On Oct. 30, in solidarity with youth climate activists, I was one of 21 protesters who occupied and refused to leave the governor’s office despite threats of arrest from Roundhouse security and state police.
We were told that the jail was stinky and served awful food. We still refused to leave. Then we were told we were under arrest and were escorted downstairs, where we received citations for criminal trespassing and were released. We remained to insist that the governor meet with Youth United for Climate Crisis Action members and respond to their demands:
• Declare a climate emergency. Refusing to do this is inexplicable, given the fires raging in California and mounting evidence of an emergency worldwide.
• Agree to put community solar on the call for the 2020 legislative session, a modest but important step.
• Agree to include funding in the budget to conduct a study of how New Mexico can make a just, sustainable transition. It is inconceivable the governor could not realize the need to plan for this transition.
• Cease fracking operations in New Mexico. Admittedly, that’s a heavy lift for a state that receives 40 percent of its revenue from gas and oil, but the alternative is disaster, hence the urgent need for a plan.
I can’t know the personal reasons why my fellow protesters refused to leave. But I know mine. I was arrested because I am scared to death at what is coming, perhaps not in my lifetime, but certainly in the lives of my children and my new grandson. I was arrested because I am from Southern California and know that some of my high school friends are staying in hotels or shelters while their homes are threatened or burned to the ground. Our new normal. I was arrested because this is only going to get worse and if I don’t take a stand, I can’t ask others to make a greater sacrifice. Now I can. And will.
I was arrested because we live in a state that is one of the world’s greatest contributors to the looming climate catastrophe, with 38 percent of all U.S. emissions caused by fracking in the Permian Basin. We are drilling ourselves toward disaster.
I was arrested because New Mexico’s reliance on gas and oil revenue is no excuse for a failure to act. If any one of us was told that we must cut our expenses by 40 percent to save our children, we would immediately begin figuring out how to cut our expenses 40 percent. That is what our governor and other Democratic leaders should be doing right now, not counting our billion-dollar surpluses, paid for with our children’s future.
I was arrested because I hope that somehow this arrest spurs more nonviolent actions pressing the governor and other leaders to act as if there is a crisis. And I fear the time is coming when someone somewhere will decide nonviolence is not enough.
I was arrested for everyone who reads this, hoping you, too, will decide to move beyond your comfort zone and do the uncomfortable to urge our leaders to act on this crisis.
For more on how to do the uncomfortable, go to RetakeOurDemocracy.org and subscribe to our blog. It will keep you informed on actions and issues of importance to all New Mexicans.
In closing, we look to the governor. She is our leader and we are in crisis. If she launches a bold plan for a just transition, we will have her back and she will have a legacy that her and our grandchildren will never forget.
Paul Gibson is the co-director of Retake Our Democracy. He lives in Santa Fe.