In the conversation about climate change and global warming, there is one thing that is always missing: environmental ethics. Environmental ethics is rooted in indigenous knowledge and traditions, which have been developed by observing, listening, experimenting and adapting to the natural world. Nothing is more fitting, especially in New Mexico, which is home to 23 tribal nations.
Environmental ethics means having respect for the environment in which you live, showing thanks and appreciation and living sustainably, not for growth or wealth or greed.
An important part of living ethically and sustainably in New Mexico can be achieved through clean energy. Clean energy includes renewable energy sources that have little to no impact on the environment. Renewable resources do not emit greenhouse gases. Today, more than 10% of our nation is powered from renewable energy sources such as wind, sun and earth, but we have a very long way to go.
New Mexico’s beautiful landscape and blue skies are our ticket to a sustainable future, and it is within reach. So how do we move forward? How do New Mexicans reduce our carbon footprint and join the environmental justice movement by utilizing renewable energy? We start by committing to, and living in, a more responsible way.
With over 300 days of sunshine, solar energy is the way to go. Specifically, New Mexicans can begin to utilize photovoltaic (PV) cells to directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity. PV cells are found on everyday items like calculators, watches and parking lot lights. We know this technology works, so why don’t we use it to power bigger buildings and every home?
One reason is cost. In the United States, the average cost of a 10 kilowatt solar panel system – the amount of electricity for one household for one year – is $28,100. That’s expensive, but there is some good news. Once the solar panels are installed and working, the amount of electricity being generated keeps on working and might produce more power than what is needed. When this happens, the electric meter will run backward, and the utility companies pay the owner for the extra electricity. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates the cost of solar PV utility systems will drop by about 20% by 2025, with an end estimate that solar energy will be the cheapest source of power by 2050.
Central New Mexico Community College has offered a certificate of completion in photovoltaic systems, which trains New Mexicans on how to construct and maintain these innovative solar energy systems. Tax credits in New Mexico offer up to $6,000 or 10% off the total expense to install solar panels on residential or commercial buildings. The city of Albuquerque has increased its efforts by pledging to have all its government move to 100% renewable energy before 2025.
Adopting solar power for energy can preserve our Land of Enchantment with all its natural beauty. Reducing our carbon footprint will preserve our planet’s natural resources for future generations. But it will take everyone to be on board. As the New Mexican community, it is our responsibility to care for the land that we all love.