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FARMINGTON — A Sept. 20 gathering outside the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park will be held in conjunction with the week-long Global Climate Strike as part of an international movement calling for an end to the use of fossil fuels.

The local observance will take place at noon in the museum parking lot at 3041 E. Main St. It is sponsored by the Farmington-based community advocacy group Indivisible San Juan in conjunction with the Democratic Party of San Juan County and individuals from the Navajo Nation.

Event organizer Stephen Clarke of Indivisible San Juan said the event's highlight will be a speech by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. An open mic period also is planned, during which those taking part will have the opportunity to express their thoughts on the issue, he said.

"We want to wake people up and see if they can take an individual stake in their own life to do something (about climate change)," he said.

Clarke said he was inspired to plan the gathering in response to the work of 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who began organizing the worldwide strike movement in 2018. Organizers are hoping millions of people will join the effort throughout the week of Sept. 20-27 by walking out of school and their jobs and demanding greater climate justice.

Clarke said the movement is designed to highlight the need by governments around the world to take greater action against the elements that are causing climate change, and it is focused on mobilizing young people because they are the ones who will have to live with the changes that are coming. He is hoping for a significant turnout of San Juan College students.

"We want to convey the urgency of what's going on with climate change and communicate there are other possibilities," he said.

That message is especially relevant in the Four Corners area, Clarke said, given the area's historic economic reliance on fossil fuels industries. Local officials have some serious decisions to make, he said, and he wants them to understand what's at stake in terms of how the climate could be affected.

"Do we go green? Do we go with carbon capture? These are the things we're wrestling with," he said.

Clarke acknowledged the area's economic reliance on fossil fuels industries and said he knows the message being promoted at the event won't be well received by a lot of residents. But he said with the planned abandonment of the San Juan Generating Station by the Public Service Company of New Mexico and the still-unproven nature of carbon capture technology, now is the time to make the transition to a cleaner form of energy and a new economy.

"Energy is about the hottest topic you can do here," Clarke said. "We know it's important, and we understand that. … There could be some chance of ugly pushback, and we understand that."

He emphasized those concerned about climate change aren't trying to put every coal miner or oil and gas field worker out of a job.

"We're supporting a transition," he said. "There are bills presented in the Legislature dealing with that, and there is money being set aside to help with the transition."

Now is the time to talk about what that transition should look like, he said, because the science behind climate change is well founded.

"We're looking to turn up the pressure," he said. "Can you do something to lean on your local elected officials? Can you change something in your life?"

Clarke said he and his wife recently committed to installing solar panels on their home, a task that will be made easier by a community-oriented system reminiscent of an old-fashioned barn raising. He said solar enthusiasts volunteer to spend a weekend working to install a solar system in someone's home, then have the favor returned later when they install their own system. The volunteer nature of the labor dramatically cuts the installation costs of the system and makes it more affordable, he said.

Indivisible San Juan has held previous events related to other issues in Farmington. The group held a 2017 rally voicing opposition to the 2017 Republican tax-cut plan that was narrowly approved by Congress and signed by President Trump. It also has staged rallies supporting immigrant families and victims of gun violence.

For more information about the Sept. 20 observance, call Clarke at 267-218-6228.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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