PEEC Earth Day Series: Protecting the Wild Places for the Future

Protecting the Wild Places for the Future
By the Pajarito Group of the Sierra Club

Founded by John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club has been“Digging Nature” for 121 years. Its goal? To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the Earth.

Because of John Muir and his activists, we the people own many wild places including the grand, glacier-carved valleys of Yosemite National Park.

Had it not been for people with foresight, many of America’s most beautiful and beloved spaces like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion might have been sacrificed for short-term economic gain.

Now it’s our turn to work for the future. You might be thinking that we have little opportunity to acquire more public land in the 21st century, but our movement is not only about wildlands, but also about the climate that supports them.

The residents of Los Alamos County understand the critical importance of sustainability’s three-legged stool (environment, quality of life, economy.)

We still have what every other community wishes it had: abundant open space and County-supported access to it, Atomic City Transit, sidewalks in most neighborhoods, tennis courts and kiddy parks and opportunities for all kinds of recreation, good water, clean air, great schools, and a local government offering a truly democratic system in which the citizenry is active and vocal.

We active, vocal, educated, and concerned citizens of Los Alamos can turn our efforts toward protecting the future of the broader environment through making the simple decision to divest ourselves from coal.

What? you may ask. Coal? Yep. Los Alamos County owns its own utility, and although it’s pretty darn renewable, it could be more so.

We own a part of the San Juan Generating Plant in the Four Corners (listed by the conservative webpage,, as one of the top 10 most polluting energy sources in all of North America.)

We get 36 megawatts of our electricity from Unit 4. We also have a share in the Laramie River Station, which gets 10 megawatts of power from coal. So here’s what we can do: work with the County to eliminate coal as one of our energy sources.

The effort nation-wide has already started with, among others, megalopolis Los Angeles already pledged to be coal-free by 2025. Already in New Mexico, with public pressure (including from the Sierra Club), PNM has had to agree to phase out elderly coal-fired Units 2 and 3 by 2017.

Even PNM is having to acknowledging that coal is no longer either economically or environmentally sustainable.

The good news is that Los Alamos County—and even the Lab—would like to have a more sustainable energy portfolio, and both LANL and the County have already invested in local renewables like the NEDO/Los Alamos County/LANL solar array. 

Above all, we hope that the County’s current investigation into wind energy will prove successful, since wind energy is becoming cheaper and more available every month.

In the meantime, the County could change our utility bills to make the green energy credit the default—require people to opt out instead of opting in.

If the community actually opted for the Green Credits, we would decrease the need for our investment in coal-fired power plants like Four Corners and spur more development in nation-wide renewables.

Big LA, CA is already preparing to divest itself of its coal-burning plants. Little LA, NM could certainly do the same.

Editor’s note:This is part of a series of stories from the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) leading up to its annual Earth Day Festival set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 20at PEEC, 3540 Orange St., in Los Alamos.

This year’s Earth Day Festival will feature displays by community groups of their earth-friendly products and practices and their information about our environment on the Pajarito Plateau.

  • Over 20 booths
  • Food vendors
  • Live entertainment by Clan Tynker and the Hill Stompers
  • Kids activities, including “Walk Like a Wolf”, the “Mudpie Kitchen” and making miniature adobes with the Cornerstones Community Partnership.

Important Update: Park at Sullivan Field and ride a free Atomic City Bus to Saturday’s Earth Day event because LAHS parking lot will be full from three events being held at the school.

For more information about Earth Day, e-mail EarthDay@PajaritoEEC.orgor visit

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