New Mexico In Depth’s fellowship creates a pipeline into the journalism profession for university students of color. It is designed for students in their senior year of journalism school, or who have recently graduated and remain in New Mexico. It emphasizes the acquisition of investigative and digital first journalism skill sets, for those wishing to pursue careers in newspapers, television, radio, or in the burgeoning nonprofit journalism field. Fellows receive financial support, mentorship, and the opportunity to do great journalism that is published by New Mexico In Depth and our partners.
Hill with her granddaughter. (Courtesy of Nandi Andrea Hill)
When Nandi Andrea Hill got pregnant at 21, she knew she wanted to have a home birth but couldn’t find a midwife, so she turned to her mother who coached her to have a natural birth without medical interventions. They planned to go to the hospital for the delivery itself, but the baby came faster than they expected.
“I ended up birthing her at home unplanned with paramedics that came rushing in my room, eight men. They didn’t catch her, she flew out and she did wonderful. They took me to the hospital, but literally when I was putting her up on my chest—I was in culinary arts—I said I need to be a midwife.
Brittany Clark, a young Mexican-American tattoo artist who grew up in the small border town of Fabens, Texas, recalled two of her classmates coming up to her on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day and asking if she wanted to play. “ ‘Ok let’s see if you can play with us,’ ” they told her. “They put their hands all in a circle and they actually told me I couldn’t play with them because I was ‘too white,’” explained Clark, now 22. Her naturally coiled hair and olive skin paired with the last name Clark make her identity ambiguous by nature. While some call her white, others sometimes assume she is mixed — usually Black with some other unidentified ethnicity or race.
Clark grew up in the predominantly Hispanic farming town about 20 miles outside of El Paso, Tex.
Time ran out on the short 2020 legislative session, and with it, a bill that would have boosted New Mexicans’ ability to afford electric vehicles. House Bill 217 was killed on the last day of the 30-day session Feb. 20, during an effort by House Republicans to slow debate on the floor during precious few remaining hours.
The measure would have created an income tax credit for people who purchase or lease a new electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or who install a charging station for the vehicle at their home. It also imposed an annual registration fee of $20 to $50 for each vehicle to feed the state fund used to maintain roads. Those who drive gas-powered cars already pay into the fund through a fee collected at the pump, currently 17 cents for every gallon of gasoline purchased.
Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla
Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, one of HB217’s sponsors, said changes the Senate made to the bill once it passed the House made the measure more “moderate,” but House Republicans still filibustered final approval in the few remaining hours of the session.
A public electric vehicle fast charging station in Albuquerque limits use to 30 minutes. Image by Marjorie Childress. Legislators are continuing their drive to encourage more New Mexicans to buy low- and zero-emissions vehicles as part of a larger strategy to rely less on fossil fuels, while ensuring that drivers who use little or no gas still chip in to maintain the state’s highways.
House Bill 217 would let buyers of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles take $2,500 or $5,000 off their state taxes depending on their income. It would also give them another $300 tax credit toward a home car charging station and impose a $20 to $50 annual registration fee that would go to the state road fund. New Mexicans pay 17 cents per gallon of gas into the road fund.
Versions of these proposed incentives have been introduced four times in recent years without success.
Interstate 25 runs roughly 450 miles through the heart of New Mexico from Las Cruces through Raton and into Colorado. In an electric vehicle, drivers would be hard pressed to find the fast-charging stations they need to make it seamlessly across the state unless they were driving the very newest or most expensive models. And even then, a large swath of rural New Mexico remains out of reach.
That’s a problem for state officials who want to promote the use of electric vehicles as one way to reduce the climate changing greenhouse gases emitted in New Mexico. This chart from a New Mexico Interagency Climate Change Task Force report shows the emission sources of 2018 greenhouse gasses being emitted in New Mexico. According to a report released in November by the New Mexico Interagency Climate Change Task Force, the state’s production of greenhouse gases is about 70% more per capita than the national average — 31 tons per person per year compared to 18 tons.
