¡Oye! Celebrating Visions for the Future moves Las Cruces toward sustainability
By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
Curitiba, Brazil. Stockholm, Sweden. Auroville, India. Freiburg, Germany. Adelaide, Australia. Las Cruces, New Mexico?
The inclusion of the City of the Crosses on this list of global eco-cities – those established or operated on the principles of living within the means of the environment – is the ultimate goal of a bold new free, overnight festival in Downtown Las Cruces called ¡Oye! Celebrating Visions for the Future, set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10-11.
What began several years ago as a conversation between a group of artists, scientists and friends as to what could be done about the ever-increasing threat of climate change has blossomed over its genesis into something akin to a small-scale Burning Man festival, bringing together Las Crucens from all walks of life to encourage Las Cruces to become the first eco-city in the Southwest.
Brandi Lozada-Johnston, one of the five-member ¡Oye! committee alongside Margaret Bernstein, Deidre Price and Julius and Sam Siegel, felt called to action several years ago after noticing the near-constant presence of natural disasters on the evening news. After viewing a Google Talk by Jeremy Rifkin (author of “Zero Marginal Cost Society”), Lozada-Johnston reached out to the author.
“Rifkin’s talk said basically that we need to get on the bandwagon now,” Lozada-Johnston said. “I was so moved by that I thought, ‘I need to email this man and ask if what he’s saying is really true. He’s saying things need to be moved along quickly.’ “He responded to me almost immediately the next morning and I asked him if I was being a little paranoid. He said no, I was not, and that more people need to know about this.”
Rifkin sent Lozada-Johnston a copy of his book, which she devoured quickly before moving on to see “what other people had to say.” Sure enough, “Almost every lecture at every university I found online are all saying the same thing,” Lozada-Johnston said. “I thought, ‘Wow, why aren’t we getting this?’” The clincher, Lozada-Johnston said, was Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.”
“After reading (Klein’s book), I looked at my three-year-old granddaughter and thought, ‘What is she going to see at 14?’ What will we say to her when she looks at us and says, ‘What did you do? The signs were all there and you did nothing.’” A vision in mind and a committee formed, Lozada- Johnston and company next formed an advisory board of experts – among them renowned water- tank muralist Tony Pennock, Santa Fe Community College President Randy Grissom, Las Cruces City Councilor Miguel Silva and El Paso County Sustainability Director Laura Baldwin – to help move ¡Oye! forward.
The 32-hour festival kicks off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, in the courtyard of the Las Cruces Museum of Art and Branigan Cultural Center, with the presentation of Pennock’s two ecological superheroes and the breaking of a piñata, symbolically “breaking into a new future.” At 2 p.m., Mayor Ken Miyagishima and Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Smith will present an award of six new trees to a local elementary school, the winners of a poster contest.
From there, there’s almost too much to cover. Spread throughout seven blocks of Downtown Las Cruces will be 30-some hours of art and demonstrations, live musical performances and dancing, panel discussions, symposiums, yoga, poetry readings and more – for a complete schedule, visit www.oyecruces.weebly. com/ schedule- of- activities. html.
Ultimately, Lozada- Johnston and the organizers of ¡Oye! hope the festival serves as a firm community commitment to becoming an eco-city – but just what does that entail?
A few brief qualifications include: alternative transportation; green construction; recycled water systems; carbon- free energy; creative food production; alternative energy on new buildings, and conversions for old buildings; and a commitment to human ingenuity and cooperation.
Moving forward, Lozada- Johnston said each year, with the return of the festival, “I’d like us to re-declare ourselves going toward an eco-city – the first eco-city in the Southwest – then each year before the festival, that we celebrate all the things we have accomplished through declaring that and devoting ourselves to becoming an eco-city. That seems piein- the-sky, but with all the people we have been connecting with and the innovation that is already available here in our own town we are able.
“We need everyone involved to realize we’re all in this together. We need to learn how to become a community again.”
For more information on ¡Oye! Celebrating Visions for the Future, visit
www. oyecruces. weebly. com.
Zak Hansen can be reached at zak@lascrucesbulletin. com.