Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

 
Eco-Beat

To this day, the image is visible to those who know where to look.

Legend of the Mesa

—Margaret M. Nava

Scholars define legends as unverified stories handed down from earlier generations reflecting on historical traditions and acting as reaffirmations of commonly held beliefs of the group to which the traditions belong. While growing up, you may have heard stories about Casey Jones, Paul Bunyan, Daniel Boone, John Henry and Davy Crockett — all legends within their own times. However, unless you grew up in the Jemez Mountains, you probably never heard the Legend of the Mesa.

Throughout the early years of colonization the Puebloan people struggled to comply with the demands and regulations imposed upon them by Spanish Conquistadores and missionaries. As part of this colonization, they were forced to pay tribute in the form of food and services, they were forbidden to practice their own religion, their kivas, kachinas and ceremonial objects were destroyed, and many of their number were abused, tortured or sold into slavery. The call to fight back rang loud in their ears.

On August 10, 1680, native Puebloans joined forces and executed a well-organized revolt aimed at driving the Spaniards out of their land. Settlers farms were ransacked, crops were destroyed, churches were burned and hundreds, from both sides, were killed. The colonists who survived fled to the south — twelve years later they returned.

In 1692, Don Diego de Vargas, new governor for the territory, gathered his army outside the walls of Santa Fe and told the Pueblo people then living in Spanish-built houses that if they accepted each other’s differences, shared the land, and complied with certain conditions, colonists and Indians could live together in peace. While the people of Zia and Santa Ana readily agreed to the conditions set forth by the Spaniards, the people of Jemez did not. Angered by their neighbors’ allegiance to the Spaniards, Jemez warriors staged several raids against the two villages, stealing grain and killing residents. Zia and Santa Ana leaders reported the incidents to Governor de Vargas who ordered a punitive expedition to Jemez.

Aware the Spaniards would seek retribution for crimes committed against their supporters, the Jemez leaders held secret meetings to decide what to do when the attack came. In a chamber lit only by a small fire, they discussed the probability of war.

“We must fight,” shouted a young warrior.

“With what?” demanded the War Chief. “Rocks and arrows are weak compared to the fire sticks of the helmeted ones.”

“Then we will barricade ourselves in the kivas until they are gone,” replied another.

“What of the women and children?” asked the young warrior.

“We must take them to the top of the mesa,” proclaimed the War Chief. “The one the Spaniards named after one of their Gods. Even though this being is not of our world, maybe it will protect us.”

On July 24, 1694, a company of Spanish soldiers accompanied by San Felipe, Santa Ana and Zia allies camped near one of the Jemez villages in a remote region of the Jemez Mountains. Forewarned that the people intended to escape to the top of a rocky mesa, they planned to send one group of soldiers up the mesa from the south, another from the north. In that manner, they would surprise and overcome the Jemez militants.

What happened next was the kind of thing legends are made of.

The July sun was hot as the villagers began their climb up the steep trail to top of the red-rocked mesa. Although the previous winter had been harsh and food supplies had dwindled, this year’s growing season had been good and the cornfields were flourishing. Down below, the silvery river ran cold and clear between banks heavy with willow bushes. Three deer alerted as hundreds of villagers climbed the trail. There would be no bean winnowing or basket making this day. There would be no racing or stone throwing. Even so, this would be a day all would remember.

As the Jemez warriors reached the top of the mesa, the Spanish soldiers launched their attack. Along the way, the soldiers captured and bound three hundred and sixty-one Jemez women and children. Farther up they shot, stabbed or burned eighty-four men. Their objective was to capture the men at the top … the warriors. However, before they could reach them, the young men began jumping over the edge of the mesa.

It is said that as the people jumped, an image of the one the Spaniards called San Diego appeared on the mesa wall and, instead of plummeting to their deaths, the people landed on their feet – unharmed. To this day, the image is still visible to those who know where to look.

Although not a true retelling of the traditional legend, this story serves to honor the way of life and beliefs of the people who have inhabited this region for more than seven hundred years and to enlighten those who strive to understand them.

While there are some who state this incident never happened, there are others who argue it did. When asked if he had ever seen the image on the mesa wall, one Jemez area resident stated, “I’ve never been able to find it, but I’m sure it is there.”

Such is the power of a legend.

To learn more about Jemez history, culture and traditions, visit or logon on to the Walatowa Visitors Center at www.jemezpueblo.com or the Jemez State Monument at www.nmmounments.org.