Sea ice is melting, droughts and wildfires are becoming more severe, and countless other effects are currently being experienced around the world due to changes in climate. But because many people around the world don’t feel the effects directly, little action is taken to combat it, said Subhankar Banerjee, Professor of Art and Ecology at the University of New Mexico.
A good example, Banerjee said, is in northern New Mexico, where it’s “largely unknown” that roughly 90% of mature piñons died in the early 2000s, which Banerjee said shows the impact of both an ecological crisis and a climate crisis. Banerjee spoke to an audience in Las Cruces in late November about the decimation of hundreds of animal and plant species around the world. The 2018 global “Living Planet Report” produced by the World Wildlife Fund, a conservation organization, indicates an overall decline of 60% in vertebrate populations worldwide — animals such as mammals, birds, reptiles and fish — between 1970 and 2014.
“This crisis as I see it is a more expansive crisis than the climate crisis,” Banerjee said. But the climate crisis is significant.
Boxes of signed democracy dollar petitions were delivered to the Albuquerque City Clerk in early August 2017. Albuquerque’s beleaguered public financing program could become more attractive to people running for mayor or city council if a proposition before voters in next week’s election is successful.
The changes would boost the amount of money going to mayoral candidates whose campaigns qualify for public money. Plus, Albuquerque residents would be allowed to direct additional money to mayoral and city council candidates of their choice, in $25 increments.
The proposal is being heatedly debated in the final days before the election. Detractors say the program will cost Albuquerque a lot and favor incumbents or other candidates backed by organized groups with resources to help them. Proponents say public financing, including this effort to strengthen Albuquerque’s system, would help diminish the influence of money on politics, and encourage more people to run for office.
Problem in search of a solution
The proposal would update Albuquerque’s original public financing program for mayoral and city council candidates created in 2005 with high hopes of decreasing the influence of private money in elections. The current system requires candidates to demonstrate they have some measure of community support before receiving public money, through gathering qualifying contributions and signatures from a certain percentage of voters.
Sarah Cottrell Propst, secretary of the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and Dr. Dan Arvisu, NMSU Chancellor, listen as Kelsey Rader, Albuquerque sustainability officer, describes action the city is taking on climate change. The event was part of the 2019 New Mexico State University Climate Change Education Seminar Series. Image by Leah Romero. After President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2017 from an international agreement that set voluntary targets for how much countries would reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, a swath of states and cities across the country announced they would continue to honor the agreement.
New Mexico’s largest city joined that effort in 2018, and the state followed when Democratic governor Michelle Lujan Grisham assumed office in 2019. Three leaders in climate initiatives described efforts at the state, local and university levels at the second talk of the New Mexico State University Climate Change Education Seminar Series last week.
This year’s chile season is in full swing, but it is getting mixed reviews from farmers in southern New Mexico. Maria Martinez sells her family’s produce from Anthony and Brazito on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Farmers and Crafts Market in Las Cruces. Her booth stands out with red chile ristras strung up around the sides and sacks of chile piled next to them. Fresh green chile fill baskets at her booth and a continuous stream of customers approach her during the market, searching for their chile fix. She said it’s been a struggle this year because of insufficient water.
“It’s been kind of hard because they don’t give them much water,” Martinez said of the local irrigation district.
Dino Cervantes, of Cervantes Enterprises Inc. and a board member of the New Mexico Chile Association, grows cayenne peppers and jalapeños in Vado.
Dr. Debra Peters presenting “Chihuahuan Desert Landscape in an Uncertain Future” to kick off the Fall 2019 NMSU Climate Change Seminar Series. Photo by Leah Romero. The New Mexico State University Climate Change Seminar Series (NMSUCCESS) and Friends of Organ Mountains — Desert Peaks kicked off the semester last week with “Chihuahuan Desert Landscape in an Uncertain Future”, a presentation by Debra Peters, Ph.D., lead research scientist with the Jornada Experimental Range and adjunct faculty member at NMSU.
Peters explained that Doña Ana County in the distant past was 100 percent grasslands, but desertification has changed the area substantially, as it has in other areas, over the last couple hundred years. By 1915 the county was about 37 percent grassland and 63 percent shrubbery. By 1998, the area was only 8 percent grassland.