Students, staff and members of the University of New Mexico community called for the University to declare a state of climate emergency on Friday afternoon. University President Garnett Stokes was not in attendance to hear that message.
The climate strike included a march from Johnson Field to the outside of Stokes' office in Scholes Hall. UNM LEAF — a climate group — and Fight For Our Lives led the march in order to present Stokes with a letter demanding a regenerative campus, investing in education on climate change action and the elimination of UNM’s investment in the fossil fuel industry.
Despite ralliers' efforts, Stokes did not come out of Scholes Hall to receive the letter.
"It would be cool to see our executive division come out," said Laszlo Gonzales-Aller, a sophomore at UNM. He said it was especially frustrating growing up and not being able to voice what he stands for through the voting process.
UNM LEAF and Fight For Our Lives advocated that the University needs to divest from fossil fuel companies. The organizations said by doing so, it would cut off the financial resources the fossil fuel industry uses to build fracking sites around New Mexico — cutting the funding that lobbies against the policies which protect the people and the planet.
In 2015, the UNM Foundation, which oversees the University’s investments, asked its consultant to research how much of UNM’s $408 million endowments is invested in fossil fuel companies, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Although what constitutes a fossil fuel company is difficult to define, a retired electrical engineer from Intel told the Journal that typically 5% to 10% of an endowment lies in fossil fuel companies. At UNM, that would amount to between $20 million and $40 million.
"You can't invest in a newer generation if you're also investing in other things that are going to destroy the newer generation," Gonzales-Aller said.
Marchers also demanded a stop to the use of natural gas generators to power the campus and, instead, giving students the resources to learn how to be environmentally conscious and begin using regenerative sources.
Emese Nagy, a junior from Amy Biehl Charter High School, spoke to the crowd on behalf of the students at her school who wanted to see a change in UNM’s policies regarding climate action. Nagy said fracking is poisoning the air and water, destroying ecosystems in New Mexico.
"By the time I get my college diploma, I’ll be handed a death certificate as well," she said.
Nagy said she got involved in environmental activism by joining the environmental club at her school and began attending meetings, going to the strikes and planning actions. She said the short term goal would be getting UNM and New Mexico to be a leader in stopping the climate crisis.
"Since UNM is the biggest university in the state, it would set a really good example, not only for the state but other schools in the Southwest," Nagy said.
Others at the rally were concerned with a lack of education to the younger generations of students surrounding climate change.
"What we’re taught is the truth, but it’s not as clear as it is," said Mariluz Lebkuechner, a 16-year-old student from the Public Academy for Performing Arts and organizer for Fight For Our Lives. "They don’t tell us you have 12 years to change this, so I made it clear that that is the situation we’re in."
Organizers said they hope to meet with President Stokes by the end of January 2020 to continue discussing the need for a regenerative campus and shift the cultural conversations regarding the climate crisis.
Amanda Britt is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AmandaBritt__
Liz Pritchard is a freelance news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo