“Halt Holtec”: A Protest Against Nuclear Colonialism- Iona Vernon

The “Halt Holtec” project aims to highlight and protest Holtec International’s proposed Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) through public art. Iona is working to showcase a design highlighting the geography of the proposed site and the potential environmental detriments of such a facility in an effort to incite action from community members and leaders to halt the construction of CISF. CISF is slated to “temporarily” store the nation’s nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico. This would mean increased transport of nuclear waste across New Mexico’s public thoroughfares and exploit New Mexico as a dumping ground for nuclear energy waste, despite New Mexico not having any nuclear power generators. Iona’s research highlights the environmental racism of New Mexico’s nuclear legacy, from nuclear testing to uranium mining, which has disproportionately impacted indigenous and marginalized communities. The goal of the project is to highlight these injustices, garner public awareness, and halt the construction of CISF by creating a large piece of public art in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The design for the piece was created in collaboration with muralist and UNM alumnus Mick Burson.

Sustainable Farming in the Desert- Kimberly Rupp

A review of the agricultural methods of several indigenous tribes from arid regions with an emphasis on sustainable strategies.  Suggestions on how to integrate those methods into our modern agricultural system are also included. Some of the cultures and tribes included are: the ancient Hohokam culture, Tohono O’odham, inhabitants of the Thar Desert, Comcaac, Pima Bajo, Hopi, and Navajo. 

Image credit: Michael Chiago 

Earthrise Collective- Marco Roybal

Earthrise Collective was conceived, out of the need I see for change in the farming and food production system and to help veterans connect with the earth and begin healing themselves by reclaiming and using ancestral knowledge of farming and land management. Building healthy soil is the best way to trap and keep carbon from accumulating in the atmosphere. It wasn’t until humans figured out how to till the land and add synthetic fertilizers to soil that we started to see an increase in the amount of co2 being released into the atmosphere. This released carbon collects in the upper atmosphere and increases the greenhouse effect on our planet. This has extremely detrimental effects such as global warming and climate change which results in the melting of ice sheets, sea rise, extreme weather patterns and global disasters that threaten the livelihood of all life on the earth. Earthrise Collective strives to locate a plot of farmland that has sat unused for years and restore it to a healthy productive farm capable of producing food that can support the farmers and help to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. We must strive to maintain the environment and keep the earth in a desirable Holocene state, by doing so we take into consideration adopting and enacting planetary boundaries, ways in which we operate within a framework that is safe and healthy for human development and economic growth while respecting the earth and the systems associated with earths biophysical processes and limits. In doing so we can maintain the health and welfare of humans while improving the health of our environment and the earth.

Exploring Feminine Science- Kelsie Herzer

There is an extensive and damaging nuclear legacy that exists in New Mexico with solutions being long overdue. As a native New Mexican and woman of color I am greatly concerned with the environmental and social justice issues that surround the nuclear legacy and believe in the importance of minority voices leading this research. For my Sustainability capstone project, I have volunteered as the lead student researcher on a project in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department as a part of the METALS superfund project. The goal of the research I am conducting is to ultimately provide a report for the Laguna Pueblo community in New Mexico. Agricultural crops, soils, and water has been collected in collaboration with the community in order to determine if toxic metals are absorbed and access the possible health impacts. Ingested uranium has been linked to chronic health issues, such as thyroid cancer. This is why it is crucial to understand what contaminants are present and engineer a plan for remediation. Remediation is the cleaning, or restoration of the environment to previous health. Remediation is contrary to the masculine science and progress that is practiced in our society today, which frames nature as a tool. Remediation looks to nature as a teacher and values worldly relationships. In this way remediation can be identified as a feminine form of science. 

I am also composing a pamphlet for the National History Museum about the basics of uranium, including its history, dangers, and how it can be cleaned/remediated. This pamphlet uses a base level of communication in order to make information about Uranium accessible to the community. This pamphlet in the future with also, hopefully, be translated into Spanish and native languages that are local to the area. This is a long-term project with work and impacts that will stretch far beyond one semesters time. 

