Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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RodgersSally Rodgers

Honored October, 2011

Sally Rodgers

Sally Rodgers has been an environmental and human rights activist in Santa Fe for 40 years. She organized the first Earth Day here in 1970. She was the first woman lobbyist in the New Mexico legislature for Population Connection; then, the first full-time environmental lobbyist for what is now Friends of the Earth. She was the backbone of Conservation Voters New Mexico. She was the state’s Environmental Ombudsman for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department under Governor Bill Richardson. Her favorite nickname is “Mother Green.”

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Sally was an only child, strong, athletic and self-sufficient. She fondly remembers summers on a family ranch in Oklahoma, riding horses, and finding that the animals at the ranch were her best friends. As a young person, Sally also developed strong feelings about race and equality that created friction in her family.

In college, she studied art and English. But the person who set her on her path was Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb. After reading the 1968 book (and the references), she organized Earth Day. Next, she volunteered to lobby for ecological and human rights issues: “I kept my eyes open, my ears open, and my mouth closed at first. I learned the rules, written and unwritten. I learned how to get things done behind the scenes.”

As an environmental advocate, Sally has worked in various state roles through previous administrations, from Governors King, Apodaca, and Anaya, to Governors Johnson and Richardson. But perhaps her greatest and continuing role is as mentor for many advocates over the years.

She is proud of her role in requiring safeguards for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), keeping the Rio Grande from being channelized, and stopping aerial pesticide spraying along the rivers.

At this time, Sally’s goals are to teach, research, and write. She is currently involved in a global pilot project, the Zero Emissions Resource Initiative, based on the principles of balance and no waste.

Taking a larger view, Sally’s world is lovingly filled with horses, goats, chickens, cats and dogs—along with ethnic art, folk art, and friends and family. Sally has raised and trained Arabian horses. The family photographs in her home include her adopted Ethiopian family.

Sally’s Ethiopian granddaughter wrote: “To explain her would be like attempting to describe the taste of water. She is a beautiful and wonderful creation, both inside and out.”

Story by Barbara Harrelson

Photo © 2011 by Genevieve Russell