Sandia Mountain Wilderness: A wild gift that keeps on giving

—Martin Heinrich, U.S. Representative (NM-1)

New Mexicans have a proud history of protecting the natural gifts that make up the “Land of Enchantment.” We know that our public lands offer stunning natural wonders like Carlsbad Caverns National Park, cultural and historic sites like Bandelier and Fort Union National Monuments, and year-round, outdoor recreational opportunities that rival any state in the union. In fact, the world’s first designated wilderness area was established here in New Mexico in 1924—the Gila Wilderness near Silver City, the inspiration of the great conservationist Aldo Leopold. 

One of our state’s greatest public servants, Clinton P. Anderson, made conservation a centerpiece of his public career as congressman, secretary of agriculture, and U.S. senator. Among Senator Anderson’s proudest achievements was the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, a law he championed as the lead Senate sponsor. The photos of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing that bill into law show the beaming New Mexico senator looking over his shoulder.

One of the wilderness areas protected under the Wilderness Act has a particularly central part in the lives of many of us—the 38,000 acre Sandia Mountain Wilderness, which dominates the skyline east of Albuquerque. Here, on the doorstep of a major city, we have a wilderness gem with more than 100 miles of trails, including the Crest Trail that follows the ridge to heights well above 10,000 feet, readily accessible for all of us from the top of the Sandia Peak Tramway.

This month, we mark the 30th anniversary of the last major addition to the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. We New Mexicans, and all Americans, own this wilderness asset and have taken care to preserve it with the expectation that it will provide multiple future benefits. I don’t even want to imagine what life would be like in a world without wilderness areas, without the opportunities such places offer to young families like my own, where a trail beckons through the forest, offering each child the sense of what’s best about America. 

That is why I believe the Sandia Mountain Wilderness area is so important. Thanks to the conservation ethic of Aldo Leopold and the inspired leadership of Senator Anderson, places like this have been protected for our enjoyment forever. 

In that same spirit, we must do our part to assure the strongest possible protection of this landscape for the enjoyment of future generations. I recently introduced legislation that would add two new parcels to the Cibola National Forest. Near Placitas, the legislation would transfer the Crest of Montezuma from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the U.S. Forest Service. This transfer would ensure that this land would remain undeveloped and will continue to serve as a critical wildlife corridor and scenic backdrop to Placitas. It would also allow local East Mountain residents better access to the area for recreation. Second, my bill would transfer about 1,000 acres just south of Isleta Pueblo from the BLM to the Forest Service’s Manzano Mountain Wilderness. This wilderness addition would permanently protect this land from development and will help complete the Manzano Mountain Wilderness. 

As valuable as we know this wilderness is in our own lifetimes, just think how immensely more valuable it will be for our children and grandchildren.

I am honored to represent you in Congress and am here to help in any way possible. Call my office at (505) 346-6781, or visit http://Heinrich.house.gov.


Tent Rocks Monument closed for road paving

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument closed Monday, June 14, for about six weeks in order to pave Tribal Road 92 / BLM 1011, the road to Tent Rocks from the Pueblo de Cochiti. The project is expected to conclude by late July, though the road and monument may open earlier if construction finishes sooner than expected. 

The purpose of the paving is to improve the quality of the road, reduce the need to close after heavy rain and snow, and minimize the dust stirred up from the current five-mile dirt road. Other alternatives, such as partial road openings, were considered, but the alternatives would have taken longer to complete or would have been more problematic. Ultimately, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Cochiti Pueblo decided to close the monument and road completely to allow for the paving in a timely manner.

During the monument’s closure, the public is encouraged to consider alternative BLM recreational sites, many of which are within a short drive of the monument. More information about BLM recreational sites can be found at www.blm.gov/nm. 

 “We’ve wanted to pave the road to Tent Rocks for some time,” said Ed Singleton, BLM Albuquerque district manager. “The public will certainly appreciate the new road once it reopens. There will be less dust and a more enjoyable ride for visitors to the monument.” 


Kenaf

U.S. Department of Agriculture research shows that kenaf yields some six to 10 tons of dry fiber per acre per year, which is three to five times more than the yield of southern pine trees, now the dominant paper pulp source in the U.S. Kenaf also absorbs more carbon dioxide than any other plant or tree. Pictured: Bill Loftus tends kenaf plants at the Kenaf Research Farm.

