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Climate change and fire threaten an ancient way of living in NM

Climate change and fire threaten an ancient way of living in NM

Climate change and fire are threatening an ancient NM way of life

The columnist’s land in Guadalupita, which he inherited from his parents. (Courtesy Jerry Pacheco

My parents’ families come from the tiny, adjacent northern New Mexico villages of El Turquillo and Guadalupita, which lie roughly halfway between the Village of Mora and the resort town of Angel Fire.

Their families have been there for hundreds and thousands of years. I spent a lot of my youth at my maternal grandparents’ ranch, riding horses and fishing in the creek with my cousins. We used to make fishing poles out of willows and lie flat against the walls of the stream so the fish couldn’t see us. We would yank the poles out of the water when we had a bite. In the summers, Grandma’s ranch would resemble a mini-Switzerland, with lush pastures and forested mountains.

My father and I spent a lot of our lives in the mountains of northern New Mexico fishing, hunting, and logging. When we were logging in summers, I recall having to race to the truck to get to the truck because a cloud came down on us. In winter, the snow was as high as my waist. The very first time I appeared in the newspaper was when I was in first grade at McCurdy Mission School in Española, New Mexico. My valley was covered in snow, and an older boy was pulling me along with two other children on an inner tube. This scene was chosen as a front page photo by the local newspaper.

I can still recall the snowstorms of the winter and the rain of the summer. I was always afraid that my Little League games would be cancelled.

Nowadays, we don’t receive nearly the amount of precipitation in northern New Mexico. There have been some unusually dry forests, and the snowpack seems to be below average.

My lands in El Turquillo, Guadalupita that my family inherited are directly in the path for the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire which has destroyed more than 300,000. My aunts, uncles, and cousins were forced to evacuate and are now looking for a ranch or home to return to. As the fire rages, my thoughts turn to how global warming is affecting even the most isolated and ancient villages in New Mexico’s mountains and other parts of the Southwest.

According to NASA’s website, “The current warming trend is of particular significance because it is unequivocally the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia. It is undeniable that human activities have warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land, and that widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred.”

Our planet’s average surface temperature has risen two degrees since the late 19th century, and the last seven years have been the hottest on record. The vast majority of the warming occurred in the past 40 years. Global warming can also be linked to the melting of snowpacks in the Southwest and the rapid runoff, which makes the forests tinderboxes. It is predicted that within the next two decades, the planet’s temperature will rise by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius). Scientists say that this will lead to the possible loss of coral reefs, increased erratic conditions such as storms and hurricanes, as well rising oceans due melting icebergs. Yes, we can expect more destructive forest fires earlier in the season.

The Paris Agreement, signed by 192 nations and the European Union, aims to reduce global warming by limiting the emission of greenhouse gases in order to create a climate-neutral world by the middle 20th century. The U.S. and over 100 other countries have joined forces in reducing methane gas, which contributes to global heating. India, a developing nation that has major pollution problems, announced its goal to become carbon neutral by 2070. Many are pushing developed nations to reduce the 2.7 degree temperature rise prediction for developing countries, which is particularly vulnerable to climate changes.

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But, is all this effort enough? It is a fact that our actions toward climate change have an impact on the world around us. Climate change is a global phenomenon. Nobody is immune. The New Mexico fire crisis is a result of decades of industrialization in both developed and developing countries. My ancestral lands are something I am very concerned about. I am more concerned about the ancient way of living and the people who maintain it. This will happen until we have a better understanding of climate change, which is threatening our homes.

Jerry Pacheco, the executive director of International Business Accelerator is a non-profit trade counseling program run by the New Mexico Small Business Development Centers Network. Contact him at 575-589-2200.

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