Alibi V.28 No.16 • April 18-24, 2019 

On Assignment

Haaland on Climate Disruption

Rep’s appearance at film festival emphasizes emergency

Deb Haaland meets with children
US Representative Deb Haaland meets with children at the Climate Disruption Film Festival
Eric Williams Photography

It’s certainly not a matter of repeatedly using a cudgel to convince one’s opponents—or contrarians for that matter—of the climate emergency humanity is facing right now. When global climate change threatens our entire species, there has to be some effect on the denizens of The Duke City. Of course, you count on Weekly Alibi to get involved.

That’s why I went out on assignment on Saturday, April 13 to investigate and report on the Climate Disruption Film Festival being held at South Broadway Cultural Center. Last week, our main man, managing editor Devin O’Leary wrote a preview of the festival’s program.

Later that week, festival organizers rang me up with a reminder. They reiterated that several key New Mexico politicos and leaders were going to speak at the event. Among them, newly minted District One Representative Deb Haaland and State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard were going to speechify. New Democratic state representatives Abbas Akhil and Melanie Stansbury were scheduled to lead a panel discussion on state legislative efforts meant to stem the tide of global warming, too.

Clearly the best and brightest minds are on the case. Thinking it would be great to get an overview from our leadership about the nature and intensity of the coming storm, I decided to go hunt for a story out there. I arrived at 11am, just ahead of Haaland’s presentation.

When I walked through the doors, I decided to focus on the new Representative’s turn at the mic—since the election, a lot of the hopes, dreams and expectations of the state’s progressives have flown to Washington on Deb’s wings—and came and went curiously through the rest of the festival.

In case you want to know, the films screened there definitively demonstrated that global warming is affecting New Mexico in bad ways that are bound to get worse. In particular, CAVU’s Is New Mexico Ready to Be the Next Saudi Arabia explores the oil boom in Southeast New Mexico in great depth. The documentary investigates the environmental and geopolitical implications of drilling in the Permian Basin with deliberately stark cinematography that emphasizes how the built/capitalized environment is changing rural New Mexico.

There were about 150 people in attendance, moving through the south wing of the cultural center with a sense of urgency and focus. The thing was that, most of the folks I saw at this super-important gathering of minds were between the ages of 50 and 80. Certainly there was a visible group of Gen Xers like myself about but there were only a handful of millennials amongst the whole group. As for the city’s youth, they were largely absent, though a group of children would soon appear onstage with Haaland to help guide the film festival audience through environmental policies emanating from the District One Congressional offices.

The lack of young people was startling and should give us a reason to pause. Global warming is being presented to audiences citywide, statewide and worldwide as a catastrophic event, as an emergency and nothing less. Yet its main bell-ringers and harbingers seem to be baby boomers who’ve already lived most of their lives on an Earth that their culture did much to damage and that we all inherit as a result.

It’s essential to involve youth and millennials in conversations about global climate change, just as it is essential to convince many in America that the words and research of scientists, policy makers and technocrats is correct: We are on a precipice of our own devising but we can still walk it back. We suggest expanding education and enlistment efforts toward humans aged 16 to 36. It’s basically their world now anyway, and they should be major contributors to a solution.

If anything, Haaland’s presentation hopefully countered the demonstrated demographic of festival attendees. As I entered the theater for her speech, I noted that the program had already begun and that Weekly Alibi Staff Photographer Eric Williams was already in place and snapping away.

Onstage, Haaland sat surrounded by a group of elementary school-aged children. They appeared to be between 8 and 12 years old and each had questions to ask and stories to tell about how the world is dramatically and dangerously changing.

One child spoke about global warming, plastic pollution and debate over a proposed city ordinance that would ban some single use plastic products; she urged Haaland and those gathered to support the bill. Another child named Adina said she was part of a group called the global warming emergency. She told the adults in the room that the polar ice caps are melting, saying, “Everything gets off balance, and you can’t go back.”

When Haaland’s turn to speak came, she told those gathered that “I love the global ‘we’. I want to make sure that everybody realizes that we all have to be part of the solution. It’s about all of us working together to fight climate change.”

The US Representative then told those gathered in the auditorium that small changes in personal usage can make a big impact if enough individuals change. In particular, Haaland singled out the elimination of single-use plastic water containers as a way to make a personal impact.

By neatly stitching together her individual environmental ethos with a progressive city platform that will begin the process of banning much consumer single-use plastic items, Haaland signaled she is on board with concrete, quantitative efforts to stem the tides of consumerism and pollution that are driving global climate change.

By the end of the talk, our new voice in Congress was nearing tears as she explained the intensity of the problem at hand. It was a remarkable and humbling moment for those gathered at South Broadway Cultural Center.

Yet, ultimately, Haaland’s message, emotional content and all, has yet to be effectively transmitted and absorbed by those noticeably absent from the proceedings. That terrifying conceit—that there are still nonbelievers and the nonchalant—makes the global climate change emergency even more daunting for those watching storm clouds gather on the horizon.