The Destruction Caused by the Border Wall Is Worse Than You Think


This story makes me think of the mentality of destruction. Put a human and shovel together, and the human digs. Put a human on a bulldozer, and the two together destroy. The digging may have nefarious purposes and it might be destructive, but even if it is, the damage is relatively insignificant. We can’t say that about the bulldozer. What does an engineer think when he plans where the bulldozer scrapes? What does the politician think when she/he approves the plan, or sees images of its outcome? What does the driver of the bulldozer think as she or she watches the blade of the bulldozer destroy everything in the way? I have a hard time imagining how a moral person can allow any of that to happen.

Excerpt from this story from the Sierra Club:

As shocking as the Trump administration’s most recent demolition of the desert wilderness has been, scientists and Interior Department officials say that it is just a continuation of the destruction that has been unfolding for years as US-Mexico border militarization has intensified.

Archaeologists Rick and Sandy Martynec are among those who have witnessed the erosion of environmental protections firsthand. For the past 25 years, the Martynecs, independent researchers, have been conducting archaeological surveys in Arizona along the US-Mexico border. In a roughly 20-by-20-mile stretch of desert, the husband and wife team has documented more than 600 distinct archeological sites, ranging from 10,000-year-old Paleo-Indian campsites to O’odham farming villages inhabited as recently as the 18th century.

As they’ve documented the rich historical and cultural records, the couple has seen a fragile desert ecosystem become a casualty of US border policy. About two decades ago, when the Martynecs were doing survey work in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge at Las Playas—a series of dry lakebeds that once filled during the summer monsoon season—they frequently encountered wildlife, including coyotes, mountain lions, and more than a dozen bird species such as hummingbirds and owls. The pooling of the water in the lakebeds, which lie on both sides of the border, has sustained this unique desert environment.

But they have also observed something else: As the number of migrants coming across the border increased in the early 2000s, so too did the roads within the refuge, 90 percent of which is designated wilderness. Small, rarely used dirt tracks were becoming well-traveled multilane roads used primarily by Border Patrol agents. In the post-9/11 period, Border Patrol was granted expansive new powers and funding to police the border. In one instance, Rick Martynec measured a frequently used Border Patrol “corridor” that was at least 200 yards wide. “Until you actually see it, walk it, it just can’t be imagined,” Martynec said.

The new roads have begun to change the way water moves in this part of the Sonoran Desert. Now when seasonal rains occur, the water no longer flows into the playas but often runs in torrents along the roadways. “Almost every conceivable water source has been choked off by roads and by dams,” Martynec said.

This has had a devastating impact on the region’s ecology. Entire groves of mesquite trees and vegetation surrounding the playas have withered. The birds and mammals have largely disappeared. Martynec said that they haven’t seen a coyote out there in five or six years. The biologically complex desert soil—which was once home to ephemeral grasses and small trees and which can take decades to recover once disturbed—looks like a cracked moonscape. Around 2010, after completing their archaeological research in the region, some of it carried out on behalf of the Cabeza Prieta refuge, the Martynecs wrote a separate seven-page paper titled “The Death of Las Playas?”

The end of the story has an interesting perspective:

Due north of Las Playas is the Growler Valley, one of the most remote and deadly routes for migrants traveling through the desert. For the past several years, the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths has enlisted volunteers to leave water and food at various locations within the refuge.

But the Trump administration, with assistance from the Fish and Wildlife Service and other land-management agencies, has begun to crack down on their activities. At one trial, a federal judge said that the activists had undermined “the national decision to maintain the refuge in its pristine nature.” Earlier this year, four members of the group were convicted and several more currently face trial for, among other things, violating the Wilderness Act.

The Destruction Caused by the Border Wall Is Worse Than You Think