February 29, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Dreaming New Mexico Tackles Energy and Food Issues

"Dreaming New Mexico aims to bring about restorative ecological and social transformation..."

By Lynn Cline

Gourmet Girl

Lynn Cline is a former food editor and the author of two books – Romantic Days and Nights in Santa Fe and Literary Pilgrims: The Santa Fe and Taos Writers' Colonies, 1915-1950. She also loves to cook, when not dining out.

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In your wildest dreams, how would you imagine the world in 2020? A planet powered by clean energy sources? A place where no one went hungry? A world based on a fair economy that benefits everyone instead of a few behemoth corporations?

In Santa Fe, the acclaimed Bioneers nonprofit assembled a team of experts to do just that, and they created the resulting award-winning program, Dreaming New Mexico, which aims to bring about restorative ecological and social transformation at the local and regional levels around the state. The program also offers a template and tool kit for other place-based initiatives.

Dreaming New Mexico provides concrete solutions to shift  society away from its harmful addiction to cheap oils and its non-localized, insecure food system and move toward a healthier economy devoted to the rights of people and nature, grounded in social and economic justice.

"The promise behind Dreaming New Mexico is, imagine if the year was 2020 and we've done everything right," says Nikki Spangenburg, program manager for Dreaming New Mexico.  "What would our food and energy systems look like? We asked experts to dream how they would really want their future to be and it was shocking how many people broke down in tears and said, 'Well no one has ever really asked me that.' By envisioning the future, the steps to getting there become much clearer."

Bioneers has released "Local Food Sheds & A Fair Trade State" and "Age of Renewables," free maps and booklets that illustrate ways to heal the harms done to New Mexico's air, lands and water and also to the spirit and health of its people.

A third booklet, "Dreaming Planet Earth: Methods for Mapping Future Food and Energy Systems at the Local Level," has just been published in response to requests from around the world about how to accomplish the steps laid out in the first two booklets in places outside of New Mexico.

The booklets offer practical tools, insights and tips on the complex process of mapping the existing systems and creating maps for a better future.  "The first two maps and booklets provide an in-depth state of the state picture of how to move New Mexico forward in sustainable food and alternative energy systems," Spangenburg says. "The new booklet is about how do we use this process? What needs to happen for these dreams to come to reality?" It's intended for use by anybody, anywhere in the world, desiring to learn and the implement similar strategies created for New Mexico.

Dreaming New Mexico hopes to create a more self-reliant, localized food system that honors the land and the bio-cultural traditions of the diverse groups of people who farm it. The project also offers ways to create solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy solutions that don't create pollution or contribute to global warming.

People are hungry for the information provided by Dreaming New Mexico. "We released 'Dreaming Planet Earth' last week as a template for other places, and it's already had a huge response," Spangenburg says. " In the first 24 hours, it had close to 1,000 downloads. We had released it in our e-letter, which received the highest open rate we've ever had."

The urgency for change is real in New Mexico, which ranks third in the nation for food insecurity and fifth in the nation for hunger. Only six other states have a higher poverty level than New Mexico. New Mexico also ranks second behind Arizona for solar production potential, and the solar power produced in New Mexico could provide more energy than the entire state currently utilizes.

Dreaming New Mexico has influenced municipal and state policies, brought together other nonprofit groups working toward similar goals and provided materials to educational institutions.

"We're also developing a curriculum for  New Mexico schools, from kindergarten through high school, that will start in the fall," Spangenburg says. "It focuses on experiential learning,  getting kids out of the classroom and establishing a connection to place, understanding that there are more energy sources than oil and gas and the benefits of switching to renewables."

For more information and to download the maps and booklets, visit www.dreamingnewmexico.org.

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