Reflections on Environmental Justice from Northern New Mexico

Authors: Beata Tsosie-Peña, GFA Fellow, Class 5 Since attending the Green for All Fellowship Academy Training, I have come back to my work with the local non-profit organization Tewa Women United (TWU) with enhanced leadership skills, and increased support on the environmental issues we face, as individuals, families, and as an organization. As part of my Green For All campaign, I am working within our organization to make our daily program activities a model for environmental consciousness to the families and community we directly serve. We are also starting a “Living Seed Library” that offers local, non-GMO seed to our gardening communities, and documents oral histories and plant knowledge. We are also planning and proposing community garden projects and food justice resolutions to the City of Española, New Mexico as well as a large scale mural that tells our story on how we are impacted by the nuclear weapons industry in Northern part of the state. The proactive work our local environmental justice group focuses on around food justice and self-empowerment is a good balance when engaging in the constant struggle of opposing the contamination being enacted upon our people and agricultural resources by nuclear weapons production. This past year was a difficult one – we are still recovering emotionally, physically, and spiritually from the devastating Las Conchas Fire, which destroyed the watershed of my homeland of Santa Clara Pueblo and 80% of its’ forested lands. This is the third fire, which threatened Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), and many of us watched helplessly from a smoky haze as our forests burned and the labs, which threaten our health and existence, were saved. It is difficult to accept that our people are economically dependent on this threatening industry, and we will continue to advocate to change its mission from a nuclear weapons focus to one that supports true “green” energy and sustainable research, land conservation, legacy waste cleanup and restoration. It is ironic that as our state breathed in heavy smoke for over a month, our current governor disbanded the environmental board, which approved a statewide ban on open burning and detonation of hazardous and chemically toxic substances, as well as implementing a cap on coal emissions. She has now opened the door for these harmful activities to potentially start again. Now, a proposed six billion dollar weapons facility known as the CMRR-NF (Chemical Metallurgy Research and Replacement Nuclear Facility) is in the beginning stages of construction at Los Alamos. There is an outcry of opposition from local organizations and the impacted community. No other facility of its kind is in such close proximity to populations who still live off the land, and it will be located on an active, seismic fault zone. The risks and costs with the project are too high –we will continue with our opposition against CMRR-NF and other Los Alamos activities that threaten our environmental and reproductive health. Through utilizing our cultural strengths and traditional knowledge, we are collectively working to heal our families and communities from an imposed culture of violence, and now, from the impacts of fire. If even one person hears our story, if nature’s story is told, then her suffering has found voice in those community members who have not forgotten how to listen and learn from our connection to place. Since time immemorial, we have been caretakers of this land, and we will continue to work in 2012 for our shared expertise to have equal voice in order to enact positive social change.

Beata Tsosie-Peña — Fellows Class 5

Beata Tsosie-Peña is from Santa Clara Pueblo, and was raised in El Rito, NM. After studying permaculture design, and out of personal concern for future generations, she became interested in developing solutions to economic and environmental problems. She became active with Tewa Women United's Environmental Justice program three years ago. She felt a calling after experiencing the trauma from the testing and waste disposal detonations from LANL on a regular basis in her ancestral homelands.

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