SILVER CITY ― This September, the Gila Conservation Coalition will host the 15th annual Gila River Festival.
Running Sept. 19-22 in Silver City and along the Gila River, the festival allows visitors to explore the Gila River—New Mexico’s last wild river, which also was named America’s #1 Most Endangered River of 2019 by American Rivers.
Throughout the festival, visitors can learn about the future of the Gila River in relation to the changing climate, as well as our responsibility to act as earth stewards, with keynote speaker climate activist,Tim DeChristopher, along with many renowned presenters.
The four-day festival draws over 2,000 people annually and has grown in popularity every year since its inception in 2005. Events will feature dynamic presentations and hands-on activities designed to foster a deeper intimacy with the Gila River. Festival events include river outings, expert-led hikes and field trips, presentations, music, community art projects, and more.
“The Gila River Festival is a powerful way to bring people together around the importance of the Gila River and the need to protect it for everyone.,” said Donna Stevens, Festival Coordinator. “We’ve got an exciting lineup of guest speakers, field trips and workshops. There is something fun and interesting for everyone.”
Climate activist, Tim DeChristopher, will give the Gila River Festival keynote presentation, addressing our moral and ethical responsibility to safeguard the climate for fellow species and future human generations. DeChristopher disrupted an illegitimate Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction in December of 2008, by posing as Bidder 70 and outbidding oil companies for parcels around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. For his act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison. Held for a total of 21 months, his imprisonment earned him an international media presence as an activist and political prisoner of the United States government. He has used this as a platform to spread the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold, confrontational action in order to create a just and healthy world. DeChristopher used his prosecution as an opportunity to organize the climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising in Salt Lake City, and most recently founded the Climate Disobedience Center.
The Fort Sill Apache Fire Dancers will return to the Gila River Festival for the Gila River Extravaganza Saturday, September 21.
Festival speakers include Sharman Apt Russell, a John Burroughs awardee for Distinguished Nature Writing and author of Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist. Russell will provide a historical survey of the philosophies and religious traditions from cultures around the world that have defined our relationship with the natural world.
San Carlos Apache Tribe youth activist, Naelyn Pike, will discuss how the ways in which the Apache consider themselves an integral part of nature have compelled her people to defend the sacred Oak Flat (near Tucson) from a proposed mine that would be ecologically devastating. Youth plaintiff, Akilah Sanders-Reed, will speak to her experience in a New Mexico climate justice lawsuit based on the public trust doctrine of the U.S. Constitution and New Mexico state law.
Guggenheim Fellow landscape photographer, Michael Berman, will share his stories and photographs about wolves, Coues deer, snow leopards and the wild places on borders of Mexico and Mongolia. His presentation will feature his new book Perdido about the Sierra San Luis, the wildest place on the Mexican border.
Water law attorney and director of the University of New Mexico’s Utton Transboundary Resources Center, Adrian Oglesby, will talk about legal personhood status for rivers and nature, which courts have recently granted in New Zealand, Colombia, and India.
Panel discussions will address climate change impacts to rivers, landscape-scale conservation for climate resilience along the U.S.-Mexico Border, carbon sequestration, and youth perspectives on the need for climate action.
The festival provides opportunities for participants to experience wonder in their interactions with nature, as we offer a wide range of field trips, including fly fishing, kayaking and expert-led hikes to the Gila River and Gila National Forest, focusing on local cultural and natural history, such as archaeology, native plants, birds, and more.
How can we rethink our relationship to the natural world and bring about positive action to mitigate the climate emergency? The festival will offer workshops on how to recalibrate our mindset to one of gratitude and abundance rather than materialism and overconsumption, as well as ways to take personal action to build climate resilience.
Sponsors to date include Center for Biological Diversity, Lannan Foundation, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Western New Mexico University, and the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning.