ABQ students walk out for climate change

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Emese Magy and Valeria Martinez from Amy Biehl High School enter Robinson Park for the Albuquerque Climate Strike on Friday, Sept. 20. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Local rapper and poet Wake Self gets the crowd going as he raps from what he reads in posters from the crowd about climate change at Robinson Park for the Albuquerque Climate Strike. (Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal)

Thousands of New Mexico students joined their counterparts from around the nation and the world in walking out of school Friday to demand action on a global climate crisis.

In Albuquerque, the students were joined by a large crowd of adults for a rally in Robinson Park. The event was organized by the student-led groups Fight for our Lives and the New Mexico Youth Climate Strike.

The protestors held signs that read “systemic change, not climate change” and “don’t be a fossil fool.”

Maggie Mazer, a senior at Albuquerque Academy, said she was at the rally because she cares about the environment.

“As citizens of the earth, we need to preserve it, and that’s the opposite of what we’re doing now in our state,” Mazer said.

Student organizers from Fight for our Lives and the New Mexico Youth Climate Strike led the crowd in chanting, “sol, not coal” and “climate change is not a lie, do not let our planet die.”

Earlier this year, New Mexico passed one of the country’s most ambitious goals for carbon reduction and renewable energy. The Energy Transition Act requires state utilities to use 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% renewable by 2045.

The law includes funds to help communities impacted by coal plant closures, like Farmington’s San Juan Generating Station, which will close in 2022.

The state is also working to reduce emissions of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. On Thursday, Descartes Labs in Santa Fe announced it would use its technology to monitor methane emissions in the Permian Basin.

But the students at the protest wanted more.

They are demanding that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state legislature set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030. The group also wants the state to establish a “just transition fund” using oil and gas revenue to explore how to diversify New Mexico’s economy.

“Climate change affects young people,” said Sophie Carlberg, a Sandia High School student who walked out of class Friday. “It’s good to see this event organized by students. When no one talks about something, we think we’re all alone. But now we can know that there are a ton of people who agree something should be done.”

Students also demanded a four-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Limits on fracking haven’t gained much ground in New Mexico, where the technique has skyrocketed the oil industry’s productivity. State land commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard ordered a moratorium on new fracking on state trust lands in a 10-mile buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwest New Mexico. Legislation to permanently end fracking on federal land in the buffer has been introduced in Congress.

The student activists also want the legislature to pass a Community Solar law in 2020 that would make solar energy more affordable.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller spoke at the rally, where he applauded city council for passing a resolution declaring a climate emergency. The city has a goal of operating on 100% renewable energy by 2025.

“For far too long, we know what’s happened — we’ve asked D.C. to do something and the response is all talk,” Keller said. “We’re tired of excuse. We live in a special city, and we can lead the way on climate change demonstrate to the rest of the country and the rest of the world what it means to take action.”

Elizabeth Livingston brought her children — Nate, age 6, and Audrey, age 9 — to the protest.

“I want my children to understand the importance of using their voices to stand up for something important,” she said. “I can’t think of anything more important than a safe planet for their future.”

After the rally, the crowd marched to the congressional offices of Sens. Heinrich and Udall to demand the legislators support the Green New Deal, a legislation package that aims to combat climate change. Heinrich endorsed the legislation early Friday.

New Mexico youth were joined by young protesters around the world, demanding a political response to rising global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions.

This content was originally published here.

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