Three weeks before graduating seniors throw their caps in the air, one senior threw a rally for her sustainability capstone project.
Mary Lopez, a senior majoring in political science and minoring in sustainability, hosted an environmental rally featuring speakers from sustainability and environmental groups to table between Popejoy Hall and the Student Union Building.
Lopez said she has been studying climate change since her freshman year and hoped action would be taken against it.
“But really the government hasn’t really implemented any comprehensive policy solutions to climate change — if anything, we’ve gone backwards,” she said.
Lopez said she wanted to make her capstone project the defining moment of her final year in school. She said she combined climate change and government policy, because it is issue she has been focusing on throughout her college career.
“Of course government policy and action isn't going to be passed as a result of the rally, but I’m really hoping it’ll be a way for students to voice their concerns and their opinions and just start a conversation,” Lopez said.
After graduation, she said she wants to stay in New Mexico and work with a nonprofit.
Some of the groups who spoke and tabled included New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Think Like a Bee, UNM Recycling services, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, New Mexico Solar Energy Association and Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter.
Michael Jensen, the communications and public education officer with NMELC, said it’s important for the organization to get out in the public everywhere they can. Since the group is based in Santa Fe, he said people from Albuquerque are unfamiliar with their organization.
“Climate change is incredibly important as an issue, and all of us have different ways to participate, different ways to help the larger effort,” he said.
Jensen said the rally is a fitting place to table, because fighting climate change can be accomplished through a variety of forms such as art, writing or engineering, and students at the University of New Mexico are engaged across departments.
An information sheet about possible proposals for the upcoming legislative session in January is what Jensen said he hopes students pick up and read. He said hopefully the next session will have more progressive leaders.
Duncan Ahlen, a freshman studying multimedia journalism, stopped by the rally after seeing flyers and ads for it. He said sustainability is important for young New Mexicans to pay attention to.
He also said he was interested in hearing about an issue coming before the New Mexico Legislature in the next session.
“I’m wondering if they’re going to talk about the new fracking deals that’s going to come up at the Roundhouse in the next couple of months, I’d really like to see their viewpoints on that,” Ahlen said.
Fracking has been a controversial issue in the Land of Enchantment. Fracking is a method of oil and gas extraction, a lucrative business in New Mexico. It involves drilling outward from a wellhead injecting liquid at high pressures to forces fissures into rocks and boreholes.
Literature from the industry describes the process as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional vertical drilling because the same amount of oil is being extracted from fewer wells. Critics say the method is known to create earthquakes and the EPA reported in 2014 fracking affects drinking water.
Lopez wanted her project to show students that they could create change by having conversations about the environment and sustainability, she said.
“I want (people) to know you can make a difference,” Lopez said. “Every individual action matters and it adds up to a bigger piece. This is focused on institutional change, but we cannot have institutional change without individual action.”
Danielle Prokop is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.