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NMPBS special explores human connection to New Mexico landscapes amid climate crisis

Aaron Lowden, a farmer at the Pueblo of Acoma sifts through dirt.
Courtesy Laura Paskus
Aaron Lowden, a farmer at the Pueblo of Acoma sifts through dirt.

The Southwest is at the forefront of climate change with issues ranging from longer and more intense fire seasons to water scarcity.

In a new, hour-long special airing Friday, July 12th at 7pm on New Mexico PBS, “Our Land” senior producer Laura Paskus will explore these impacts here in New Mexico and how the deep-rooted connections humans have with our land can pave the way to meaningful healing.

KUNM sat down with Paskus to learn more.

LAURA PASKUS: The special is called: “Loving Our Changing Homelands,” and it features interviews and visits with some of my favorite people, including hydrologist Phoebe Suina (Pueblo of Cochiti), Theresa Pasqual, who's the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at the Pueblo of Acoma, Aaron Lowden, a farmer at the Pueblo of Acoma, sister Joan Brown from New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, and Paula Garcia from the New Mexico Acequia Association. And they're all talking about their connections to their changing landscapes as the Southwest gets warmer and drier and we are seeing things like bigger wildfires and more challenges farming and all those sorts of things.

KUNM: How are the landscapes here in New Mexico changing? 

PASKUS: Since the 1970s New Mexico has warmed significantly, and so we see all these changes in our rivers and our forests, in our growing season. The title of the show really comes from this idea that I have been talking about with lots of different people that even as our landscapes change due to warming… Like our beautiful Rio Grande shrinks, our forests, even if they're not burning, are drying, certainly, if you go on the east side of the Sandias, you see that really clearly. And just because these landscapes are changing, doesn't mean that we don't still love them and respect them and want to steward them and take care of them. I feel like as humans we are responsible for these changes, and we don't get to just walk away from these places. We still need to love and care for them.

KUNM: What message do you want viewers to have when they walk away from this special?

PASKUS: I guess there's two main things. One is this idea of, even if your landscape, your forest, your river, has changed, find ways to remember how to love and care for those places and connect with them on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, however you can, however they're accessible to you.

KUNM: Alternatively to that, how do you want viewers to engage with it? Are you hoping there could be some sort of action? 

PASKUS: A lot of people have asked me about action, and for this summer, I have one assignment for everybody. I want people to be outside in their beloved places, and think about those relationships with the places, with their communities. I think it starts there, and then from there, you can think: "Oh, I'm going to work on whatever I can do to work in New Mexico, toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions, or toward supporting people who are doing restoration work or being politically active," or whatever. But I want us all to slow down and tune out and just connect and think about where to go from there.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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