Consumption or Consciousness- Eliana Roberts

My capstone project consists of analyzing the connection between mindfulness and how it has the power to instill beliefs of abundance and gratitude. In contrast, a lack of mindfulness has been studied to lead to overconsumption, to trying to fill a void through material items. Mindfulness is a quality I have personally had to develop as I explored methods to deal with anxiety and the tendencies of over-thinking. As I explored this quality and its benefits through practice, I found a change in perspective, a care for larger issues happening within the world, such as our climate crisis and things greater than us. My research focuses on multiple scholars and their studies on mindfulness, including the benefits and the implication for mindfulness in the real world. I am theorizing that the practice of mindfulness creates a domino effect. It reduces consumption, therefore enacts changes to one’s frame of mind, values, and feelings of abundance. In conjunction with my research, Professor Bruce Milne and I have also created an online mindfulness tour around the Rio Grande Community farms. This tour aims at connecting people to nature while exploring and embracing their whole being.

International Students at Risk: The College Experience and Basic Needs Insecurity- Kayla Fugate

My capstone project investigates the prevalence and factors contributing to basic needs insecurity among International Students at the University of New Mexico. It uses data collected by the UNM Basic Needs Project in 2020 after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and examines how International Students at UNM are able to access needed food and housing. My project examines the data to highlight the International Student experience at the University of New Mexico and understand why they experience basic needs insecurity at a higher rate. My deliverable will be an academic poster that reveals the unique challenges that exacerbate their basic needs, including alienation, financial distress, and choosing between education and basic needs.

Growing Roots: Gardening with the Barrett House a Campus for Unsheltered Communities- Natalia Tritica

In my Capstone 499 project I am working with the Barrett House, a transitional housing shelter for women and children.  The focus of my project is to help in rebuilding their community garden which has fallen into disarray due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  As part of this project, I have organized and met with the Barrett House administration regarding the garden intention and raised money to buy the necessary garden materials such as plant starts, seeds, soil, tools, and other supplies to support the garden. Each week during the Spring 2021 semester, I have worked to improve the health of the soil and have begun to plant the garden beds. Another part of this project is working with the Barrett House administration for continuity of the garden area for future growing seasons.  The main purpose of the garden at the Barrett House is to provide a sanctuary space for residents and to provide fresh and nourishing food that the kitchen can use in meals.  A metaphor for this project is how gardens are composed of plants that are often started from seed and transplanted to places where they can develop roots that make them strong and sustain them to grow and thrive.   

Close-to-Earth Cottage: A Holistic Home for Northern Dwellers- Coleen Geraghty

A change to common practices in the construction industry would have a positive effect on the environment and people. To change the industry, people must learn to use and appreciate natural building materials and practices. The comfort of alternative building methods and the affordability of these options are best showcased on a residential home level. However, alternative building technologies are not often synthesized. In New Mexico, the Greater Earthship Community has mastered a synthesized off-grid home for the high desert climate that is tested and repeatable with alternative building methods. No such design exists for cold-climate houses. With inspiration from Earthships, I combined civil engineering and sustainability to analyze multiple alternative building techniques and synthesize systems for a northern climate. This project contains a cost estimate, plans, and other documents for the construction of this home. This Close-to-Earth Cottage is good for people, light on pocketbooks, and beneficial to the planet.

Urban Farming for Apartment Living- Brooke Holland

My Spring 2020 capstone project consists of a living “how-to” guide for an apartment balcony and/or patio vegetable garden, which was implemented and revised several IMG_3544times during the Spring 2020 semester. I bought almost all materials needed for this project from local thrift shops and garden centers, or else borrowed or recycled these materials. This project was executed by seeding eight crop varieties, transplanting those seedlings, and transitioning them fully outside by the second week of April 2020. At every step of this project, I posted all progress and setbacks- as well as solutions to setbacks- onto social media platforms, both Instagram and Facebook (@lillybirdfarms). This project is able to function as a guide for any central-New Mexican residential member wanting a vegetable garden with limited space.

Analysis of Successful Green Brewery- Meli Madrigal

My project is an analysis of what a successful brewery would look like, both in its practical business model and in its physical appearance, if the sustainability three pillarsBlogableSnap model were applied (Economic, Environmental, and Social well-being). I project consists of me laying out the theoretical and practical approaches to creating a brewery that is sustainable in all senses of the word. I also built a 3d model and visual collage to serve as a first draft of what the design of the building could be, both inside and out.