By Adair Margo
Beto O’Rourke’s recent commentary supporting Proposition K because it’s the “only comprehensive plan before us to meet the challenge of climate change in our community before it’s too late” was ill-informed, showing a willful disregard for the organizations, programs, and leaders at the forefront of ensuring a bright future for our tri-state region, including climate leadership.
Whether reducing our footprint, conserving water, or caring for our natural spaces, El Paso del Norte has a strong foundation to build on – on both sides of our border.
I recall taking Laura Bush in 1995 to visit an innovative program begun by FEMAP in Juarez that taught brickmakers how to use clean-burning fuels instead of contaminated sawdust and tires through a program called ECOTEC. Its solutions had lasting impact on air pollution in our bi-national valley.
Jose Mario Sanchez, the president of COPARMEX in Juarez (a union of business owners), took me to see one of a series of “lake reservoirs” in our sister city that conserves water runoff during seasonal flooding.
New Mexico State will soon derive half of its total electricity from a new, 3-megawatt solar array that El Paso Electric Co. built on its campus in Las Cruces. UTEP’s Center for Environmental Research Management developed composting toilets for colonias without running water and in 2017 received a $4.9 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to prep for water shortage due to climate change.
Here are other El Paso environmental programs – some recognized statewide by Texan by Nature, founded in 2011 to bring business and conservation together — that have inspired other groups across Texas and the nation.
Proposition K does nothing to build on what makes El Paso strong today. It creates expensive new roles and ignores the progress our community has made. While providing a platform for politicians to expound, it does nothing to help El Paso innovators do.
In 1941, Tom Lea made an illustration called “Riches in Desolation” for a book on the Santa Rita oil well, which unexpectedly brought great wealth to the University of Texas when it struck oil in 1923.
While expressing distaste for the way the oil field tainted the air, dirtied the land, and killed everything but the weeds and the royalties, he understood that it was “presently an essential and basic piece of the world’s work.”
It is ironic that the riches it brought funded a great research institution that finds solutions to conserving the environment and, in looking at the picture, we see how far we’ve come.
The same goes for Western Refining in El Paso, which brought resources to fund the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, UTEP, and the revitalization of El Paso’s historic downtown, while also making great strides in improving El Paso’s environment.
Let’s double-down on efforts so far to find our solutions, not depend on a proposition that will bankrupt our city. Our people and industry know what needs to be done.
Adair Margo is a former first lady of El Paso and board member of Texan by Nature.