SANTA FE, N.M. — About 300 students mostly from the Santa Fe area joined hundreds of thousands from around the world in a demonstration against climate change with a rally on the city’s historic Plaza and march to the state capitol, where they hoped to catch the ear of lawmakers on the second-to-last day of this year’s legislative session.
The student-led event was hailed as the Youth Climate Strike in most places in America, but demonstrations were held under other names in different places around the globe. All of them were inspired by Fridays for Future climate movement, which in turn was galvanized behind Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl who last year started skipping schools on Fridays to protest outside Swedish parliament building, demanding her country’s government abide by the Paris Agreement and reduce carbon emissions.
Hannah Laga Abram organized the event in Santa Fe on Friday. She helped form a group called Student Advocacy Union, which advocates for causes important to youth, like raising awareness for climate change and what can be done about it. She and others decided to organize after being inspired by the large number of young people who attended a March for Our Lives event a year ago, a protest and rally that was part of a nationwide movement calling for stronger school safety measures and gun violence prevention laws.
“Students just came together serendipitously and said, ‘Look what we can do?’ And there are so many state issues that need attention,” Laga Abram said.
She said students from Mandela International Magnet School, the New Mexico School for the Arts, Desert Academy and other Santa Fe schools, as well as students from Albuquerque, Los Alamos and Las Vegas were also among those attending the event.
Santa Fe Public Schools students were scarce, having been notified that not showing up for school to attend the event would result in an unexcused absence.
Friday’s demonstration started on Santa Fe’s Plaza where several students spoke about protecting the environment and Mayor Alan Webber and City Councilor Renee Villarreal talked about the promise of a local Green New Deal that would both stimulate the economy and fight climate change.
Earlier this year, Democrats Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts presented a pair of New Green Deal resolutions in Congress.
Some students chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Green New Deal is the way to go,” en route to the Roundhouse and the Green New Deal was mentioned by speakers during a noon event inside the capitol rotunda.
Among the speakers were Kimberly Smith of New Energy Economy and a member of the Diné, or Navajo, Nation, who spoke of the effects mining and gas and oil production in New Mexico has had on her people and the Native perspective of people being one with nature.
Marian Naranjo, of Santa Clara Pueblo and founder of Honor Our Pueblo Existence, began and ended the capital rally with prayers to protect Mother Earth spoken in her Tewa language.
Several fourth and fifth graders from Acequia Madre who are a part of the Global Warming Express also spoke at the rally inside the capital.
One, who introduced herself as Lori, said humans are ruining the environment.
“This is not OK,” she said. “It’s not like we can trash this planet and move to Mars.”
Emily Christopher, a 10-year-old home-schooled student from Albuquerque who is also a member of the Global Warming Express, penned a letter that the Express then delivered to the offices of all 112 state legislators.
“It explained why we came and what we want them to do keep from destroying the planet,” she said.
While young people made up the majority of the crowd, adults came out to support the kids, as well.
“It’s important to support the young people, it’s their world,” said John Thayer, of Mora, who carried a sign made to look like the USS Constitution sailing ship, replete with sails made from copies of the U.S. Constitution, miniature American flags flown upside down as a sign of distress, and a flag flown from the central mast that read, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” “Us older people in the sunset movement have to support the sunrise movement.”