By Toner Mitchell
If you are like me, you don’t pull into a filling station because it sells gasoline produced by your favorite energy company. You go there because it’s the cheapest station on the strip, or because the lines are the shortest, their chimichangas are made fresh every day or, crap, how are you already out of smokes again? Barring these and other situations, the unspoken arrangement between us and the energy companies is that they must supply and we must buy.
It is amazing that, for an arrangement so critical to normal life function in this first world country of ours, we often ignore some paradoxical complexities in our relationship with energy. As a TU chapter president, I have been as guilty of this as anyone in spite of the fact that, for the past three years, our Trout in the Classroom program has received regular contributions from ConocoPhillips. I’ve been grateful, sure enough, but I’ve rarely given it much more consideration than that.
This year, however, is different.
In October, ConocoPhillips decided to fund a watershed health program at Escalante High School in the small town of Tierra Amarilla. This two-year program includes classroom instruction on subjects ranging from water chemistry, stream ecology, and geology to trout biology, behavior, and the cultural history of the Rio Chama Valley, where Tierra Amarilla is located. There will also be field trips to the Rio Chama, where water and benthic invertebrate sampling will be conducted. If nothing else, this program will endow students with the knowledge it will take to sustain their home river and the age old traditions attached to it.
With two field trips under our belt, it’s already easy to imagine what might become of this corner of New Mexico thanks to one company’s desire to make a difference in the lives of young people. I see a functional synchronicity of alfalfa farms and tourism and college educations, children coming home to raise children of their own. I see a new generation of agrarians, hunting and fishing guides, hydrologists, educators and stewards.
What a gift it would be if even a part of such a dream came true. Would I adopt a favorite brand of gas for a chance to make it happen? I’m pretty sure I would.