Only the very stupidest designer of defensive fortification would contemplate building a castle wall while draining the moat that encircles it.
Only the very stupidest American president would press to build a defensive wall along our southern border with Mexico even as his policies help drain dry the Rio Grande that parallels it.
Of course, as a moat, the Rio Grande was only a modestly efficient barrier to illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S., just as the penetrations of our border by migrants seeking work or a better life created an even smaller dislocation in the lives of most Americans, our national society or our economy. Even, in the days before the Great Recession of 2008, when a booming American job market was a magnet drawing twice as many border-crossers as we have today, no one in his right mind would have claimed the immigrants threatened America’s national security.
The vast misappropriation of federal money and national attention on a concrete or steel summation of racist hostility, and sheer yellow-legged panic, damages American dignity and diverts dollars from much more urgent needs like infrastructure, education or medical care, but Trump’s wall will not destroy the planet.
Trump’s energy and environmental policies – encouraging more dependence on fossil fuels like gas and oil and, most ridiculously, coal; removing regulations protecting the purity of America’s air and water; withdrawing from the global movement to mitigate global warning – all do threaten our future and all will complicate the lives of our children, grandchildren and their descendants.
President Trump has chosen to shut the federal government until he gets $5.7 billion for a wall most Americans don’t want and enough Democrats in Congress can constitutionally reject. The shutdown in itself adds a flurry of small-scale insults to the more serious injuries Trump is inflicting on nature, and on man’s attempts to understand and defend it.
No state is losing more on a per capita basis from the federal shutdown than New Mexico. Only the national capital Washington D.C., its economy almost entirely based on government spending, has been harder hit.
As in D.C., New Mexico’s losses are mostly measured in unpaid salaries and unfulfilled contracts, but unlike the capital city, the Land of Enchantment is suffering from vital services un-rendered and important protections un-executed. The shutdown here is leaving landscapes blemished and – deadly for an eco-tourism-dependent state – inaccessible.
Laura Paskus is an environmental reporter with long experience in New Mexico and the Southwest. She currently files regular reports for the Environmental Project of the New Mexico Political Report and is writing a book that’s based on a year-long project, “At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate,” done for New Mexico In Depth. Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera America, Ms. Magazine, Indian Country Today, The Progressive, Columbia Journalism Review, and High Country News, where she also served as Assistant Editor.