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The Wall And Ecology

Readers, don’t forget that I’m traveling today, headed to Spain. A lot of the posts you will see over the day will have been written in advance, and scheduled to post. Please be patient about my approving comments. I’ll get to them as I can, between flights.

Here’s an interesting email from a conservative reader:

I agree with you (and Trump, and Cesar Chavez) about the need to reduce immigration and control the border. But the wall is an asinine idea. One of the things that ought to concern us most is its impact on the migration of wildlife.

Desert ecology is fragile to begin with, and man has enormously screwed up that country already, mostly through carelessness and ignorance. But we are getting better and better at understanding it an fixing the problems we created, but the wall will be a big barrier (pun intended) to those efforts (I moonlight as a professional ecologist and have helped with restoration projects for bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope in the transpecos — a wall would screw up both populations and many others). And I’m convinced it will have a negligible impact on smugglers willing to invest in a robust saw or a plasma torch.

The wall is just a dog whistle meant to rile up the base. The immigration solution has to do with better policy and more personnel / enforcement.

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85 Comments To "The Wall And Ecology"

#1 Comment By Eric Blair On January 12, 2019 @ 12:07 pm

Normally, Rod’s comment sections are full of insight and critical thinking. But, to compare the desert along the US/Mexico border with the Negev? Do people here seriously think all deserts are the same? i guess they all just have big boulders, one coyote, one road runner, and access to the Acme mail-order catalog.

#2 Comment By kijunshi On January 12, 2019 @ 1:34 pm

Ugh. The wall seems to have made people lose their minds. I include the left in this, however…

“The Wall is a rallying symbol.”

Clearly, because that’s the only way it makes any sense.

“Only gullible city slickers would fall for the argument that a wall… is going to restrict wildlife movement.”

Uh… if wildlife can get through… so… can… people…???? ? ?

“The Big Bend area is sufficiently remote and the geography is forbidding to make it a lower priority.”

Smugglers will find a way.

“The wall doesn’t do all the work by itself. It has to be manned with armed personnel and maintained by professionals over time.”

And this will cost taxpayers HOW much??!? Also, do you realize you just proposed another gov’t bureaucracy?

“Obviously this has be balanced against the damage done by the illicit border traffic.”

This equation would compare “damage” with “extinction”. Oh, and how much DAMAGE are all those minimum-wage guards going to do, driving and tramping up and down around the wall?!

“My own opinion is the wall will be started and abandoned, like all those roads to nowhere and unfinished hospital in Iraq.”

Truth.

“Having said, do we have any more realistic solutions to border enforcement/security that don’t involve wholesale amnesty and providing more Democrat voters and cheap labor to Big Biz?”

YES. You can do, y’know, IMMIGRATION REFORM. Starting with asylum reform, since that’s what people seem to be frothing about the most (and because it encourages putting children in danger) and go from there. If it’s going to be done right it has to be done carefully, slowly, and within the existing system. Think about it – what’s going to happen if our existing system fractures, from whatever cause (like maybe gov’t employees not getting a paycheck HMMM JUST AN EXAMPLE)? Is it going to be harder for smugglers to exploit gaps to get their people through… or easier? Use your minds. If it isn’t an organized and, yes, bureaucratic method used, the economic benefits of coming across the border will bring the masses over. Refer to “The Drug War” for an example of how it’s gonna go. 75,000 dead from heroin overdose in 2017… are we winning yet?!

The real elephant in the room which this stupid discussion hasn’t even touched is that Americans actually LOVE illegal immigrants. Not their presence, of course, but all those sweet services we can get for cheap, cheap, cheap! All that lawn maintenance, elder care, hotel maintenance, farmhand work and more… for less than minimum wage, wa-hoo! More money to spend on mortgages and Alexa!

This argument isn’t even about the immigrants, though of course they are the ones forced to suffer the most. It’s about what responsibilities Americans have to each other, and especially to our own local poor. This wall, even if it gets completed (it won’t), won’t stop illegal immigration, won’t stop economic devastation and stratification, won’t stop communities changing in the face of economic devastation and stratification, and won’t bring about a single thing its proponents are praying for.

Buckle up, though – recession is coming.