EarthTalk®

The Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk:

What is “kenaf” paper? From what I’ve heard, it’s good for the environment. But what exactly are its benefits and where can I obtain some?
  —Tiffany Mikamo, via e-mail

Kenaf, a fast-growing, non-invasive annual hibiscus plant related to cotton, okra, and hemp, makes ideal paper fiber, as well as great source material for burlap, clothing, canvas, particleboard, and rope. Its primary use around the world today is for animal forage, but humans enjoy its high-protein seed oil to add a nutritious and flavorful kick to a wide range of foods. In fact, kenaf has been grown for centuries in Africa, China, and elsewhere for these and other purposes, but environmentalists see its future in replacing slower-growing trees as our primary source for paper.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research shows that kenaf yields some six to 10 tons of dry fiber per acre per year, which is three to five times more than the yield of southern pine trees—now the dominant paper pulp source in the U.S. And to top it off, researchers believe kenaf absorbs more carbon dioxide—the chief “greenhouse gas” behind global warming—than any other plant or tree growing. Some 45 percent of dry kenaf is carbon pulled down from the atmosphere via photosynthesis.

No wonder environmentalists are so bullish on kenaf for our common future. “The more kenaf we grow, we can not only absorb significant amounts of the carbon dioxide that is responsible for global warming,” says Bill Loftus of the nonprofit Kenaf Research Farm, “but also educate the world on how to be self-sustainable through kenaf’s many properties of providing food, shelter, and economic opportunities.”

As to its use for paper, 10 major U.S. newspapers have tested kenaf-based newsprint and were pleasantly surprised by how well it held up and how crisply it displayed text and pictures. And since it is already brighter than wood-based pulp, it requires less bleaching before it can be used to carry ink. But since kenaf is not mass-produced the way paper trees are on big plantations across the Southeast and West, it still costs more than regular paper and, as such, has not gone mass market, despite its environmental benefits.

Also, while some policymakers and many environmentalists would like to see our paper feedstock switched from southern pine and other trees to kenaf, entrenched timber companies with big investments in tree farms (and who employ many a Washington lobbyist) do not. And with many timber companies already suffering economically, lawmakers are unlikely to mandate changes that could make matters worse.

Even if kenaf doesn’t become the paper of tomorrow, it may still have a bright future. The Kenaf Research Farm reports that Toyota is already using kenaf grown in Malaysia for insulation and interiors in some cars. Toyota is also experimenting with using kenaf to reinforce the sugarcane and maize-based biopolymers that it hopes can replace many of the plastic and metal parts in the vehicles it is designing today.

Your best bet for finding some kenaf paper is to try a specialty art supply or stationery store. One good online source is The Natural Abode. Photographers might try using kenaf photo paper, such as Pictorico’s ART Kenaf, in their ink-jet printers to give their snaps a unique look and a green pedigree.


Hide the food; hot weather brings out the bears

—New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

The sudden onset of record hot weather has brought some familiar visitors to New Mexico campgrounds, picnic areas, and some communities. The bears are back, and as always, they want your food.

Tuesday morning, Conservation Officer Mike Ahlm was responding to his 11th bear call in two days in the East Mountains area near Albuquerque. He had just finished collecting a road-killed bear on Interstate 40. A week earlier, he had to kill an aggressive bear that was terrorizing a picnic area.

Ahlm hates to kill bears.

 “There were indications that that bear was being fed by people, and that’s usually a death sentence for bears,” he said. “If I find out you’ve been feeding bears, I will prosecute you.” Anyone who intentionally or unintentionally feeds a bear that becomes a nuisance could be fined $500.

Periods of hot, dry weather before the monsoon season can be tough for bears, said Rick Winslow, large carnivore biologist for the Department of Game and Fish. Most of the bears’ spring diet of green grass and forbs is gone, and the acorns, piñons, and chokecherries haven’t ripened.

“It’s normal for bears to go through a period when there is a lack of food,” Winslow said. “This is when you see bears turning over rocks and logs, looking for grubs and eating ants— or going into town,” Winslow said. It’s also a time when people who visit or live in bear country need to be reminded to bring in their bird feeders, lock up their garbage, and keep pet food inside.

The Department of Game and Fish publishes a booklet, Living with Large Predators, which is available on the department Web site:

 www.wildlife.state.nm.us, or by calling (505) 476-8000. The booklet contains important information about bears, cougars, and coyotes and how to avoid conflicts with them.

