Deer stopped at the U.S./Mexico border. Photo courtesy of The Sierra Club.

By Cindy Haverkamp, Creation Care Connector

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” – I Corinthians 12:24b-26a

There is a proverb: “good fences make good neighbors.” American poet Robert Frost, sharing a story about two neighbors walking their fence line on a spring day in the poem “Mending Wall”, expressed his disagreement with this proverb saying, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”

Now in these contentious times, it is likely that there are neighbors of both sorts reading this story, but I share this story to bring to light an area that we may all agree on: building a wall that increases the chances of unique and beautiful animal species going extinct is a terrible idea.

The problem with walls

Plans to build a physical barrier along the entire US/Mexico border will have far-ranging impacts – dividing families of all sorts – human and animal – and wreaking environmental havoc. According to an article in Courthouse News, the 650 miles of border infrastructure already in place has destroyed animal habitats and migration patterns while causing dangerous environmental impacts like flooding and erosion.

Worse, according to the Sierra Club, the Secretary of Homeland Security has been granted the power to waive any law he or she sees fit that conflicts with border wall construction. Former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff set aside 37 laws – everything from the Endangered Species Act to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – in order to permit the construction of the border wall.

Endangered species such as the jaguar, Sonoran pronghorn and ocelot have been separated from their home territories and from potential mates who might strengthen their gene pool because of walls built by humans. Humans may be able to cut holes in border walls or use ladders, but animals cannot. It is not just human families and communities that are bisected when we build walls, it is entire ecosystems.

A solution

What’s a great antidote to human wall-building? Building bridges or tunnels! In 2004, the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition formed in Seattle, Washington with the goal of developing solutions to wildlife/car collisions happening far too often along Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains. Fifteen years and $6.2 million dollars later, the first of over 20 planned animal overpasses and tunnels has been completed and is in use!

Completed wildlife crossing between the Hyak and Easton exits on I-90 in Washington state. Photo courtesy of Washington D.O.T.

Deer and coyote have already been spotted on the animal crossing, safely moving within their habitats while avoiding interactions with humans and their vehicles.

One of many critters spotted on Washington Department of Transportation cameras using the Gold Creek wildlife underpass. Photo courtesy of WA D.O.T.

Humans build walls, and they build roads and fences that separate ecosystems in similar ways. It seems to be in our nature to divide ourselves from one another and from the natural world. But we can also build bridges, ensuring safe passage for creatures deeply stressed by humanity’s abounding presence and the petty battles we choose to wage while living on this planet.

Robert Frost also has this to say about fences in his famous poem: “Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out and to whom I was like to give offence.” Based on the text from I Corinthians above, and on the negative impacts to both human and animal communities that walls bring, I think it’s pretty clear to whom we are giving offense.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I like these thoughts very much. In addition I’d point out that the proposed wall will hurt ranchers, whose cattle cross the border all the time for free range. These ranchers definitely don’t support the wall idea, and they’ll lose many acres to this hairbrained idea.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Kathryn! There are so many reasons why a physical barrier is not an appropriate response!

Leave a Reply to Cindy Haverkamp Cancel reply