#3 Comment By Steve On January 12, 2019 @ 6:08 pm

I’ve lived some of my life along the border, and have visited essentially all of it. The topography will cause constant maintenance problems. As has been reported for the National Butterfly Center near McAllen, the US will essentially have to cede many square miles of US property to Mexico. The ecological loss will be priceless. Many business will be hurt.

And, I recently read that drones with the ability to carry a person are only a few years away. What then?

The ecological loss of a wall would be priceless.

#4 Comment By Dale McNamee On January 12, 2019 @ 7:05 pm

I wonder if those who are so concerned about the “desert ecosystem” ever saw the pictures of the trash and filth left by the illegal aliens who pass through it ?

It’s quite disgusting !

John Gruskos is absolutely correct regarding the Israeli wall and the fact that it, along with the actions of Israel and Egypt actually saves the ecosystem.

#5 Comment By Moe On January 12, 2019 @ 9:06 pm

“The immigration solution has to do with better policy and more personnel / enforcement.”

Riiiiight. And now that one of our major parties is pretty much committed to the “borders are racist” position, you can be certain that they’ll be keeping those policies in place when in office. They’d never think of quietly defunding ICE or telling the border patrol to stand down.

The whole point of a permanent physical barrier is that it permanently changes the facts on the ground. The elites of both parties want the border more or less open, with a free flow of low-skill workers to exploit. The only politically feasible chance of a long-term restriction on illegal immigration is to put something in place that cannot easily be taken down.

Policy doesn’t cut it. More agents don’t cut it. (as useful as it would be to have those things as well). A permanent wall/fence is the only thing that would survive the next Dem administration.

#6 Comment By Tom S. On January 12, 2019 @ 9:53 pm

The Israeli border fence isn’t in the Negev or Sinai.

#7 Comment By midtown On January 13, 2019 @ 7:05 am

I expect the wall will crash deer and antelope populations and cut off a lot of income these ranchers might get in hunting fees.

Well, that is certainly more important than the thousands of Americans killed by illegal immigration through drunk driving deaths and outright murders. Good lord — have some empathy, as the libs say.

As for most illegals being visa overstays, why is it that, when a case like the recent drunk driving illegal who wiped out a family appears, the illegal has been deported 15 times? Are you saying he overstayed 15 visas?!!

#8 Comment By JonF On January 13, 2019 @ 12:30 pm

Re: Americans actually LOVE illegal immigrants. Not their presence, of course, but all those sweet services we can get for cheap, cheap, cheap!

How many Americans employ illegal immigrants and pay them crap wages? I suspect that number is a fairly tiny percent of the total population, and concentrated at the upper end of the income spectrum.

#9 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 13, 2019 @ 1:10 pm

“Fran, we are not adding people from some alternate universe. Those people already exist and they already h as ve an effect on the world’s environment. It’s not like Mexico is inhabited by hunter-gatherers.”

If you’re a no-borders kind of guy preserving what we had is of no importance. How are the environmental regulations in the Third World?

The person who claims to love far away mankind, often fails to love the neighbor right next to him as he should, in practical ways.

“I love mankind, it’s my deplorable neighbors I can’t stand.”

#10 Comment By John Gruskos On January 13, 2019 @ 1:55 pm

[1]

The healthy ecology on the Israeli side of the fence can be seen from orbit.

#11 Comment By Tom D On January 13, 2019 @ 3:48 pm

midtown: “Well, that is certainly more important than the thousands of Americans killed by illegal immigration through drunk driving deaths and outright murders.”

That might be relevant, were it actually true. In truth, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than citizens — and by quite a margin, too.

So the issue, apparently, is that liberals fail to show sufficient sympathy for a hallucinated, non-existent crisis. Got it.

#12 Comment By Harve On January 13, 2019 @ 4:50 pm

midtown says:

“Well, that is certainly more important than the thousands of Americans killed by illegal immigration through drunk driving deaths and outright murders. Good lord — have some empathy, as the libs say.”

That idea seems to have come from the racist, nativist Steve King:

[2]

Moe says:

“Riiiiight. And now that one of our major parties is pretty much committed to the “borders are racist” position.”

Name one person who has said borders are racist.

