Conversations about the wall – Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro cactus is what most people think of when they try and picture the desert. They grow to be 16 feet high or so and some are a couple hundred years old.   But as adaptable as they are as adults, the first few years can be quite a struggle for them. Seeds are often spread by javelinas which also provide the fertilizer. Next the tiny plant must be shaded by a nurse plan. Then the Gila Woodpecker provides assistance by eating decaying flesh allowing the cactus to heal and providing a nest for the woodpecker and later for bats, insects, owls, raptors, rodents and other woodpeckers. These nests in the cactus can be 30 degrees cooler than outside.

Unfortunately, javelinas are stopped by the wall. Check it out on internet. There are lots of pictures of them pacing in front of a section of the wall trying to get through. So the Saguaro is indirectly affected by the wall but also by poachers who sell the tiny plants and changes in the environment caused by farming, grazing or other types of development. Many times several years go by without a new plant surviving. Without new plants many other species will not survive the conditions of the desert. Javelinas, cactus and the Gila Woodpecker are intertwined. But without the javelinas and cacti other animals such as the jaguar, mountain and wolf would also perish. Why aren’t we being told this story in our news about the building of the wall? Again thanks to Krista Schlyer and her book Continental Divide.


Conversations About the Wall – At least 7,000 people led by one coyote crossed the border on bicycles.

AT least 7,000 people led by one coyote crossed the border on bicycles.  This occurred in a place outside of Tijuana where triple fences had been built and sensors were placed in the ground.  Because if the incentive is strong enough nothing can stop people.  This information came from the Book The Coyote’s Bicycle,  written by Kimball Taylor.

The coyote had come from Oaxaca and had wanted to cross himself.  After being robbed and then used to recruit others who wanted to cross he spent time just watching the border and crossings.  He realized the sensors were built to detect running.  So smooth riding bicycle tires didn’t set them off.

The farmers on the US side keep finding hundreds of bicycles.  They were recycled first to Hollywood pictures and finally and way above the cost of a new bike bought by the military to set up a staged villages for training because of their patina.  You have to read the details yourself.  An amazing true story.

The walls were built even though it was a fragile environmental area and had originally been designated as set aside to preserve species, but after an act was passed to be able to ignore anything environmental;  the canyons and wetlands were covered over.  So the animals and plants died, but the people still crossed.  We know at least 7,000 came by bicycle because the bikes could be counted.  Many others crossed as well.

A community that had existed where even communion was passed through the border walls was destroyed as well.  Who profited.  Only the construction companies.  Everyone else lost yet we hardly heard about it.

How many people cross into Canada illegally.  I’m sure some, but other than during the Vietnam war there has been little incentive.  Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to simply change our laws.

If there were no jobs waiting for them they wouldn’t come.  They know if they make it in they will be hired.  And they are needed.  Ask the Georgia farmers who couldn’t harvest all their produce last year.  Lets make laws that let them come in documented to work for specific companies and fine the companies that don’t comply.  Instead of hiring more border guards hire people to find these companies that are breaking the law.  If there are laws to allow companies to hire legally and compensate fairly we won’t need a wall.  People not chosen to come here and work won’t have the incentive to come illegally.




Conversations about the Wall – Sky Islands

Sky Islands are a unique environmental zone all to themselves.  Animals evolve within the specialized climate of a high mountain area and are separated from any other mountain top by the desert below.  The animals can only exist in that climate.  They cannot descend into the desert below nor cross to another Mountain top so over time they evolve into separate species.  This environmental difference is because for each 1,000 foot gain in elevation, the temperatures decline three degrees.  The Mountains also intercept the clouds causing more rainfall than on the surfaces below.  Therefore there are no other collections of animals like them anywhere in the world.  Well worth protecting and studying.

According to the Book Continental Divide “Private individuals, non-profits, and borderland governments are piecing together a workable eco-system for mountain lions, bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bear and many other species that have historically roamed the sky islands and flatlands of the Chihauahuan Desert.”  Yet we have passed laws that provide for building the wall without thought for environmental issues.  All the money and hard work of years for an environment that can never be replaced for an ineffective way to stop illegal passage.  How I want to go see them before they are gone and maybe do some little thing toward their protection.

Conversations about the Wall – Value?

The painting above is of a stream in Kings Canyon National Park.  It has value.  This value can be established by the number of tourists that visit and the amount of money that they spend. That is how we assign value in our economic system.  Under this system wild places have no value.  If tourists don’t see it and we derive no resources from it then we can’t assign a value.  Words are powerful.  We are now defined as Human resources.  A resource is a commodity that can be used to produce money.  Maybe by allowing ourselves to be called human resources we are allowing employers to ask for more hours, not paying interns but counting on them to supply free labor instead of training them and having people harvest our food while treating them poorly.

In order to create our National Parks people need to care.  The public was made to care about Yosemite by the wonderful photographs of Ansel Adams.  The public caring that much protects the Park from legislation that would take it away.  However, that much caring also means the park is so crowded that is being damaged by too many people and it feels much more like a museum than a park or a wild place.   I visited this summer for the first time and couldn’t believe how artificial it felt.

