The first time I heard about President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, I thought it was funny.
The entire premise of Trump as president was hilarious, and his signature statement “build the wall” was the perfect example. It was divisive (literally), and it was outdated; far more illegal immigration comes from people overstaying visas or coming in through airports than just walking across the border.
It was Trump’s entire political strategy embodied in one large, expensive and unnecessary hunk of concrete.
I was half expecting him to spray paint it orange and add a yellowish hair substance to cover the barbed wire at the top of it, thereby creating the Trump Wall in his own image.
But as the idea of a Trump presidency has gone from joke to actuality (even though the reality of his presidency has basically been a joke), the wall has become an impending reality.
UW graduate student’s art allows people to travel across the border in Humanities“Seeking Asylum,” a master’s art thesis exhibit by J. Leigh Garcia, gives viewers the opportunity to see what it would be Read…
The wall is a foolish idea for a number of reasons. It is extremely expensive, with a report from Reuters putting the price tag at around $21 billion. (Someone explain to me how he can possibly afford that while cutting taxes.) It will not prevent the large amount of illegal immigration that comes through airports and ports or people simply overstaying their visas.
But in honor of Earth Day, coming up on April 22, I am going to highlight a lesser-discussed drawback of Trump’s border wall: its environmental impact.
The 654 miles of fence and wall that exist on the U.S.- Mexico border have already seriously impacted the environment around it. Jaguars and ocelots, two of the most exotic animals in North America, have seen their populations “cut off, isolated, and reduced” by the walls and fences according to Vox.
The walls and fences already along the border have also caused a large amount of “erosion and flooding in border communities, as well as a roadblock for natural movement of wildlife across the border,” according to Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.
If the existing walls and fences have already created such a negative impact, imagine what Trump’s wall will do.
Furthermore, construction of the border wall itself would contribute to global warming. Production of cement, one of the main materials needed for the wall, will lead to large emissions of greenhouse gasses.
For these reasons, the center for biological diversity and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, R-Arizona, have filed a lawsuit against Trump’s administration on the grounds the “Department of Homeland Security is obligated to draft a new environmental review to examine the impacts of the wall and other border enforcement activities,” according to The Hill.
The Department of Homeland Security last drafted an environmental review pertaining to the border in 2001.
Most people understand Trump’s wall is probably not the most economically efficient way to curb illegal immigration. And at the end of the day, economics is the easiest way to appeal to people. But it is important that we not just consider the monetary cost of a border wall, but also the environmental one.
A Native American proverb states:
“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”
Maybe we should amend it to say only when all the beauty has been driven from the border region, the final village flooded and the last few jaguars have died will we realize we never needed this stupid wall in the first place.
Eric Hilkert ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in finance.