ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Laura Paskus is an Albuquerque-based journalist who’s been covering environmental issues for 18 years.
Armed with climate policy reports she’s studied, interviews she’s conducted, and her own investigative reporting, Paskus incorporated that accumulated information into her ominously titled book “At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate.”
The Land of Enchantment – its environmental scientists, politicians, activists and others – is at the heart of the book. By necessity, the volume also corrals many related regional and global voices. The book takes the reader through mid-2019.
Over the 12 months since, Paskus said in a phone interview, “we’ve seen the impacts of climate change intensified worldwide. And those impacts heighten the need to be addressing the reduction of greenhouse gases and the need to be thinking far more seriously about adaptation – adaptation to everything, from rising sea levels to extreme heat, to the forest fires we’re seeing across the West right now, to the declining water supplies we’re seeing in the Southwest.”
Paskus believes the world’s scientists accurately anticipated that many severe climate events – notably the extent of sea ice loss in the Arctic and the warming in the Antarctic – would happen with great intensity, but maybe not with such speed.
“Here in New Mexico, we’ve known for a long time that warmer conditions in the Southwest mean drier conditions,” she said. “So even this year, when we had close to normal snowpack, we still see lower runoffs and constrained water supplies in our rivers. It’s all connected.”
She said it saddens her that climate change has become a political football. “I think that the United States, regardless of the political leadership, has consistently thwarted international action on climate change,” Paskus said.
Yes, she contends, there’s a need for local and state action – such as encouraging renewable energy or cutting methane emissions. “There truly does need to be leadership at the federal level to drive innovation,”she insisted, “because if it’s just state-by-state, it’s still just piecemeal policy.”
Paskus was heartened by the action of a group of New Mexico middle school and high school students in May 2019 at UNM’s Johnson Field. She writes in the book’s afterword that the group was part of a coordinated protest with students from around the world, inspired in part by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg. The international effort was aimed at encouraging people of all ages to rethink climate change as a human rights issue, not just a political one.
Paskus quoted Alyssa Ruiz of Sandia High School rhetorically asking the Johnson Field crowd, “When will our future be considered a national emergency?”
Last September another group of young people, Paskus writes, successfully lobbied the Albuquerque City Council to declare a climate emergency. Asked if she thought that these youthful activists would soon be a political force, the author said she thinks so, even though some can’t vote yet. They continue to reach out to elected officials and to work on climate issues the best they can, Paskus said.
With her book’s contemporary view of how New Mexico’s climate is changing, she said she’s tried to make general readers feel connected to the critical, overriding issue of climate change and be able to engage with the science and policy.
She also tries to connect the public to climate change through her work at KNME-TV (New Mexico PBS). Paskus covers environmental issues as a correspondent for the weekly TV program “New Mexico in Focus” and is the producer and host of the monthly show “Our Land: New Mexico’s Environmental Past, Present and Future.”
Book of the week review