This story was originally published by Source New Mexico Celerah Hewes lives in southeast Albuquerque. On Aug. 6, she was driving home from the grocery store and happened to see the smoke plume from the Atkore United Poly Systems fire. “Otherwise I would never have known,” she said. “I would have stayed in my house, my swamp cooler on, and maybe had no idea that there was an air quality issue.” As of Tuesday, city and state authorities still have not said publicly how much smoke the fire generated. They also have not provided any detailed documentation of where the smoke went. Through a spokesperson, the city of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department said the smoke drifted south by southeast “away from populated areas.”
Walking along the river or basking in the New Mexico sun you can probably find Laura Paskus, a journalist who’s devoted decades of her life to reporting on the environment in New Mexico. Not only committed to exposing the scientific views of these topics, Paskus wants people to connect to their landscapes and communities. Paskus flourishes outside and loves “learning about the world around us.” Currently working as a correspondent and producer for New Mexico PBS, Paskus explores a variety of environmental-related work on the air. From studio interviews to field pieces, Paskus said the goal is to help people “understand things like climate change or community resilience.”
Areas with people of color, low-income residents and immigrants have historically been forced to endure environmental racism around the U.S., but New Mexico locals are fighting against it. Santa Fe’s south side and Albuquerque’s South Valley continue in their efforts against unjust environmental decisions that disproportionately affect marginalized groups. In Santa Fe’s south side, Associated Asphalt and Materials received a permit from the New Mexico Environment Department last summer to consolidate its two plants — located on both sides of Highway 599, north of Airport Road — to only the west side of the highway.
A teach-in and benefit concert to stand in solidarity with Ukraine will be held at the University of New Mexico’s Rodey Theater on Thursday, April 14 at 7 p.m. This event, which is a personal choice of entry for free or by donation, will feature musicians as well as activists, and all proceeds raised will go toward Ukrainian refugee relief efforts. Vitaliy Osmolovsky, an activist and grassroots organizer, will be joining from Poland via Zoom for the event. All funds raised will go to his organizing efforts, for which he has a supply list that addresses many different needs, some of which are for physical and mental health aid.
With nearly half the votes secured to his name, University of New Mexico student Shaikh Ahmad won the 2022-23 Graduate and Professional Student Association presidential election for which voting ended on April 1. The results are still awaiting certification from the Elections Committee. Ahmad, a dual-degree student pursuing a Master of Science in information systems and assurance and a Master of Public Administration, is in his third year with GPSA. He plans to prioritize inclusivity of minority groups, holistic sustainability and communication in his term. A whopping seven candidates were vying for the role, although Paul Tice was found to be ineligible when voting started.
Inusah Mohammed, a University of New Mexico graduate student in the communication and journalism department, pursues an activist lifestyle that emphasizes the need for youth literacy. “I am involved with students and I'm involved with young ones. I always want young ones to go up, to come up, to rise up to the full potentialities of themselves,” Mohammed said. Mohammed studied marketing in his undergraduate degree, to which he said communication was central. He said this was especially helpful in his hometown Nima in Ghana to highlight various issues or topics.
Despite a long list of positive effects, cannabis use still remains a taboo subject for some. While medical cannabis was legalized over a decade ago in New Mexico, recreational marijuana was only legalized last summer with retail sales having started on Friday, April 1. Jacob Vigil, associate professor in the University of New Mexico psychology department, and Sarah Stith, associate professor in economics, are married and have done both joint and separate research on cannabis specifically. Through this, they have found that it’s largely more beneficial than a lot of people think and believe it should be normalized in society.
Since cannabis was legalized recreationally last summer in New Mexico, University of New Mexico students have been able to legally partake in the drug, so long as they’re over 21. After recreational sales started on Friday, April 1, many students have said this chain of legalization will have many positive impacts on the local community and its members despite the misinformation that America’s war on drugs has produced. Cannabis can be used both medically and recreationally, according to graduate music student Sam Lutz, and the only drug he uses is cannabis. It helps him calm down, as it does for graduate music students Hunter Wheatcraft and Daniel Yim as well.
New Mexico is one of the most recent states to legalize cannabis recreationally, jumping on the bandwagon as the 17th state to legalize out of 18 so far. This recent move stems from decades-old political movements and increased acceptance of the drug on a local and national level. “I think over time, the science has evolved in a way and our attitudes have evolved in a way that (has) created political openings for legalizing marijuana at the state level … Legalization of marijuana has become a fairly popular thing,” said Timothy Krebs, University of New Mexico professor and department chair of political science.
Presidential elections for the University of New Mexico’s Graduate and Professional Student Association are being held from Monday, March 28 to Friday, April 1. On Tuesday, March 22, the seven presidential candidates — which are listed in ballot order in this article — met for an online forum highlighting their various platforms with goals ranging from better wages and benefits to equity to outreach and engagement. No. 1: Paul J. Tice Engineering student Paul Tice is running on the platform of Peace Engineering, which “works towards a world where prosperity, sustainability, social equity, entrepreneurship, transparency, community voice and engagement, and a culture of quality thrive,” according to UNM Newsroom.