March 2012

Water, Air and Land: A Sacred Trust

 Map Documents Water Concerns in New Mexico


A comprehensive map documenting concerns about water resources on the part of New Mexico community and religious organizations was dedicated last month in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. The map shows how current and historical industrial activities have impacted water, air and land, as well as urban and rural populations and the health of wildlife, plants, birds and fish.


The major waters of the state and areas that have been, and in many cases, continue to be compromised by the oil and gas industry, the nuclear fuel chain, and coal-fired power plants are detailed on the map. Areas affected by smoke plumes from the 2000 Cerro Grande wildfire and the 2011 Las Conchas Fire are also shown.


Over a year in the making, the project was initiated by the Partnership for Earth Spirituality (PES) in association with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) andthe Multicultural Alliance for Safe Environment (MASE). The Catholic Sisters of Mercy – Northeast Community of the US, funded the project. The organizations envision the map, corresponding brochure and websites as a resource and tool for community groups to educate and engage citizenry in protecting their communities. The map is being distributed to city, state and federal legislators.


Water is a sacred trust and it is threatened. We must protect our water, air and land,” said Sister Marlene Perrotte, a PES board member. Sr. Joan Brown, Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, who also worked on the project, said, “As we experience increased and longer droughts–an expression of climate change­–the precious gift of water becomes more threatened by pollutants. We are morally obligated to speak for the children, the Earth and the future ones whose voices are usually not represented. Actions addressing pollution from coal-fired power plants and calling for accountability in the oil and gas industry are expressions of an informed faith.”


Water and life are inseparable,” said Sr. Rose Marie Cecchini, Director of the Office of Life, Justice, Peace and Creation Stewardship in Gallup, NM. “Here in the Southwest, we already see evidence of the erosion of the living systems of Earth, which will intensify with global climate change. This New Mexico map places the truth starkly before our eyes and impels us to change our cultural assaults on water, air, land and wildlife while we have time.”


Joni Arends, Executive Director of CCNS, spoke at the Capitol gathering. She said, “When we look at the map we see contaminated areas around the state. It is essential to know that the safeguards to protect people and environment are based on a “Reference Man,” defined as a Caucasian man between 20 and 30 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 154 pounds. He is a Western European or North American and lives in a climate with an average temperature of from 50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.1 The Reference Man is not representative of the most vulnerable, such as pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Nor does it take into account the lifestyles and food sources of Indigenous and land-based communities.”

The map, references used to create it and additional information about how you can get involved are available on the website


1 Source: International Commission on Radiological Protection. Report of the Task Group on Reference Man. [ICRP Publication] No. 23. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1975. Adopted October 1974. Page 4.


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