When one is talking about land it’s often useful to go on Google Earth and actually compare and contrast. The Negev is a postage stamp compared to area along the Rio Grand:

[3]

#13 Comment By anon On January 13, 2019 @ 7:26 pm

Pius X:

“I never saw or heard of any environmentalists making a case that Mexico should take responsibility and clean up that River. Seems like ecologist are only interested in the environmental sins of the USA.”
This from a wuick web search…there’s more but why pile on?

In 2006, through another binational project, Mexicali finished building a second wastewater treatment facility to treat the 10 to 20 million US gallons (38,000 to 76,000 m3) per day of raw and partially treated sewage that was being discharged into the river. In May 2005, the New River was designated as one of two environmental justice water quality pilot projects for the State of California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to try to address the various pollution sources collaboratively between the various stakeholders.[14]

#14 Comment By anon On January 13, 2019 @ 7:36 pm

“And now that one of our major parties is pretty much committed to the “borders are racist” position…”

Please. Under Obama immigration laws were more stringently enforced than under W. Bush, and Democrats consistently vote for border security measures and E-Verify.

Republicans cannot agree within their own party on an immigration policy, and while they’re attempting to blame Democrats for their own disarray we should not forget that funding a wall is a budgetary issue, and thus could have been funded with the rest of the budget. It was not even requested in the budget because Republicans are not in agreement about it.

#15 Comment By TG On January 13, 2019 @ 7:49 pm

Agreed that the wall by itself hardly means anything. What’s the point of a wall when anyone coming up to it can be granted ‘asylum’ and let through no questions asked? And legal immigration and ‘guest’ workers continue to set records?

But your concern about the environment is rubbish. Post-1970 cheap-labor immigration policy has already increased the population of the United States by about 100 million more than it would have been with the pre-1970 policy. Important: it is not the number of foreign born that matters, it is the total net increase in population due to specific immigration policies. You have to count the descendants as well.

So since 1970 the per-capita energy use of the United States has fallen by 15%. But, immigration has more than offset this! This environmental cost of this alone makes the issues of a border wall moot.

And as far as immigration not increasing global population but only moving it around, this is first and foremost irrelevant as regards the impact of massive forced population increases on the United States. It is also false, as every person we let in from the overpopulated third world just reduces the pressure in their home countries and allows them to continue breeding in massive numbers.

So at current rates, a person born today could easily see the population of the United States forced up to a billion or more. What would be the environmental impact of that, do you think?

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 13, 2019 @ 8:19 pm

The Israeli border fence isn’t in the Negev or Sinai.

More precisely, in areas of dense population where there is some pattern of violence and hostility, a fence can be a useful means of keeping hostile populations apart, or keeping the hostile fraction of each population from infiltrating each other. So fencing between Tijuana and San Diego could make sense, as one tool, but thousands of miles are not cost effective, or effective at all.

#17 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On January 14, 2019 @ 10:38 am

@kijunshi

“The real elephant in the room which this stupid discussion hasn’t even touched is that Americans actually LOVE illegal immigrants. Not their presence, of course, but all those sweet services we can get for cheap, cheap, cheap! All that lawn maintenance, elder care, hotel maintenance, farmhand work and more… for less than minimum wage, wa-hoo! More money to spend on mortgages and Alexa!”

Who’s “we”? Surely not the consumer of these “sweet services”? I don’t see any prices dropping. On the other hand, SOMEBODY, is pocketing the difference. Guess who?

#18 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On January 14, 2019 @ 10:49 am

@Fran Macadam

“An oversupply of cheap undocumented labor is reducing living standards for legal immigrants and citizens.”

Let’s call this an “inconvenient truth”. That the progs choose to ignore one of the basic lessons of Economics 101 says far more about them than it does about people like you or me.

#19 Comment By TR On January 14, 2019 @ 12:41 pm

I don’t think you do the environment any good when you use ecological arguments for political purposes.

#20 Comment By One Guy On January 14, 2019 @ 3:08 pm

It’s funny to me how many Trump supporters it takes to explain what he really meant. “He didn’t mean Mexico would write a check.” “He didn’t mean the wall would cover the whole border.” “He didn’t mean there wouldn’t be people on the wall everywhere.” “He didn’t really mean thousands of terrorists were stopped at the border.” “He didn’t really mean he’d lock her up.”

