Discussion: The River And The Wall

The River and The Wall follows an immersive adventure of five friends journeying through 1200-mile-long wilds of the Texas borderlands from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. This glossy travelogue highlights the region’s varied fauna and scenic splendor while touching on topics like immigration, conservation, and border security—as well as the then much-ballyhooed border wall.

Throughout history, the US has taken drastic strategies to protect its citizens and territory from varied dangers ranging from drug and weapon smuggling to terrorism to illegal immigration. These measures range from policies adopted to increments of boots-on-the-ground along borders to control immigration to the US. Among these multiple measures, erecting physical barriers has been for many a time found as a sound solution for protecting US borders. The US-Mexico border has, for instance, been subject to various fence construction projects to deter immigrants from crossing over. For instance, President Clinton’s administration oversaw the construction of fences along sections of the south border under Operation Gatekeeper in the ’90s (Stephen, 2018). Similarly, President Bush and his administration came in and approved the construction of a fence running along the border from San Diego to Tijuana.

This trend of constructing border fences continued further. The Obama administration took on where previous administrations had stopped and did what they could. After that came Trump’s administration, in which the construction of a much larger and fortified border wall was a primary campaign selling point. In 2017, Trump’s administration signed an executive order directing the US government to begin erecting a federally-funded border wall. This order came with many legal and logistic challenges. However, by the end of Trump’s administration, over 400 miles of border wall had been constructed, with most being replacements of outdated or dilapidated barriers.

Nonetheless, border wall construction along the US-Mexico border has been a contentious issue in which different stakeholders have sided with diverse motivations. Majorly, proponents have cited reasons such as national security, immigration control, drug smuggling control, and job protection as primary reasons for supporting the construction of a US-Mexico border wall. For instance, a statement by Trump in 2015 described migrants as people who bring with them problems and drugs and are criminals (Adelman et al., 2017); that their immigration to the US is an onslaught to the US itself (Nevins, 2016). Through such assertions, proponents for the construction of a border wall, therefore, argue that the wall is essential in ensuring national security and public safety, particularly with regard to controlling illegal immigration into the US. They contend that a border wall is necessary to regulate the number of immigrants who cross into the US unlawfully.

Despite all the above, questions remain regarding the efficacy of the border wall and the primary stated problems the wall is presumed to safeguard against. Majorly, the deterrence of immigration of people from countries south of the US has been a critical selling point for building a wall on the US-Mexico border. Nevertheless, that argument has not been universal, with opponents to the border contending that these barriers have been far from practical at controlling illegal crossovers to the US. The film reinforces this notion that the US-Mexico border wall is more or less an enormous boondoggle in that it is expensive work that will not serve the purpose effectively. Evidence is inadequate to convince that the wall can completely prevent illegal immigration from Mexico. Stephen (2018) notes that walls built on the US-Mexico border have only funneled migrants into desert corridors, which have perilous weather and geography that expose those migrants to suffering and death as they try to cross over to the US. Additionally, these walls, coupled with the increase of Border Patrol agents by the start of the previous decade, have only led to smugglers changing their smuggling tactics and skills but not necessarily deterring illegal crossovers to the US (Stephen, 2018). In the film, Austin Alvarado climbs a section of the 20-foot-high fencing on the border in mere seconds, illustrating that the fence would do anything but deter someone from crossing over.

In addition to failing to thwart undocumented migration to the US, the documentary predicts that the wall will have unprecedented effects on the surrounding ecology, particularly on the US side. Many critics of the wall concur that the surrounding environment will be adversely impacted after the wall is erected. These critics (for instance, Beto O’Rourke and Will Hurd, who appear in the film) cite several issues that will result from the wall’s construction, including interruptions to people’s everyday lives and land usage, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. In terms of environmental concerns, it is essential to remember that a border wall will jeopardize the regional ecosystems, which include varieties of plants and animal species that rely on the US-Mexico borderlands for water and food. The film emphasizes the consequences of erecting the US-Mexico border wall on the natural environment, especially along the Rio Grande River. This river is a significant component of the US-Mexico border and has vast, rich, and diverse ecosystems. Constructing the wall along this river will primarily disrupt the natural habitats of various plants and animal species along the river and adjoining wilderness. Specifically, animal migration routes across the river, the Big Bend Ranch State Park, and Big Bend National Park will be obstructed. This will result in a significantly unbalanced ecosystem adjacent to the border. Erecting a wall could threaten this area’s biodiversity by fragmenting habitats and limiting the ability of species to migrate freely. More so, people whose lands are adjacent to where the wall is constructed will lose an enormous part of these lands, resulting in their livelihoods and land use being disrupted.

