Books

Are we at the environmental precipice?

Climate change in New Mexico is the subject of Laura Paskus' Leopold Residency talk

By Ariana Kramer
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 6/19/19

For the past 17 years, Laura Paskus has worked as an environmental journalist. Her job is to pay attention to water, forests, climate change and energy issues in New Mexico. She is …

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Books

Are we at the environmental precipice?

Climate change in New Mexico is the subject of Laura Paskus' Leopold Residency talk

Posted

For the past 17 years, Laura Paskus has worked as an environmental journalist. Her job is to pay attention to water, forests, climate change and energy issues in New Mexico.

She is planning to give a free, public presentation on her new book, ominously titled "At the Precipice: New Mexico's Changing Climate" Tuesday (June 25), 7 p.m., at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street.

Paskus was awarded a 2019 Aldo and Estella Leopold Residency to support her in finishing this book. For the residency, she is living at the residency's Mi Casita for the month of June. Mi Casita was the first home of Aldo and Estella Leopold when they were newlyweds. Aldo Leopold designed and lived in the house while he was stationed in Tres Piedras as forest supervisor of the Carson National Forest from 1911 to 1912.

"I was planning to use the month to make final edits to the book project, but what happened was being in that space I've completely revamped and rewritten the book and am really excited about it in a way I haven't been in a long time," Paskus said. "The residency gave me an opportunity to step away from so many other things and put my best and highest energies towards this book project."

Those energies are focused on informing readers how climate change in New Mexico is an issue that concerns all of us who live here.

"People should be thinking about climate change in New Mexico because regardless of what you do to make your living or where in the state you live the impacts of climate change are broad and deep, especially in an arid state like New Mexico," Paskus said. "So, whether we're talking about cutting greenhouse gas emissions in a state that's heavily dependent on oil and gas revenue or we're talking about how to deal with future water challenges as warming continues, these are things that are going to affect everyone regardless of who you are.

"I think it can be a scary or a daunting thing to think about climate change, but I just keep thinking about what so many scientists I've interviewed keep saying - which is we know what the problem is, we know why this is happening and we know what so many of the impacts of warming will be, and so because we have that knowledge and understanding we can put so many things into practice that would be strong steps toward addressing many of the issues."

For her presentation, Paskus plans to address what is known about the impacts of climate change for New Mexico. She also anticipates discussing what it has been like for her to spend time at Mi Casita.

"I've been thinking about what it means to have time to catch your breath and be ready for what comes next. I'd like to be able to share some of that with people who come out on the 25th. I think all of us, no matter what we do, need time to rest and replenish and think about where we fit into our communities."

The Leopold Writing Program builds on Aldo Leopold's legacy "by inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders to participate in the evolution of environmental ethics through the written word," according to the program's press.

Paskus added, "I have been hustling as a journalist for 17 years and this is really the first time in my journalism career that I've had the chance to step away from being caught up in the whirl of news and environmental issues and coverage."

Paskus said she appreciates the slower pace at Mi Casita and time to explore the area's rock formations and birdlife. She has been enjoying the comforts of the cabin and its library, as well as her interactions with Forest Service staff who manage Mi Casita.

"I love having the Carson National Forest out the back door," Paskus said. "The whole experience has exceeded any expectations I have had."

Paskus began working on her book, "At the Precipice: New Mexico's Changing Climate" two years ago. It has gone through two rounds of edits prior to her residency at Mi Casita. Paskus describes the book as following her journey of covering climate change impacts as a reporter over roughly the past decade. She discusses the science of climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, and the impacts this change has on water supplies, ecosystems and public health around the state.

"One of the ideas that I hope will come through in the book is that scientists understand what's happening and we also have a good idea of what will continue to happen in New Mexico especially in terms of water supplies … and how ecosystems, including forest ecosystems, are changing."

As an environmental reporter for New Mexico Political Report, Paskus is also a correspondent for PBS "New Mexico in Focus" and a full-time graduate student of the Geography and Environmental Studies Department at the University of New Mexico. She has also been writing a book to be published by UNM Press.

For more information about the Leopold Writing Program, which sponsors the Aldo and Estella Leopold Residency in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, call (505) 265-8713 or visit LeopoldWritingProgram.org.

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