Apparently, people who have never talked to Trump know exactly what he is trying to say.

#21 Comment By Harve On January 14, 2019 @ 4:46 pm

John Gruskos says:

[1]

“The healthy ecology on the Israeli side of the fence can be seen from orbit.”

Gaza is not the Negev. Those are crop circles on the Israeli side made possible from wells. Follow the satellite view on google earth from Rafah to Taba to get a better view. If you click on the Nitzanei Sinai settlement you can get a a couple of photos of the fence separating Egypt and Israel.

The only way to build that sort of structure from the Gulf to the Pacific would be to in effect cede many square miles of U.S. territory. We fought a war to make the Rio Grand a national boundary and now conservatives want to abandon it.

Fencing in a few areas is necessary but most of that has been built. I was raised to see fear and emotion as weaknesses to be overcome not given into. Anyone seeing the present situation as a crisis that requires us to seize private land, destroy public land, and militarize the border needs to get a grip.

#22 Comment By jay kalend On January 14, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

What tosh, Rod! You might suggest draining Lake Powell to bring back Glen Canyon, a natural wonder that is drying out and losing water anyway.

Or you might look at the money LBJ spent on a far less meritorious project: diverting the Rio Grande,

[4]

#23 Comment By Noah172 On January 14, 2019 @ 8:49 pm

Harve wrote:

The Negev is a postage stamp compared to area along the Rio Grand

And the US has ~40x Israel’s population and >50x Israel’s GDP. We can handle the larger scale.

How about Saudi Arabia fencing its border with Iraq? Turkey walling its Syrian border? Pakistan fencing its Afghan border?

#24 Comment By Harve On January 14, 2019 @ 9:38 pm

TR says:

“I don’t think you do the environment any good when you use ecological arguments for political purposes.”

Care to point out where Rod’s correspondent and others pointing out that the wall would be an environmental disaster are wrong?

#25 Comment By John Gruskos On January 15, 2019 @ 12:06 pm

“The only way to build that sort of structure from the Gulf to the Pacific would be to in effect cede many square miles of U.S. territory.”

Ceding a few border districts is a small price to pay to prevent Mexico from demographically reconquering the entire Southwest.

Indeed, we Americans are faced with the imminent demographic loss of not only the Southwest, but also the original American homeland north and east of the Adams-Onis line.

A treaty ceding untenable areas to Mexico in return for $30 billion could be the mechanism by which we make Mexico pay for the border wall.

#26 Comment By Harve On January 15, 2019 @ 5:17 pm

Noah172 says:

Harve wrote:

“The Negev is a postage stamp compared to area along the Rio Grand”

“And the US has ~40x Israel’s population and >50x Israel’s GDP. We can handle the larger scale.”

Which observation misses what I assumed was an obvious point and why I suggested a trip via the google earth.

Population and GDP are irrelevant as most of the U.S. population is far away from the southern border and the issue isn’t cost per se as much as the effectiveness relative to other means of border control and the externalities (seizing private land and environmental damage).

“How about Saudi Arabia fencing its border with Iraq? Turkey walling its Syrian border? Pakistan fencing its Afghan border?”

I guess I’m getting old but there was a time when conservatives in the United States didn’t aspire to our nation blindly aping autocrats, dictators, and failed states.

Hey! We could mine the border too! Would that ease your all important fears? Anyway, there is no comparison between the situation on our borders and the referenced ones. Terrorists crossing the border turned out to be a lie. Drugs go through ports of entry for the most part and that is where funding should go. Learn to play which of these is not like the others.

As I pointed out before, surrendering to fear is a character defect. There is a problem at the border. So what? There has been a problem at the border since Polk decided that the Rio Grande and not the Nueces was the border and that fighting a war to expand slavery was a good idea. There is less of a problem now then there was a few years ago and Pancho Villa is long dead.

[5]

We spent decades in the 20th century destabilizing Central America because folks like you were hysterical about communism. Now you’re hysterical about the immigrants that policy has produced and we’re supposed to throw away billions, tear up the landscape and seize private property because you’re scared due to the easily foreseeable results of your prior failed policies?