If you see a bear and consider it a safety threat, please contact your local Department of Game and Fish conservation officer or police or sheriff’s office. You also can call the department office in Santa Fe at (505) 476-8000 or area offices in Albuquerque, Raton, Roswell, and Las Cruces from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Here are some suggestions about safely coexisting with bears:

  • Keep garbage in airtight containers inside your garage or storage area. Place garbage outside in the morning just before pickup, not the night before. Occasionally clean cans with ammonia or bleach.

  • Remove bird feeders. Bears see them as sweet treats, and often they will look for other food sources nearby.

  • Never put meat or sweet-smelling food scraps such as melon in your compost pile.

  • Don’t leave pet food or food dishes outdoors at night.

  • Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.

  • Never intentionally feed bears to attract them for viewing. If you intentionally or unintentionally feed a bear and the bear becomes a nuisance, you could be cited and fined up to $500 —and the bear eventually may have to be killed.

  • Keep your camp clean, and store food and garbage properly at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. If not, suspend food, coolers, and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and four feet out from the tree trunk.

  • Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of all food smells. Store the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.

  • Sleep a good distance from your cooking area or food storage site.

  • Store toiletries with your food.

If you see a bear: 

  • Stop, and back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, as the bear may consider that a threat.

  • Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.

  • If the bear has not seen you, stay calm, and slowly move away, making noise so the bear knows you are there.

  • Do not run. Make yourself appear large by holding out your jacket. If you have small children, pick them up so they don’t run.

  • Give the bear plenty of room to escape, so it doesn’t feel threatened or trapped. If you are on a trail, step off on the downhill side, and slowly move away.

  • If a black bear attacks you, fight back using anything at your disposal, such as rocks, sticks, binoculars, or even your bare hands. Aim for the bear’s nose and eyes. 

Urban habitat

—Cally Carswell, High Country News

When Melanie Ingalls moved to Los Angeles in 1984, the scenery amazed her. But in a city crowded by mountains and ocean, she was shocked by how disconnected kids were from nature. “There were millions growing up within easy distance of the ocean that had never seen it,” she says. Under Ingalls’ direction in the ‘90s, the LA office of the National Audubon Society began busing inner-city kids to coastal wetlands to help bridge the gap. But it wasn’t enough, she says: “We needed to find a place where the access was daily, not once a year.”

So on a clear spring day, Ingalls climbed to the top of Dodger Stadium with binoculars and searched the built-out horizon for green space. She wanted to build an Audubon nature center east of the LA River, home to most of the city’s low-income minority communities. Something caught her eye: a nearly 300-acre chunk of city land called Debs Park.

Debs hadn’t been maintained in years. The main access to its rugged west side was blocked by a padlocked gate, and it had a reputation as a haunt for gangs and prostitutes. But the neglected park was wild by city standards—a prime spot for a nature center intended to provide environmental education and safe outdoor recreation for the 50,000 or so mostly low-income, Latino kids living within a two-mile radius.

Audubon is an organization dedicated to protecting birds and wildlife and sinking millions into degraded urban parks was not its usual line of work. Before it could transform Debs, Audubon would have to change, too. In 1999, then-CEO John Flicker began an organization-wide push to reach out to the kind of ethnically diverse urban communities that Audubon and most big environmental outfits have tended to ignore. He envisioned 1,000 nature centers nationwide by 2020, many in cities. Protecting open space in the urban neighborhoods that needed it most was the right thing to do. But it was also good politics: Audubon’s aging, mostly white base was not the future face of political power in America.

It was a more substantial—even if theoretical—commitment to diversity than many environmental groups had made. “The level of permanence (of the centers) is well beyond what anyone else is doing,” says Flicker. “That’s part of building trust. Most of these communities have seen lots of programs come and go.” But translating good intentions into lasting relationships—especially in neighborhoods where names like “Audubon” mean little or nothing—isn’t easy to do. Today, there are only a dozen Audubon nature centers in such communities, including four in the West, and Audubon employees say it’s too early to tell whether they’ll succeed in diversifying the group’s membership, staff, and board, which are still mostly white. “It took much longer, and it’s much harder than I expected,” says Flicker. “You live on faith for a long time.”

That’s been the case at Debs Park. Initially, “the relationships were not in place at all,” Ingalls says. “We didn’t have the credibility.” Today, almost seven years after the center opened, growing its audience remains the biggest challenge. “Just because you build it,” she says, “doesn’t mean anybody knows what it is or how to get there.”

Los Angeles is starved for parks. Only 33 percent of LA’s kids live within walking distance of one, according to the Trust for Public Land, compared to 85 percent in San Francisco, 79 percent in Seattle, and 91 percent in New York. When Ingalls arrived in the neighborhood, the city council districts around Debs Park averaged just under an acre of park space per 1,000 residents. In LA County’s white neighborhoods, the figure rose to 17.4 acres.

