Anna

Zero tolerance? Did Mexican-American border policing actually unintentionally lead to an illegal immigration problem that didn’t exist when the border was more porous? And what does it have to do with border security failures during the Vietnam war? Malcolm Gladwell profiles General Leonard Chapman’s relentless, by-the-book border enforcement in a recent episode of his podcast, Revisionist History (where he digs into “things overlooked and misunderstood.”) The gist is: What happens to an overwhelmingly circular pattern of immigration when the cost of border crossing gets too high (a.k.a. too risky) to return to your home country? High cost of crossing—more border walls, patrols, arrests—has meant that more people come to the US from points south and stay, often without legal status. It lead to long-term immigrants established in US communities. It lead to a generation of Dreamers. If the US had not cracked down on border enforcement in the 1980s and beyond, it’s estimated that the population of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the US would be smaller by at least a third. Let me say this one other time: Border enforcement backfired. The border patrol policies meant to solve the problem of US illegal migration have actually caused the country’s immigrant populations to be as high as they are. The wall that was meant to keep Mexican migrants out has kept them in! A militarized border creates a larger undocumented population. (Oops, I said it three more times, not once. It bears repeating.) Chapman liked rules. He liked order over chaos. This may have served him well when it came to civil rights and desegregation in the Marine Corp while he served as a officer. On border issues, he was probably not motivated by racial bias. But his legacy on border control is disturbing, dumbfounding, frustrating. It’s worth a listen.

Take all polling with a grain of salt, or a salt block, depending on who paid for it, methodology, and how questions are worded, etc., but here are findings that gave me those feel-good endorphins so I’m sharing them even though the survey was commissioned by a PAC called Americans for Carbon Dividends, backed by the oil and gas industry and fronted by the likes of Trent Lott. They are promoting a proposal that was released last year by a nonprofit called the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Vox’s David Roberts wrote all about it.  Anyway, hence the polling. Here are the numbers (remember: endorphins; salt to taste):

  • Most Americans believe US environmental policy is on the wrong track. Just 29 percent say US environmental policy is headed in the right direction, while 55 percent say it is on the wrong track.
  • Most Americans believe climate change is real and are concerned 73 percent of Americans believe climate change is occurring, and 75 percent are concerned about its potential effect on future generations.
  • Most Americans want action on carbon emissions. Fully 81 percent of likely voters, including 71 percent of moderate Republicans and 58 percent of Strong Republicans, agree the government should take action to limit carbon emissions.
  • Americans support a carbon dividends plan by a 2-1 margin. By a 56 percent-26 percent margin, likely voters support taxing carbon emissions with the funds being rebated directly to taxpayers.

On that last one, it’s important to give you the full question wording for context before you get too excited. It’s about as cushy and tailored to conservative voters as you can get, especially the omission that Republicans currently in office are vehemently opposed to this idea. Read it for yourself:

As you may know, some leading figures in the Republican party have proposed taxing fossil fuel companies on their carbon emissions and rebating all the money directly to all Americans through a monthly check. This new climate solution is called “carbon dividends” because all households would receive a monthly cash dividend as part of an effort to combat climate change. Would you favor or oppose this plan?

Aven

Good and bad news in the climate/energy realm this week: on the bright side, the laughably corrupt head of the US EPA has finally resigned—right after a record-breaking week of high temperatures around the world. California is poised to become the next state to adopt a 100% renewable energy standard,  while a new study suggests that the carbon bubble will likely burst sometime in the near future—good news for the planet, bad news for the global economy. But if Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez gets her way, it might not matter much anyway. Which goes to show the power of primaries, people—now go vote!  Or, if you’re in the US, at least make sure you’re registered to vote!

Still not much to celebrate on the immigration front (as Anna outlined), but kudos to this Seattle church for helping keep one immigrant family together.

  • As a longtime sustainable farming and regenerative agriculture advocate (and, from time to time, volunteer and worker), I’ve been skeptical of genetically engineered (GE) crops since I first studied them. Food and agriculture policy having been one of my two main areas of focus within my graduate program (the other was business models for sustainable development), I’ve researched the issue in considerable detail and never found good evidence either that GE crops were all that beneficial or that they were being adequately controlled so as to prevent escape and contamination.  And indeed, exactly as predicted, the inevitable has happened—right here in Cascadia:

    Then two windstorms swept through the eastern Oregon fields in August of 2013, scattering flea-sized seeds well beyond the designated control area. Roundup-resistant pollen fertilized conventional bentgrass plants as far as 13 miles away. There was no calling it back.

    The escape didn’t surprise anyone, says Carol Mallory-Smith, a weed scientist at Oregon State University. She says she warned APHIS that permitting the seed fields was tantamount to deregulation; even without the storms, the grass’ biology practically guaranteed its spread. The decision to move ahead anyway reflected the agency’s somewhat cavalier approach to field trials at the time. A 2005 USDA audit found that it did not, for instance, keep track of field locations or review companies’ plans for containing their products. The audit warned that APHIS’ procedures did “not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology.”

    Did we at least learn something from this irreparable mistake? Hardly:

    Current regulations don’t allow APHIS to regulate the increasing number of products engineered with synthetic tools like gene guns. Roughly 60 GE organisms now fall outside the agency’s authority because they weren’t made with a plant pest, and all can be released into the environment without review. A soybean has already been commercialized, and an anti-browning button mushroom has drawn media attention. But the list also includes four grasses developed by Scotts. “There is no check to see whether the ecological implications are being thought through,” Kuzma says.

    Mallory-Smith fears something worse than bentgrass could creep through this gap. While Roundup resistance is a pain for growers and land managers, it’s a relatively benign trait in the wild; it offers a competitive edge only when plants get sprayed with herbicide. But what about a potentially weedy plant that’s been modified to tolerate drought or salt or heat? That would give the species a major advantage, she says. “All of a sudden, you are looking at something that could have very different environmental impacts.”

    I hate to say I told you so, but…

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