Furthermore, immigrants have historically made up a sizable portion of the labor force in the US. In the secondary labor market, where job qualifications and wages are lower, immigrants, especially foreign-born Latinos, offer a lucrative competitive advantage as cheap labor, leading to many employers preferring to hire them (Adelman et al., 2017). Immigrants have thus had a significant impact in several areas, frequently filling positions that native-born Americans may have left open. Undocumented migrants’ willingness to labor in fields like construction, services, and agriculture has helped these sectors fulfill their demands and has boosted the economy as a whole. This dynamic labor force has been crucial in sustaining sectors that rely on an affordable and flexible workforce. Since the economic contributions of migrants are evident, they need not be regarded as criminals. Adelman et al. (2017) write that despite some exceptions where immigrants are affiliated with crime, immigrants have a lower propensity for criminal activity and commit fewer crimes on average than native-born Americans. Most of these migrants choose to migrate illegally because they are escaping gangs, wars, and dire economic situations in their country to find greener pastures in the US (Frank-Vitale & d’Aubuisson, 2020); others are escaping the culture of impunity, for instance, femicides in Honduras (Blume et al., 2023). Criminalizing all undocumented migrants and erecting a wall at the US-Mexico border to deter them from crossing over is thus not the best solution. It will only reduce the availability of a vital labor force, potentially stifling economic growth and undermining the diverse contributions migrants make to the nation’s prosperity.

Thus, the documentary The River and the Wall focuses on the contentious topic of border barriers and their effects on the environment and people both north and south of the wall. The effects of the US-Mexico border wall on the environment and humanitarian issues are covered explicitly in the movie. In sum, the film challenges its audience to consider the arguments for and against building a border wall.

References

Adelman, R., Reid, L. W., Markle, G., Weiss, S. & Jaret, C. (2017). Urban Crime Rates and The Changing Face of Immigration: Evidence Across Four Decades. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 15:1, 52-57. DOI: 10.1080/15377938.2016.1261057.

Blume, L., Meza, D., & Heath, P. (2023, January 31). Honduran Women Leaders in the Crosshairs. NACLA Report on the Americas.

Frank‐Vitale, A. & d’Aubuisson, J. J. M. (2020). The generation of the coup: Honduran Youth at Risk and of Risk.

Nevins, J. (2016). How US Policy In Honduras Set The Stage For Today’s Mass Migration. The Conversation.

Stephen, L. (2018). Creating Preemptive Suspects. National Security, Border Defense, and Immigration Policy, 1980-Present. Latin America Perspectives, Vol. 45, Issue 223, p7-25. DOI: 10.1177/0094582X17699907

Analyzing The Triumph Of Life: Insights Into Animal Evolution

Watching the Triumph of Life (6). The Survivors documentary and learning about the evolution of animals in land and water habitats has been an exciting and interesting experience. The authors provide an in-depth view of animal evolution and factors that have influenced different animals to evolve or go extinct. Most importantly, the animal documentary affirms that survival of the fittest has been the rule for the jungle and water habitats for more than a billion years ago. Therefore, with the ability to cope with unexpected disasters, various animals have dodged natural and human-led disasters, including storms.

According to the documentary, the story of life and extinction is the story of evolution. For example, animals such as giraffes, lions and cheaters have evolved following the extinction of dinosaurs. The extinction of dinosaurs allowed these animals to thrive in the habitat due to immense accessibility to food and predators for the new inhabitants to hunt. The previous dinosaur preys have also multiplied significantly, creating a new life for plants and other animals to thrive through pollination and predation.

Additionally, with the extinction of animals such as dinosaurs and plants, the animal documentary suggests that fossils of erosion and rocks open the window to the past. Rock arrangements and fossils help humans deconstruct the features of extinct animals and habitats of the past world. The narrator assures us that fossils are the only way we can study and discover animals that ever existed, while most of life’s secrets are still hidden in the rocks. Therefore, with the continuous extinction of animals, fossils and rocks give a glimpse of the animals and their physical characteristics.

It is also notable from the documentary that as animals evolved and new animals populated a habitat, many animals were phased out due to intensive predation. However, to resist extinction, highly predated animals have developed new and evolved escape and predation techniques. For example, as stingrays and crabs evolved with strong and sharp claws, they increasingly predated animals with hard shells, such as clams. As a result, clams evolved with new escape techniques, such as burying themselves in the sand when stingrays approach. Therefore, with the evolution of animals and predation, techniques prey develop fight and escape techniques to survive and resist extinction.