Freeways, however, are plentiful in northeast LA; five cut through it. The area’s residents are 67 percent Latino, and 20 percent live below the federal poverty line. The neighborhoods around Debs are often described as the invisible parts of the city, plagued by deteriorating housing, gangs, and floundering commercial centers.

Ironically, this invisibility may have helped preserve open space. Debs Park and a few other undeveloped spots in the Repetto Hills sustain fragments of rare native habitat, including stands of oak-walnut woodlands and coastal sage scrub. Red-tailed hawks, California thrashers, and a few varieties of woodpeckers and hummingbirds—many of them rarely seen inside city limits—are among the more than 140 bird species spotted in Debs.

Even so, many environmentalists have long considered these patches of urban habitat—and the communities surrounding them—lost causes. “To move over there was such a statement,” Ingalls says. Many of Audubon’s members were supportive, but others quit over the project. Audubon, critics argued, “was not a social service organization.”

Still, in 1998, Ingalls opened a temporary storefront office on the corner of Avenue 61 and Monte Vista within sight of Debs. The landlords were a Korean couple who ran a dry cleaning business next door. Negotiating the lease was a challenge: Ingalls spoke English to their son, who relayed what she said to his parents in Spanish, who replied in Korean, which he translated back into English. “That was sort of where the big learning curve developed,” Ingalls says. She didn’t speak Spanish, much less Korean. But that wasn’t really the problem.

Outsiders had come to northeast LA before with bright ideas—including constructing a state prison near schools, an oil pipeline, and a garbage incinerator. Well-intentioned outside groups brought beneficial projects, too. But they often vanished when their grants dried up. “Everybody like you leaves,” Ingalls was told.

There were huge cultural hurdles as well. “The idea of a nature center is very much a middle-class American phenomena,” says Elva Yanez, who directed the Audubon Center at Debs Park from 2006 to 2008. Ingalls bumped up against that reality immediately. When she explained Audubon’s mission, her enthusiasm typically met with glazed expressions. It wasn’t necessarily a language barrier, she says. “It was how we as environmentalists communicated. Eventually, I would say, ‘Well, I just love birds.’”

In 2003, after about five years and upwards of $12 million, the Audubon Center in Debs Park opened its doors. It was the first platinum-rated LEED building in the country. And in a city that has historically placed little value on public space, it was a rare infusion of cash into parks: A 1978 statewide property-tax cap had strangled parks funding, and the distribution of money from measures since passed often favors wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.

The project looked groundbreaking, and in many ways it was. But the center struggled to have the impact that visionaries like Ingalls had imagined. The showcase building turned out to be a distracting financial sinkhole, with many of its custom features falling into disrepair. Leadership was inconsistent; Ingalls left soon after the center opened because she felt that it would only succeed if it were run by locals, and the first director stayed on for a little more than two years. For the first few years, the center lacked a strategic plan and Spanish language programs. Outreach efforts were lackluster and visitation lower than expected.

A survey of surrounding neighborhoods in 2008 found that 71 percent of the locals didn’t even know the place existed. Perched on a well-vegetated hill above Griffin Avenue, it is easy to miss.

 “To make this a thriving community institution was really important to me,” says Yanez, who lives nearby and was recruited to direct the center from the Trust for Public Land, filling a position that sat vacant for about a year. To Yanez, that meant making sure the HVAC worked, for one, but also breaking down language barriers in the center’s new programs and addressing health issues and other pressing community needs. She hired Jeff Chapman, the center’s current director, to head up education, and together they went about remaking the center. They drafted a strategic plan, convened community focus groups, reached out to local schools, and bused neighbors in for open houses.

Debs Park had been set up mostly for self-guided excursions, Chapman says. They figured if they provided trails and backpacks that could be checked out for hikes, people would use them. But it didn’t work. “We learned that if people were unfamiliar with Audubon and the park, they wanted a guided experience. It kind of turned what we had thought on its head.” So the center began offering a variety of new programs, including Spanish language bird walks, guided women’s fitness hikes, and bilingual family nature walks.

Today, staff members try to stay in “constant” contact with visitors and the neighborhood. “We’re building relationships of people to the land and people with our organization,” says Chapman. “(Those) take time to nurture. I don’t know that we completely understood that in the early days.”