#27 Comment By JonF On January 15, 2019 @ 8:24 pm

Re: Ceding a few border districts is a small price to pay to prevent Mexico from demographically reconquering the entire Southwest.

The Mexican immigrant population is fairly stable, in terms of coming and going– and yes, being right next door many of them leave as well as come. Most of our increase in Latin American population comes from further south: from Central America, and to Florida by sea and air from the Caribbean and South America.

#28 Comment By Noah172 On January 15, 2019 @ 9:06 pm

Harve wrote:

I guess I’m getting old but there was a time when conservatives in the United States didn’t aspire to our nation blindly aping autocrats, dictators, and failed states

You made a point that Israel is small. I could have brought up Hungary or some of the other European countries that have used fencing effectively in the wake of the Merkel-inspired Muslim invasion, but I thought that you would pull out the small objection again. I named those other countries not because of their forms of government but because of their larger geographic sizes. Also, their major population centers are FTMP far away from the fortified (or being fortified) frontiers, to counter your remoteness objection.

I could have also mentioned Jordan, a monarchy but one of the relatively more liberal Muslim governments in the region, which is building barriers on its Syrian border with funds from you and me, first approved in the Obama administration. Object to that? Did you even know?

Drugs go through ports of entry for the most part and that is where funding should go

A majority of drugs seized are at ports of entry. We don’t know what we are missing. We are apparently missing a lot, given the heroin and fentanyl problems in this country. Moreover, the lethality of fentanyl and Mexican heroin (whose extreme potency the book Dreamland discussed) is such that even small shipments have enough doses to kill astonishing numbers of people. If the traffickers were carrying bombs that powerful, you’d take more seriously the risk of allowing even a few of them to slip past, versus the Lord-knows-how-many number we are failing to stop now.

We spent decades in the 20th century destabilizing Central America because folks like you were hysterical about communism

Folks like you got some nerve denouncing anyone else for hysteria about the Russkies. The USSR was NBD, but a few thousand bucks for dank memes on Facebook is equivalent to Pearl Harbor and 9/11? (That’s actually what you people say.)

#29 Comment By Q On January 16, 2019 @ 3:05 am

John Gruskos : “we Americans” ? Says the Fidesz Bot. Give me an effing break.

#30 Comment By JonF On January 16, 2019 @ 5:46 am

Re: We spent decades in the 20th century destabilizing Central America because folks like you were hysterical about communism.

Havre, I can’t recall if Noah ever checked in on this matter, and at least one of the restrictionists here (M.Young) is strongly opposed to US foreign interventions. Maybe it would be best not to impute ideas to people without knowing how they feel.
And sine I’m in a quibbling mood (I’m up, grumpily, at 5:30am because I have to catch a flight to Florida), US meddling of a baleful sort in Central America ling antedates the Cold War.

#31 Comment By Harve On January 16, 2019 @ 3:32 pm

Q says:

“John Gruskos : “we Americans” ? Says the Fidesz Bot. Give me an effing break.”

Good catch!

JonF, present views of some conservatives are irrelevant to my point. We largely created the present situation in Central America. You break it, you own it. After WW II we took in lots of displaced persons (one of my neighbors was in the Wehrmacht). I’m aware of filibusters, Walker, United Fruit, etc. but Arbenz could have been a reset and we blew it and then we did the Contras, etc.

Noah, I’m an American, I don’t aspire to imitating fascist Hungary or middle eastern monarchies. Seeking to hunker down behind a “fortified” border that isn’t needed strikes me as inconsistent with our better values.

Folks are folks. When I blew a cylinder head in the middle of nowhere in the winter it was a Mexican truck driver who picked me up. I’ve lived around immigrants, documented or not, for many decades. NBD.

You are willing to seize other peoples land and destroy our public lands because you’ve allowed a grifter to manipulate and scare you. That’s no way to live.

#32 Comment By Noah172 On January 18, 2019 @ 9:18 am

Harve wrote:

I’m an American

Which means you live in a country which already has some border fencing and has had it for a number of years. By your moral reasoning, America is already a fascist despotism.