Additionally, the animal documentary emphasizes the long-term survival of animals and the risks of extinction, especially among animals with a narrow variety of food supplies, such as cheaters. The narrator argues that if at one point gazelles outrun cheaters or if gazelles become extinct, cheaters will be at high risk of going extinct. However, animals such as aardvark are at no risk of extinction because they depend on ants, which are in great supply. Less choosy animals are also fit for survival. Animals such as crocodiles feed on birds, among other animals. Their habitat is also safe, helping them escape from fire and storms.

Lastly, the animal documentary mentions that human activities and natural disasters, such as landslides, have encouraged animals to evolve. They also congest habitats, encouraging other animals’ survival while discouraging others’ survival. For example, the narrator mentions that dodos lost their ability to fly when they landed in a safe habitat with plenty of food on the ground. He also mentions that human invasion of habitats exposes animals to risks of floods and fires among other risks.

In conclusion, the narrator assures that humans have the knowledge to save the animals remaining in land and water habitats. They should leverage to make life and nature bounce back. I also believe it is our responsibility to leverage resources and expertise in protecting and restoring various animal habitats to create a greater supply of food and water.

References

Flight2016. (2015, April 17). Triumph of life (6) the survivors – video dailymotion. Dailymotion. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4510s9

The Catastrophic Impact Of Ecocide

Ecocide is defined as any unlawful activity conducted in the full knowledge that it will cause invariable short-term or long-term harm to the earth. Thanks to ecocide, many people are experiencing climate extremes and sicknesses caused by widespread overexploitation of the planet. The repercussions of ecocide have been experienced by the intense and prolonged heat waves experienced in North America in the past three decades. The United Nations calls ecocide a crime against humanity because it undermines people’s ability to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The migrations that communities have experienced worldwide due to drying rivers and lakes are due to the far-reaching consequences of ecocide and its ability to disrupt water dynamics. This essay argues and proves that ecocide is occurring across the earth by giving evidence of the damage to oceans, deforestation, consumerism, water pollution, and soil and air pollution.

The oceans remain out of human sight because many people are unaware of ocean dynamics or live far from oceans. Ecocide happens in the seas in many ways and not only interrupts the existence of flora and fauna but also undermines the lives of people who depend on the oceans for their livelihoods (Filho et al., 2023). Overfishing undermines the lives of fish populations because they cannot procreate. Overfishing also precludes fish from grazing, exposing coral reefs to algae overgrowth. Still, it destroys the food dynamics for communities near fishing grounds. Sometimes, fishing uses unconventional methods like blast fishing, which destroys fish habitats like coral reefs. Ocean mining has also caused considerable environmental damage, especially when oil spills kill fish by inhibiting air from penetrating the deep seas. When the carbon footprint is increased, carbon dioxide dissolves in oceans, which reacts with carbonates to form acids, destroying coral reefs and making fish unable to access their habitats.

Deforestation is also another way in which ecocide is instigated on the planet. Deforestation undermines access to clean air and food because the trees used to provide clean air and food are undermined. In the Amazon rainforest, the atmospheric rivers, caused by large-scale condensation, are shrinking, meaning that indigenous communities in the Amazon cannot live the same way they have been living for years (Raftopoulos & Morley, 2020). Still, these trees are being cut to clear it for large-scale agriculture, like the planting of oil palm, which not only inhibits carbon sequestration but has also led to the murder of many indigenous people who do not want to give up their lands for agriculture. Deforestation is also caused by intensive livestock farming, where forests are destroyed to create spaces for planting grass. Similarly, arson in forests, which has been increased due to dry undergrowth, has caused increased heatwaves, leading to the migration of animals and human beings.

When animals such as birds migrate, areas that used to be forests become inhospitable for people because humans cannot stabilize the ecosystem like wild animals. The destruction of forests is also caused by mining, significantly when forests are cleared to develop habitats for miners and to extract minerals. Because pristine forests cannot be substituted, the decline of forests due to agriculture will stabilize climate extremes and increasingly expose indigenous communities (Raftopoulos & Morley, 2020). Forests have evolved for years to attain competence in balancing weather patterns and cleaning the air. Deforestation is, therefore, ecocide because its consequences cannot be easily managed or reversed. Deforestation is, therefore, the antithesis of climate protection and global warming because of its proclivity to undermine existing systems. This way, the destruction of pristine forests acts as a form of resource depletion and is ecocide because it permanently disrupts the ecosystem.

