Over fifty youth from around the state took the day off of school today to protest the annual New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) gathering. Organized by YUCCA, young Indigenous, POC, and allied youth and adults marched and rallied during the opening session of the annual NMOGA Meeting to demand an end to oil and gas extraction and exploitation that puts fossil fuel profits over the health, safety, and futures of New Mexicans. Speakers from YUCCA, Pueblo Action Alliance, and K’owa Collective were joined by Indigenous Water Protectors who traveled from Diné Nation for the action.
The protesters blocked traffic and blocked the entrance of the hotel - calling for corporate accountability for the ways in which oil and gas has burned New Mexico - literally and figuratively.
New Mexico is the fastest warming state in the country. “We refuse to be complicit while their fossil fuel extraction leads us down a path of total climate collapse. We are already seeing absolutely devastating impacts of climate disruption – with the largest fire in our state’s history and the largest fire in the United States this summer. More than 903 structures burned – people lost their homes, their livelihoods. Our mountains will never be the same! If we don’t stop extracting oil and gas and reverse emissions trends in the next 8 years, scientists warn we will reach a point of no return. I’m scared for my future. We have got to stop this destructive industry!” said Seneca Johnson, a spokesperson for YUCCA.
The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire burned 341,471 acres – spanning 45 miles north to south and 20 miles west to east. It was the largest fire in NM’s history. The fire destroyed at least 903 structures and damaged 85 more, including hundreds of homes, and threatened more than 12,000 other structures in many communities in the region. Las Vegas, NM is in a state of emergency due to the water shortage caused by the overwhelming burden on the region’s water treatment infrastructure. Hundreds of New Mexicans across the state have faced not only the devastating effects of the fires - but of the flooding that followed.
Protesters pointed out the billions of dollars of public funds needed to recover from these climate catastrophes as well as the catastrophic personal losses that no amount of money can fix.
“Our communities fear that it will not be possible for us young people to live in our homelands. We are afraid that we’ll lose our way of life and our culture - the loss is unbearable.” - Sofia Jenkins-Nieto, YUCCA spokesperson While New Mexico continues to deepen its dependence on oil and gas (with revenues from oil and gas accounting for more than a third of the state budget, we see the systematic underfunding of agencies that regulate fossil fuel production and the externalization of costs that oil and gas extraction create – 100s of millions every year in public health costs, billions for cleaning up abandoned wells, spills, and contaminated sites, and now billions in climate change induced disasters like the wildfires and flooding New Mexico saw this year. Protesters demanded - “why is our state continuing to force the reliance on this industry, which is harming people both locally and globally? Why is our state continuing to tie ourselves to failing financial systems - boom and bust cycle, them funding our school systems that are among lowest ranking in the country. We don't have to rely on O&G. Indigenous people have hundreds and hundreds of years of land based knowledge! “
YUCCA has been calling for a Just Transition Plan and fund since the group led the global climate strike in Santa Fe in 2019. The youth have demanded that the state 1) Declare a climate emergency; 2) In meaningful consultation with frontline Indigenous, youth, and grassroots movement leadership - create a plan that pairs emission reduction targets with revenue replacement plan for our state; 2) Immediately divert oil and gas profits into a just transition fund for communities across the state - so that communities can invest in community-owned, community-weath creating renewable energy, ecological restoration, and environmental and social enterprises that will sustain our communities for the long-term and help us replace revenue from the oil and gas industry, 4) hold industry accountable for cleanup.