No one seems to care about the plants and animals we will lose in building a wall.  But then few people visit the line where the wall will be built except in cities where wildlife has already been overwhelmed.  How many people know there are sky islands.  Each has its own ecological system with rare birds, plants and animals found no where else.  The wall would cut all of these islands in half.  These islands do not produce anything counted in the Gross Domestic Product.  They have no numerical value in our economic system.  We have not developed a vocabulary that gives them any value at all.  Yet we will loose something that can never be replaced.  Declaring it a National Park would not help as the hoards of people would also damage the ecology.  We have to learn to care to protect something most of us will never see.

What will sooner or later count in the GDP is the change in the environment of farms near this system when it is destroyed.  But then it will be too late to care.  Please look up sky Island and understand their worth.  Much more than I can write in a blog.

PS.  Two more Jaguar have come into the US since my blog about them.  But if cut off from Mexico and others of their kinds they cannot survive for long.

Wall Conversations take on Water

“There are two Easy Ways to Die in the Desert:  Thirst and Drowning.”  From the cover of the book The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs.  The wall of course is being built in the desert so I read this book to understand the desert as it always has been and will remain; although we live it in and try to change its ways.  Once of the most striking thing I read was that stream beds that are dry in the day often have water at night because the trees near the stream, use the water during the day for the chlorophyll process and at night when that stops the stream fills with water.  That is rather a magical though to me.

Different organizations map the water holes throughout the desert.  He states that there  are no people here because they die.  From the book “As in stories I have heard from Mount Everest, where bodies of climbers are dispersed among glaciers, bodies here are turned to bones and spread across the sand and gravel and in the rocks.”  Then he tells of imigrants being left to die with not enough water while trying to cross the border; but then most of us know that but try not to think of it.

But the book is also filled with stories of exploring hidden caves full of water and incredible water falls when it rains.  And of course the floods when it rains and how people who have lived here their whole lives are sometimes still caught by how fast a wash can become flooded.  Terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

The other book Was Divided Waters by Helen Ingram, Nancy K. Laney, and David M. Gillilan.  The book was written in 1995 so some of the information was dated.  However it gave me knowledge about the politics of water in a city divided by two separate governments and the different ways that they solve problems.  Also how community development, housing and economics are so different in how they are valued, assigned and carried out and how they also affect water.  Finally the results water passing back and forth across an international boundary.

In Mexico everything is owned by the Central Government and they determine what happens even on a local level.  In the past water was seen as a right of everyone and people often felt they shouldn’t pay for water service.   In the United States things like water are locally controlled.  People assume they will pay the utility companies for bringing water into their home and taking away the sewage.  Local Utilities will cut off supply if a resident does not pay while in Mexico they are more lenient.

So Governments have a hard time talking to each other as employees of local jurisdiction from the US have a hard time getting the attention of similar employees in the Central government of Mexico.

Add to this that the US builds maquilas in the mexico and pays the works a very low wage.  they work six days a week.  In 1993 the pay for an unskilled workers including all vacation pay and fringe benefits was just over $4 a day.  Further the Maquilas pay little tax to help the community where they are located and one of the reasons they are located in Mexico besides the low pay rate is the lack of control on the environment.

So we have factories that pollute and many people who work in them that cannot only afford the water they need to live they cannot afford to have a sewer.  The water collects and flows not south further into Mexico but north into the United States but first it pollutes the ground water and many shallow wells.  The wells are further polluted by chemicals and then used to clean vegetables and fruits headed into the United States.  So  if you are so inclined to think that they reap what they sow and if they can’t control this problem they deserve the consequences you may want to think again.  I did some updated research and found that the United States has since built a water cleaning station that cleans the water from both sides of the border.  So if you think about it; American taxes  are being used for cleaning up after the maquiladoras which are in fact built by Americans who don’t want to pay taxes in the United States.

Another thing that was fascinating was that employees of these factories spent 30 percent of their earnings on the US side of the border.  Of course then they could walk through holes in the fence and not bother with officially going through channels.  Once that because more difficult the economic benefits slowed down substantially.

So while we all know water is the basis for life and that it can sometimes be beautiful and sometimes deadly; I didn’t realize all the political ramifications of it crossing a border.







In Further conversations about the wall – The Disappearing Jaguar

How little I know about the natural world and it seems I’m not alone.  I thought the majority of Jaguar were black.  Seems that is a very rare mutation.  So how could I be expected to know that we only have one Jaguar left in the United States.  El Jefe was 7 years old when the article I read was published sometime last year.  Their life expectancy is 12 – 15 years so he is middle aged and no female in sight to mate with.  Maybe one will still find him before the wall cages him in for good.

The USFWS estimates that the wall will “potentially impact” 111 endangered species, 108 species of migratory bird, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands.  See report http://www.outsideonline.com/2075761/trumps-wall-threatens-111-endangered-species.

Let’s just look at wolves.  We have brought them back in several Western States to the North.  But near the border?  A wall would cut off populations of wolves north and south of the wall.  Populations are down to just 100 or so in the area just north of the wall.  Only a few dozen are south of the wall.  This is a genetic bottleneck.  This is too small of a population for healthy breeding.  I saw a documentary on how adding wolves changed an entire environment.  So wish I could remember the name but at the time I wasn’t trying to write a blog.  What I learned was that top predators are needed to maintain a balance. I’m not a scientist; just an artist trying to get people to care and do more research on their own.