Consumerism is another cause and evidence of ecocide because it means that natural resources are no longer exploited to benefit those who need them but to create luxury and convenience. Many of the foods that are usually processed do not get consumed and end up in rivers, lakes and oceans, thereby increasing the plastic footprint in the ocean. Consumerism is the cause of overfishing because it undermines the reason why people seek resources and seek to benefit customers and investors instead of the climate. In many areas that used to be occupied by rainforests, there has been a proliferation of large-scale monoculture of plants like oil palm due to its ability to be used in sweet products that seek to embellish the lifestyles of people (Calvão et al., 2021). Consumerism shows how the damage done to the environment can be intentional and could seek to benefit the lives of people who live far away. Consumerism, like the large-scale monoculture of soya beans for export, shows how individuals who keep the earth safe can be victimized to favour people who live far away. Thus, consumerism amounts to ecocide because it leads to a point where people who benefit from manufactured products are insulated from understanding the broader impacts of their activities.

Ecocide has a high propensity to make numerous places in the world to be unlivable for centuries. Many mining projects are going on in many countries, disrupting the existence of flora and fauna through soil pollution. However, many people have reasoned that technology has the power to bail humans out of ecocide. There are many questions that such thinkers fail to ask themselves. For example, people must question who owns the technology, who controls it, what its uses are, and whether they are positive or not. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, cobalt mining has increased cancer rates for individuals because of the disposition of cobalt waste on rivers and land (Calvão et al., 2021). In regard to soil pollution, ecocide is propagated because some groups of people do not consider themselves equal to others. Therefore, international cooperation and inquiries about the consequences of soil and water pollution hit snags because low-income communities are not considered equal to high-income communities.

Moreover, air pollution is the most common example of ecocide. Free market capitalism has led to the most incidences of air pollution because many companies that manufacture products and release them into the air are also owned by influential people (Juliana v. US, 2016). Air pollution also poisons the atmosphere and increases the chances of people being infected with lung cancer. Rapid urbanization has increased the number of cars, resulting in increased carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere. Nuclear disasters like the Chornobyl disaster also increased pollution in the air in Ukraine and some parts of Europe. Up to this time, Pripyat town has been deserted, and the animals living there have been consuming contaminated food caused by air pollution. Radioactive releases and nuclear disasters poison the air and make places inhospitable for many years (Mousseau, 2021). Air pollution is ecocide because it can potentially poison the earth, making places inhospitable for many years.

In summary, ecocide not only describes the atrocities that have been committed against the planet but also shows the reaction of ongoing activities that undermine the dynamics of the ecosystems. The earth’s wellness depends on stabilizing the water cycle, forest cover, oceans and the air. Coral reefs may not be visible to humans, but their existence significantly impacts the survival and the balance of the earth’s dynamics in regard to food chains and human values. Ecocide significantly undermines humanity and can make people more ferocious against each other in the struggle for scarce resources. Still, pristine forests are irreplaceable since they protect the earth against forest fires and breathe clean air into the atmosphere. Deforestation has crippled the functionality of the Amazon rainforest and has exposed indigenous communities to capitalistic predators who want their land for cultivation. Lastly, ecocide related to soil, air and water pollution has been widely caused by increased consumerism, which has the potential to make some humans look less vulnerable.

References

Calvão, F., Mcdonald, C. E., & Bolay, M. (2021). Cobalt Mining and The Corporate Outsourcing of Responsibility in The Democratic Republic of Congo. The Extractive Industries and Society8(4), 100884. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2021.02.004

Filho, W. L., Wall, T., Salvia, A. L., Dinis, M. A., & Mifsud, M. (2023). The Central Role of Climate Action in Achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Scientific Reports13(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-47746-w

Juliana v. US. (2016). Juliana v. US, 217 F. Supp. 3d 1224 – Dist. Court, D. Oregon 2016. Google Scholar. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12759102942089888368&q=Cases+of+ecocide&hl=en&as_sdt=2006

Mousseau, T. A. (2021). The biology of Chernobyl. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics52(1), 87-109. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-110218-024827

Raftopoulos, M., & Morley, J. (2020). Ecocide in the Amazon: The Contested Politics of Environmental Rights in Brazil. The International Journal of Human Rights24(10), 1616–1641. https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2020.1746648