The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

ECO-BEAT


Separating plastic, making a difference

—ROBIN BRANDIN, PLACITAS RECYCLING CENTER

The Placitas Recycling Center recently asked residents to begin separating their No. 1 and No. 2 plastics for recycling. Thanks to responsive users, the separation campaign has been very successful. The willingness of users to make adjustments in their recycling routine reflects the general good will in the Placitas community toward the center’s efforts to reduce waste sent to area landfills.

“We hate to keep changing the rules, but in this case it was unavoidable” commented John Richardson, President of the Placitas Recycling Association. “The vendor who takes our plastic simply won’t accept it mixed any longer.” After plastic is dropped off at the Recycling Center, volunteers bale it and transport it to a vendor in Albuquerque. An unexpected side benefit of separating the different types of plastic has been an increase in the price the vendor is willing to pay. Those revenues are used to improve the center and make it safer and more convenient for users and volunteers. “Time will tell whether the new price fluctuates or stays stable,” noted Richardson.

In addition to separating the types of plastic, recyclers are requested to remove bottle caps and rinse out containers. Removing the caps is important for two reasons: they are generally made of a different type of plastic, and crushing the bottles in the baler is easier without the resistance created by trapped air. Rinsing out the containers is important because liquids can create a slippery surface that poses a safety hazard when baling, plus beverage residues can attract vermin. There are other potential hazards—one volunteer’s clothing was damaged by bleach left in a recycled container.

The Placitas Recycling Center accepts only No. 1 (PETE) and No. 2 (HDPE) plastic. The number is generally embossed inside the recycle symbol on the bottom of the container. The center also accepts aluminum, cardboard, white office paper, newspapers, mixed paper/chipboard, and packing material. Unfortunately, the center is not able to handle old telephone books this year.

The center is sporting a new look with new trailers purchased through a county grant.

Located on Highway 165 just east of I-25, the all-volunteer Placitas Recycling Center is open every Saturday from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. Additional volunteers are always welcome and can sign up at the center or call Carmen Ketchum at 771-1311. More information about the center can be found at placitasrecycling.com.


The preservation of our native seeds

—JULIANNA KIRWIN

For children in southern Mexico, farming is still the life context for learning, but thanks to the support of Mateo Sanchez and The Native American Education Department at Bernalillo Public Schools, Roosevelt Elementary will start an outdoor classroom this year where children can learn about Native seeds. Children at Roosevelt will be planting, measuring, mapping, interviewing family members about farming, creating hand-made books, and learning about the seeds that are indigenous to our area, which was still a thriving farming community in the 1950’s. One of the focuses of the outdoor classroom will be the study of corn.

Last summer I was privileged to work with some of the rural, indigenous teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico, and I learned first hand about comunalidad, a term that describes the elaborate system of reciprocity that is the organizing principle behind all social interactions including land-use and farming. Since my return to New Mexico, I have been trying to incorporate the idea of comunalidad into many areas of my life, especially in my work as a teacher. I wanted to expand my art program to include agri-culture because few people realize the connection between art and life that is connected to the land.

Oaxaca is an appropriate place to begin the story of corn, because it was there that Native people began the domestication of a wild grass, teosinte. It took millions of farmers over thousands of years to selectively breed teosinte into what we now call corn or maiz, the most significant achievement in the history of agriculture.

Wholly dependent on human hands to produce it, maiz was the gift of America’s First Peoples, and it was the basic force that organized space: selecting where you would plant determined where communities could be established, because corn could support denser population patterns. Corn was also what organized time: by the seasons of planting, by the seasons of cultivating, and by the seasons of growth. The Director of Oaxaca’s Ethno-botanical Garden has described corn as “the living mediator between land and people.”

From Oaxaca (eight thousand years ago), corn traveled through Latin America to Central and South America before it traveled to New Mexico. There is evidence of corn in our state dating back 6,000 years. It took 5,000 more years for corn to reach what we now refer to as the east coast of the US.

For Native people everywhere, corn contains their migration stories. Each place developed its own variety of corn that is suitable for that specific climate and its conditions, and here along the Rio Grande Valley, we have the beautiful blue corn. This biodiversity has sustained populations over many centuries, but since the industrialization of the food chain and the beginnings of subsidized farming in the US, it is more cost effective for farmers to grow seeds purchased from big companies than to cultivate Native seeds.

Native people everywhere are increasingly concerned that their heirloom seeds could be lost along with their cultural inheritance, because today, rich countries and corporations such as Monsanto, are taking seeds and making them private property. “We are worried about the genetic changes that are affecting our heirloom seeds,” says Mateo Sanchez, the Director of Native American Education at the Bernalillo Public Schools. For this reason, many educational programs are incorporating ways to preserve Native seeds, such as the seed banks that are located at The Santa Fe Indian School.

Corn is also one of four crops in the US currently under genetic modification. Sixty percent of all corn crops are now genetically modified (GMO). In the US, we live in a society that views everything as an object that can be bought and sold. Michael Pollan, a writer for the New York Times, says that the industrial food system has caused corn to become “the perfect capitalist plant.” Subsidized farmers of the Midwest grow corn with vast amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, both of which are fossil fuel products. Pollan explains that some 45,000 items in our supermarkets now contain corn, and since we do not require labeling, we are not aware that we are eating GMO corn.

What is GMO corn? GMO corn is spliced with DNA from other substances and organisms. For example, birth control and other pharmaceuticals are being grown in GMO corn. The genetically modified seeds that are carried by the wind, cross-pollinate with the Native seeds, and destroy the biodiversity that has been created over thousands of years. The Native American Farmers Association and many others regard GMO crops as pollutants that have been released and are out of control in the environment.

With the current concerns about global warming, it is a critical time for the preservation of our Native seeds, and for a return to local knowledge. A movement to reconnect children to the natural world through classroom experiences has educators such as Ray Romero, Christina Kear, Matthew Bowers and Julianna Kirwin excited about making the Roosevelt Garden a success for their students, parents, and community.

If you would like to participate or donate items such as tools (especially hand trowels), compost storage bins, shade cloth, a tool shed, or even horse manure, contact Julianna at jkirwin@bps.k12.nm.us.

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