About a year ago, Chapman hired Victoria Munguia, a former intern, as a part-time outreach specialist. Munguia, who grew up a few blocks from the center, sets up tables at community events and gives presentations at schools— and even stops people on the street. Before events at the center, she sends out e-mail blasts and personal reminders and makes 20 to 30 phone calls to invite past participants back.

The center just recently started tracking visitors closely, but it’s seen significant gains in the last two years. More than 5,000 took part in school programs in fiscal year 2009, up from 2,534 the year before. Youth program participation rose to 492 from 114, and family programs almost doubled, from 1,062 to 1,920. “(These communities) definitely have an environmental perspective,” Yanez says. “It’s nurturing that that’s challenging and interesting.”

To do that in the long run, however, Audubon may have to expand its agenda still further, tackling issues like affordable housing. “Environmental work is also about society,” says Marcelo Bonta, director of the Center for Diversity and the Environment and a diversity consultant to Audubon. Audubon’s mere presence in Debs Park could accelerate the gentrification of surrounding neighborhoods, Bonta warns. So the center has to be part of broader efforts to improve the area’s livability. “(Otherwise) over time, you see a much different community than you were hoping to connect with.”

Last November, Ingalls, who now lives in Massachusetts, visited Debs Park for the first time in six years. Trudging up the path to the center from Griffin Avenue, she felt apprehensive. “These things require very long-term commitments,” she says. “There’s so much lack of focus—people get bored, and they move on.” The scene she found, however, was “magical,” a beautiful place full of children.

The center has certainly attracted converts, including Lila Sanchez, a mother of two. When Sanchez was a teenager, the only reason to go to Debs Park was to party. Years later, it wasn’t a place to take one’s kids. “I would drive down that street and see the male prostitutes hanging out,” she says.

But now, Sanchez and her kids are regulars. Her daughter’s birthday party was celebrated at the center, and her son volunteers there almost every weekend. These days, she talks about Audubon with an evangelist’s zeal. “To me, it was groundbreaking,” she says. “This was a place that was going to have a major influence on (my kids) for the rest of their lives.” Sanchez is pleased when her son comes home with his pants covered in dirt.


Resilient Placitas

Standing—Leif Rustebakke; seated from left to right—Bob, Jerry and Janice Saxton, Jim Fish, and Erica Hightower. —PHOTO BY COSMOS DOHNER

Resilient Placitas explores local sustainability

Water harvesting speaker featured

 —Vickie Peck

With so much pending change around us—climate change, economic stress, declining fossil fuel supplies—many people foresee struggling to maintain the lifestyles we are accustomed to. The government system may not be sufficient to respond to the changes happening and to provide our future needs. One powerful way to respond to the changes is to look to our community rather than our government for solutions for practical things that we can do. 

The Resilient Placitas group of thirty plus people coalesced at the great new Placitas Community Library on Saturday, June 19 for a dynamic discussion about water harvesting, led by local expert and practitioner Dennis Fortier. We then convened smaller groups that discussed local systems for renewable solar and wind power, sustainable building and home renovation, local food and beverage production, including gardening suitable for our dry climate, and water harvesting in more detail. Also, Reid Bandeen gave a brief update on a transportation group effort, headed by Steff Chanat, which is making progress on linking Placitas to the Rail Runner and the Bernalillo/East Sandoval County area via the Sandoval Easy Express route. With most of us wishing to participate in most of the groups, we decided to schedule another meeting to continue exploring these ideas in more detail and to add additional discussions about peak oil (declining fossil fuels), local culture and history, wildlife and our environment, the Placitas dark skies initiative, and others. In fact, the list of possible topics was quite rich and inspiring.

Additional suggestions from the Resilient Placitas group were to have a Placitas home tour to check out local food production, building techniques, renewable energy installations, and water harvesting setups. Ideas and approaches to these and many other resilient practices will be captured in an inclusive “Whole Placitas Catalog” project being organized by Tony Hull, complete with pictures, descriptions, and lists of community members willing to teach others their skills.

Several interest groups are already organizing to meet on their own, facilitated by sharing contact information collected at the meeting. The energy was quite high, and the resonance between people was extraordinary. It is clear that many Placitas residents are excited that there are local alternatives and are interested in getting back to basics and simplifying our lives. 

If you are interested in joining our lively group, and maybe even in sharing your skills, please join us for our next general meeting (location to be determined) on Saturday, August 14 from 9:00-11:00 a.m. For more information, please contact Vickie Peck at (505) 867-1588 or vmpeck@gmail.com.

 

     

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