NM education was colonized by oil and gas

My time in public education in New Mexico has taught me that our public schools are woefully ill-equipped to prepare the next generation with the tools we need to solve the climate crisis.

To better prepare students to solve today’s problems, we can no longer track the culprits and the colonized mindset that brought us here. By holding public education hostage to oil and gas revenues, our politicians not only condemn students to poor education, they also auction our livelihoods.

New Mexico had been a resource colony even before it was a state. Today, New Mexico is the nation’s second-largest oil-producing state, with little to show beyond a legacy of sacrifice zones. Our state is the lowest in the country for public education, with the lowest overall quality of life and opportunities, and the highest rates of child poverty and hunger.

New Mexico politicians tell us that being a resource colony and extracting oil and gas means improving our state, giving us more to spend on education and for the future of our children. They promise endless profit through the destruction of our land and our culture. They promise better education for students while they undermine our future.

The children of the 21st century are the ones who are forced to come to terms with these broken promises.

We have seen years of drought and forest fires, rising temperatures and destructive oil spills. We have seen with our own eyes the ecosystems that once thrived in the Rio Grande visibly struggle as countless species are threatened with extinction, with the river itself drying up more miles each year than ever before. We have seen wildfires envelop our horizons, no longer a seasonal event, but now a season in itself.

Generation Z cannot look to the future with the same hope as previous generations. We grew up in the shadow of fear, uncertainty and denial. We are experiencing chain reactions of escalating crises. We know that the opportunities our parents and previous generations had will not be offered to us. We are riddled with debt, ill-prepared to choose from a range of careers, each unstable in a climate catastrophe.

If our leaders allow the continued educational colonization of New Mexico and perpetuate the stranglehold on oil and gas, we will remain on track out of nowhere, without tools to face the challenges ahead.

My generation has risen, not out of desire, but out of necessity. Now our leaders must step up their efforts, turn their climate rhetoric into real politics, abandon the colonizing mindset for a framework of climate justice. We cannot afford the continuous sacrifice of our land, our lives and our livelihoods to other broken promises.

Elia Vasquez d’Española is an intern with WildEarth Guardians and a second year student at New Mexico State University. She is the daughter of State Lands Commissioner Stéphanie Garcia-Richard.

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