Memories and lessons learned

Archive for August, 2011

Brand new day, Brand new purpose

When I started this blog a year ago, it was for Jay Rochlin‘s multimedia class. This semester, I’m a part of Border Beat, a student-run online news publication about border issues, also run by Mr. Jay 😉

In thinking about what I wanted my blog to focus on, I considered the many controversies surrounding US-Mexico border – SB1070, drugs, weapons, crime, NAFTA, public health issues, women’s issues, amnesty and immigration policies, etc. There’s an endless list. But what I don’t tend see a lot about is environmental issues along the border. So in order to educate myself and my readers (all 3 of you!) on the enviromental issues unique to the border, my blog is going to focus on just that.

My first story for Border Beat will be about the border fence and how recent flooding caused by a storm has damaged a 40 foot stretch of it. Controversy over the fence has been ongoing and encompasses a wide range of issues, including environmental ones. The natural ecology of the area the fence cuts through impedes animal migratory patterns as well as acts as a dam that collects water and waste at the border. With enough rain the dam will flood, like it did on August 7, and sections of the fence can be washed away. Well done, DHS! We live in the desert, how often are we going to have to worry about a storm strong enough to take down the next section of fence anyway? As long as the smugglers don’t wise up to the fact that they just need to watch The Weather Channel and wait for the next storm before they can smuggle in the next batch of immigrants, guns, and drugs into the country, we’ll be just fine.

The damaged portion of the fence is located at Lukeville, AZ at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The Monument was created in 1937 in an effort to preserve a segment of the Sonoran Desert. Now with the border fence running along the edge of the national park, a host of new problems are being introduced to the area. Given that the Department of Homeland Security is more concerned with illegal immigration and drug trafficking, it’s no surprise that preserving the ecosystem was not a top priority.

Earlier this year, students at the University of Arizona banded together to protest the border fence by building a mock fence that cut across the main campus. For a more in-depth look at the mock border fence project, here is a link to the story I wrote about it in the Tucson Sentinel .

Another issue I’d like to examine in the course of this semester is the impact of this summer’s wildfires on the ecosystem and how a recent study claims that thinning heavily forested areas is the best way to ease future wildfires. While some argue that clearing away brush and thinning the trees to 50-100 trees per acre, the opposing arguement is that thinning the forest is only effective if it’s applied to massive areas of forest.

Also, I’d like to look at how waste from maquiladoras affect the border areas. Industrial waste from the many factories that characterize the US-Mexico border region has adverse effects on the water and soil as well as the health of the factory workers.

With the abundance of issues to focus on along the border regarding environmental impact and sustainability, I’m sure I’ll have my hands full this semester. I’d love to take a few trips down to the border myself and explore the wildlife, talk to the people that live on both sides of the fence, and maybe even come up with a suggestion or two for how to improve the environmental conditions. But maybe I’m just dreaming big under the beautiful desert sky…