In early morning mist and freezing temperatures Tuesday, Debaura James walked along El Camino Real near Albuquerque with a few dozen other people, continuing a cross-country journey focused on climate change.
The group expects to reach Santa Fe on Friday and spend Saturday at a green festival in the Railyard.
James, a retired Silver City high school teacher and experienced backcountry backpacker, was preparing to trek the Continental Divide Trail across New Mexico when she heard about the 3,000-mile Great March for Climate Action. “I dropped everything and thought this was where I need to be,” James, 62, said in an interview via cellphone as she walked.
The march was launched by former Iowa state Rep. Ed Fallon. More than 1,500 people began the walk March 1 in the heart of a Los Angeles industrial zone. James said it took them three weeks just to get out of Los Angeles. “Coming from Silver City, you can imagine,” she said. “The reality of what 7 million people looks like with urban sprawl and how much people have invaded landscapes was shocking to me.”
The number of marchers changes each day, but a core group of about three dozen are always on the road. They plan to reach Washington, D.C., in the fall. Fallon hopes more people will join the march along the way so that by the time they reach the nation’s capital, they will be several thousand strong.
The group is supported by a couple of vans. One has all the marchers’ gear and tents. The other transports food, water and eco-commodes. The vans are outfitted with solar panels that charge cellphones and power a refrigerator. Unfortunately, Fallon said, the vans do run on gas.
He raised about $100,000 in donations to seed the march. Marchers pay $20 a day to cover the cost of food and water.
Fallon said the goal of the marchers is to raise awareness of the climate change crisis and get people talking about possible solutions. They also listen as people in towns along the way share stories of the changes they are seeing in weather, drought, water supplies and more.
For the most part, Fallon and James said, people have been kind and hospitable to the marchers. “New Mexico has been very receptive to our message,” Fallon said. “We haven’t been flipped off once in New Mexico like we were in Arizona and California.”
The march started in the midst of a deluge in Los Angeles that broke the region’s months-long drought. The marchers had to walk 20 miles that day. “We were wading through water up to our calves. People were on verge of hypothermia,” Fallon recalled. “People were worn out, but not discouraged.”
Extreme weather events with more intense storms and droughts are among the signs of climate change, along with rising sea levels, according to scientists.
The marchers average about 15 miles a day, depending on weather and terrain. James, who taught history, geography and economics, helped found the Aldo Leopold Charter School in Silver City nine years ago. She wrote the school’s sustainability curriculum, which is woven through every subject, not just science.
She’s found the march a good opportunity to share what she’s learned about climate change and find out what others are experiencing.
Marchers will be at the Santa Fe Railyard Park by 11 a.m. Saturday. They’ll participate in a green festival at the Santa Fe Farmers Market and El Museo Cultural from 1:30 to 4 p.m. The festival, sponsored by the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce, will feature solar cooking, electric vehicles, fair trade products, poetry recitals and more. From 6 to 7 p.m., the Climate Justice Gypsy Band, made up of marchers, will provide live music at Magers Field in the Fort Marcy Recreation Complex.
After Santa Fe, the route will take the marchers up through Taos.
Contact Staci Matlock at firstname.lastname@example.org or 986-3055. Follow her on Twitter @stacimatlock
On the Web
• Follow the Great March for Climate Action at www.facebook.com/ClimateMarch or follow it on Twitter @climatemarch
• Sign up for the march at climatemarch.org