Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

border walls and habitat fragmentation

I am not a fan of borders. I’ve written about it before. Many of the issues with the enforcement of borders are social. It is about power, about control. Denying access to some groups of people gives others more power.

Drawing a line on a piece of paper and fighting wars to maintain that as your territory means that despite treaties and agreements signed, the country upstream (who happens to have nuclear weapons en mass, and who has proven themselves to be more than willing to use those weapons) can decimate the Colorado River leaving nothing but a polluted trickle for their southern neighbors. That it destroyed a formerly fertile delta and bird estuary was merely a side-effect of the political power play of water control.

Some people are threatened by the trickle of people crossing the border “illegally”. Mary posted about this, and described some of the pampered rich folks who are threatened by those taking jobs they wouldn’t deign to work themselves. Jobs that are worked by people who are so desperate for the paltry opportunities in this not-so-golden land that they will risk death in the harshest deserts of this country in order to come here and work these crap jobs in horrible conditions. And so a wall is being built. Or, I should say, another wall. The existing walls have not been effective in keeping people the politicians like to call “illegal” out of this country, but the facts were ignored.

That wall is expensive.

It has the obvious associated monentary costs, of course, a budget laughably large and still overrun, but it also has what I’ll call a democratic cost. As in, democratic process is not being followed in the raising of the wall, which cedes yet more power to the government and the corporations who run it. There is a social cost, as there is with any border, but you need only look to the mental impact of the Berlin Wall on the people of both West and East Germany to see that there is a greater social cost when there is a wall guarded by automatons with machine guns to enforce the rules of that wall.

Ron sent me a few links, and asked if I’d post them. One of them is a blog that is pretty clear in its stance, No Border Wall, and which is doing a good job of looking at a multitude of issues surrounding the wall.

While the walls built along the U.S./Mexico border since the 1990s have done tremendous environmental damage, they have not saved any human lives. Chertoff cannot point to a single terrorist who has attempted to cross the U.S./Mexico border, much less one turned back by a section of border wall. It has not even reduced the number of undocumented immigrants who enter the country each year seeking work. Four months before Chertoff claimed that if we do not build walls we must be “prepared to pay human lives,” the Congressional Research Service issued a report which found that the border wall “did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border.”

And the final impact, which most people ignore, but which is of high importance to animal rights activists, is the devastation these walls have on the animals themselves.

Habitat fragmentation is a big part of this.

For visual proof of what happens to the animals, visit Demarcated Landscapes and see that Mountain Lions are getting stuck at the wall. And snakes get stuck too.

And here’s why: it isn’t just the big critters being harmed. The Sierra Club film has video of a whip snake that tells us that even the little guys are confused by the wall. Particularly awful is the knowledge that just a few meters hence, there was a “wildlife window,” a small gap in the fence designed for these types of species. How would a whip snake know such a thing? Instead, it just tried and tried and tried the same spot.

The Sierra Club has a video out about the impact of this wall on the wildlife.

Habitat fragmentation is deadly, and has profound impacts on entire populations and ecosystems. This wall that is being built is costing human and animal lives. It isn’t about security or even about immigration. It is about power.

I heard someone talk about his experience at a No Borders camp at the Mexicali/Calexico border in November of 2007. It was moving, and fascinating all at the same time. For a variety of reasons. Believe in borders or not, I think everyone can learn something from what these activists have to say.

The US Mexico border is a place of much conflict, suffering and tragedy. The death rate along the border is truly alarming. For the past seven years, a rough average of 500 migrants have been found dead on the border every year. Upwards of 4000 people have died trying to cross this border since 2000. And even this figure is a low estimate, as it accounts for only those people whose bodies have been found.

To put this in perspective, far more people have died on the US/Mexico border since 1995 than were killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September the 11th, 2001. Another pungent comparison is that more people have died on the US/Mexico border in the last eight years than throughout the entire 28 year duration of the Berlin wall. If statistics are at all to be believed, the US/Mexico border since 2000 has been 300 times more fatal to Mexicans than the Berlin wall was to Germans.

On a string stretching all around the camp on the US side, four thousand small white flags fluttered in the desert wind, each representing a migrant casualty of the border since 1995. For the campers, each small piece of cloth was a reason to be there, a reason to put themselves at risk, a reason to show their opposition to this ongoing tragedy and express and embody their desires to build a world without the borders that cause it.


4 responses to “border walls and habitat fragmentation

  1. Ron Kearns September 24, 2008 at 6:31 pm


    Thank you for covering this subject and for adding your own perspective.

    Good luck with your bike commute that can be hazardous with so many poor automobile operators on roads with which you must share.

    I still do not have an update from the USFWS regarding the mountain lion EA.

  2. Deb September 24, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks for bringing the issue to my attention!

    I was going to ask if you’d heard anything regarding the mountain lion ea. Hopefully they’re busy researching! (naive, I’m sure)

  3. Pingback: Smite Me! [.net] » Blog Archive » When “isms” intersect: Wild Versus Wall

  4. Pingback: » Blog Archive » When “isms” intersect: Wild Versus Wall

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