If you've been reading this column for any length of time, you know that nature and the environment are paramount concerns to me. If we don't care for the Earth and the webs of biodiversity that sustain our existence, nothing else matters.
And if you've been reading about the proposed wall at our country's border with Mexico, you may have read a sentence or two about "environmental consequences." But what, really, does that mean?
I ran across an article in Scientific American that discussed this.
A border wall of potentially 2,553 miles — 600 of that already built — would cut through the habitats of more than 1,500 species of wildlife, according to Jennifer R.B. Miller, senior scientist in the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife.
"As they evolved through time, these species developed specific characteristics to thrive in the ecologically diverse landscapes along the border, ranging from extreme desert scrublands to rain-heavy wetlands," she writes.
"Many eked out a living by tracking rare resources along north-south migratory routes by land and air. The breadth of species that thrive in this ecological marvel make the borderlands one of the most biologically rich regions in the world, and an internationally acclaimed conservation hotspot."
"The 600-mile stretch of wall that already exists is an unclimbable barricade for 346 nonflying animal species, not to mention flighted species like the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly and the threatened and endangered ferruginous pygmy-owl that cannot fly high enough to surmount the wall.
"Without passage, animals cannot disperse to new populations to spread their genes, potentially leading to genetic inbreeding akin to the plight of the African cheetah.
"During natural seasonal flooding, the wall traps flood waters and kills wildlife and vegetation. During natural disasters like heat waves, when water or food on one side of the wall is not available, those species will be left to perish, unable to access resources on the other side."
People who care about the Earth should care about this. And do we as a species have the right to obliterate other species?
Miller goes on the explain that the damage doesn't end there. If a wall is built, "construction vehicles will be dragging building supplies through delicate habitat, and light and noise pollution will disturb and displace diurnal and nocturnal species."
She notes that in "one generation, humans will have successfully disintegrated an extraordinary biodiversity web that evolved over millions of years."
We need to factor these concerns into the mix of considerations.
WHILE I'M ON THE SUBJECT: I occasionally get questions from readers — and from myself — about what we as individuals can do to help the environment.
Perhaps you've read about bans in various cities on single-use plastic such as straws, non-recyclable plastic bags and polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers to reduce waste and to reduce the tendency for these items end up as litter in our waters and on our lands.
Governmental bans are a tough sell, but individuals — you, me — can adopt our own personal bans at any time. Tell the person filling your order for a drink in a plastic glass with a plastic straw that you don't want a straw, and then make sure that the plastic glass goes in your recycle bin.
Let other people — and companies — know why you're doing this, why it is important. Many companies such as Starbucks, McDonald's and Dunkin (they've dropped the "Donut") are planning to end the use of foam cups and containers, and this is in response to consumers.
As a woman in River Action's environmental book club says, she is trying to do her part "one straw at a time."