included state Rep. Nathan Small, an environmentalist who co-sponsored the Energy Transition Act that passed the Legislature earlier this year, as well as City Councilor Gabe Vasquez who noted the wide impact of climate change, which is even affecting New Mexico’s beloved chile crop.
“I think sometimes it’s issues like having frozen chile in our freezers, or not having frozen chile in our freezer that get people to take action,” Vasquez said. “Right? Very New Mexican.”
The crowd was mostly populated by older residents, but more youths showed up as the rally progressed. After a teacher talked about making space for younger folks to speak up and speak out, several students from Doña Ana Community College and New Mexico State University took the mic. Virginia Sosa talked about the need to reduce consumerism and the amount of meat we eat.
Another student talked about trying to be an influencer within her own family. She urged her fellow students to use their voices. “Tell people and be loud.”
There were also several grade school aged kids, some who came with parents, and some who asked their parents to bring them, including this pair of home-schooled students:
Sylvia Ulloa contributed to this story.