I don’t aspire to imitating fascist Hungary or middle eastern monarchies

See how you are moving the goalposts? “Walls don’t work… OK, they do work, but only bad countries have them.” But that is not true, either, unless you consider Israel evil, or how about all these other countries?:

[6]

Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Austria, Slovenia, India… fascist despotisms, all of them?

I repeat, Barack Hussein Obama approved funds taken from your pocket to build a border barrier in Jordan. Is Obama a fascist?

I’ve lived around immigrants, documented or not, for many decades

“I know some nice foreigners, therefore all foreigners are nice.” So much for progressives caring about facts and logic.

I bet you have met some nice people who hold conservative views on abortion, marriage, and guns. Hasn’t changed your mind about those issues, has it?

Immigration is at root two questions: Who? How many? Whether this individual from such-and-such country or that individual from a different country are nice is irrelevant. There are seven billion people in the world outside the US. Unless you say they can all live here, then you concede there must be limits, and thus some foreigners have to hear the word “no” — “No, you can’t come to America, or stay here. Too bad, so sad, go home.”

Thinking — actually, emoting — like yours is why people like me say people like you favor open borders.

You are willing to seize other peoples land

It’s in the Constitution. And spare me the crocodile tears. You don’t object to eminent domain to build roads, schools, and other public facilities. You don’t object to whatever private land may have been seized to build the existing fencing we have on the border. You don’t object to the fencing provisions that were in the 2013 amnesty bill, for which every Senate Democrat voted and which Obama endorsed. You are not fooling anyone.

and destroy our public lands

Illegal migrants leave tons (literally) of trash on these lands, as well as urinate, defecate, start campfires, and trample over sensitive flora. You do not know what you are talking about.

#33 Comment By Noah172 On January 18, 2019 @ 4:12 pm

Harve wrote:

you’ve allowed a grifter to manipulate and scare you. That’s no way to live

You are unable to refute my use of facts and logic, so you go for emotional button-pushing and armchair psychological evaluation.

#34 Comment By Harve On January 20, 2019 @ 2:57 am

Noah172 says:

“You don’t object to eminent domain to build roads, schools, and other public facilities.”

How do you know that? What I object to is unnecessary and wasteful projects of any kind and when the state seizes private property a high standard needs to be met. All you’ve done is assumed what I don’t object to without any actual knowledge. Fencing may be necessary in urban adjacent areas but there aren’t any jaguars and antelope in urban areas.

You clearly aren’t on-the-ground familiar with the desert and mountain west. The west is full of debris from all sorts of human folly. Ever almost stepped into an abandoned mine shaft? I have more then once – they sneak up on you and they are all over the place. Walk up a canyon and discover an abandoned mining operation – trammel and all? Collecting old bottles and using metal detectors is a thing and one can find all sorts of interesting items.

There is no comparison between litter here and there and bulldozing a wall with the accompanying road and other infrastructure stretching from coast to coast.

What is critical are the areas along water sources and migration routes between the mountain ranges on both sides of the border. We can easily fly drones day and night and use sensors in these remote areas.

“…so you go for emotional button-pushing and armchair psychological evaluation.”

Possibilities are limited. Either you are unfamiliar with the terrain and its ecology or you are and don’t care what damage to that environment a wall would do. Even Trump admits that a coast to coast wall isn’t in his project. One doesn’t need to be a shrink to know that fear and anger are what drives this issue on the right.

Now, you keep returning to comparisons with areas where there is armed conflict and terrorism or areas where fascism has returned. Since the former isn’t an issue with our border and the latter is opposed by all good people, fear – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror – seems a reasonable choice re: motivation. As Rod’s correspondent noted, the wall is a dog whistle to rile the base and it seems to have worked with some.

Oh, and this is yet another example of a thoroughly screwed up system run by thugs:

[7]

#35 Comment By John Gruskos On January 25, 2019 @ 6:41 pm

“Fidesz bot”

Nonsense. I am an 11th generation American, and my views are far to the right of Fidesz. “Q” and “Harve” need to be less paranoid.

“fascism has returned”

Since when does immigration restriction + Christian cultural conservatism + non-interventionist foreign policy = “fascism”?

Eisenhower, Coolidge, Harding, Arthur, Fillmore, Adams – all “fascists”?

“nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror”

On the contrary, immigration restriction is a perfectly rational expression of national self-interest.