H. Bruce Rinker: Walls for Nature, Bridges for Opportunity



H. Bruce Rinker

For politicians set on trimming budget excess and perceived necessities, there is hardly a more embarrassing boondoggle in a federal budget than a $100 hammer, a $640 toilet seat, and a $7,600 coffeemaker, but what about a $70 billion band-aid? Yet that is what President Trump has proposed repeatedly to American taxpayers without bona fide justification, yet with the nagging fervor of a mad dog egotist.

The proposed border wall is absurd, unethical, backwards, anti-environment, divisive, irresponsible, ill intentioned, unjustifiable, and nothing more than a band-aid for what it is supposed to fix. No matter its construction and dimensions, his wall will not keep people out.

Its possible construction has already been called a “pharaonic project” with an estimated price tag of $70 billion. Where will all that money come from? Of course, from the pockets of American taxpayers. As it turns out, Trump’s wall is just another half-baked boondoggle from Washington – a very, very expensive band aid.

Americans ostensibly elected Trump for one of his presumptuous campaign promises to create a spending plan to strengthen the Nation’s aging infrastructure. How does a wall address that promise? It does not but instead pushes us deeper under water with our national debt now soaring over $18 trillion – not including the costs of recent storms and wildfire damages.

Why not spend that $70 billion on post-storm reconstruction, health care, tax reform, and assistance to America’s poor, disadvantaged, and suffering? Doing so might build bridges of opportunity across the Nation.

State-supported walls are expensive, sinister ways to demonize the world and to spread isolationist bigotry.

Jeanette Winterson, a writer and professor from the UK, wrote, “Walls protect and walls limit. It is the nature of walls that they should fall.”

Remember this – if Trump’s wall is built after all, then some popular, progressive, and socially responsible world leader will have just cause to utter the reproachful words that echo from decades ago: “Mr Trump, tear down this wall!”

“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.” preached Joseph Fort Newton (1876-1950), minister, professor, and writer focused on world order and abiding peace.

Trump’s proposed border wall will likely threaten delicate desert ecosystems and cause serious environmental damage throughout the border region.

But wait!

How do animals and plants migrate over, under, and around such construction?

What about jaguars, pronghorn, ocelots, wolves, rare desert reptiles whose migratory habits depend on unencumbered movement in the desert? Not to mention wilderness plants with their delicate reproductive cycles impeded?

If the United States must build this wall, then let us base its construction on ancient proven biological principles – for example, bio-mimicry that provides a generous porosity operative in many natural barriers.

Often the most enduring and relevant human inventions are those based on natural structures and processes. For example, let us consider the Tamiami Trail in southern Florida a busy roadway that connects Tampa to Miami (thus the name) and traverses a wildlife-rich part of the state. Its construction included underground wildlife corridors to allow alligators and panthers to pass unharmed from one side of the roadway to the other. Its porosity mimics the permeability of natural membranes by also allowing the movement of organisms and water.

Can we apply this kind of thoughtful planning for ecological connectivity to Trump’s 2000-mile-long border wall? His administration has already engaged in a zany array of discussions with private for-profit companies to proffer prototypes devoid of ecological considerations. When we fight against or overlook the natural world, Nature has a knack for fighting back to remind us harebrained humans that we are not the ultimate authority. Let’s slowdown and exercise wisdom in our approach to such an expensive band aid.

Another Trump promise was to eliminate the national debt in 8 years. “I’m going to keep my promises, added Mr. Trump.” Time to pay the piper or to show the piper how we can afford Trump’s billionaire tastes – well in advance of a single slab of wall on the ground. He has promised over and again that this or that is going to be beautiful. Careless political twaddle. He is the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet. Now it is time to show us how he intends to lead us across bridges of opportunity.

Biographical Sketch: H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D., is a forest ecologist, science-educator, and conservationist living in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. He is also the founder of Bioquest Solutions LLC, a multi-service environmental consultancy at home and abroad. Bruce may be reached at [email protected].