Trump's Border Wall Construction Is Blasting Native American Burial Sites
Construction crews began "controlled blasting" of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona last week, CBS News reported Friday. And Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who represents the area, says they did so without consulting the Tohono O'odham Nation which considers parts of it sacred.
"This administration is basically trampling on the tribe's history — and to put it poignantly, it's ancestry," Grijalva told CBS News.
Specifically, contractors began blasting in an area called Monument Hill, which includes important Native American burial sites, The Washington Post explained.
"Where they were blasting the other day on Monument Hill is the resting place for primarily Apache warriors that had been involved in battle with the O'odham. And then the O'odham people in a respectful way laid them to rest on Monument Hill," Grijalva said in a video posted on social media Sunday.
I just got back from the border. This week, Trump blew up a sacred Native American hill on public land to build h… https://t.co/t0K0CmsekI— Raul M. Grijalva (@Raul M. Grijalva)1581265349.0
The Nation wants all construction to stop on Monument Hill and for two-mile buffer zones to be set up around certain sites, including Quitobaquito Springs, an archaeological site and the only natural water source for miles, according to USA Today.
"They're our ancestors. They're our remnants of who we are as a people, throughout this whole area. And it's our obligation, it's our duty to do what is necessary to protect that," Tribal chairman Ned Norris Jr told the Arizona Republic, as BBC News reported.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed that work was being done on the site.
"The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain," A CBP spokesperson said in a statement reported by The Washington Post. "The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month."
CBP further told USA Today that it would "continue to have an environmental monitor present" during its activities, but Native American groups and environmental advocates are worried about what the wall could do to both sacred sites and the monument's unique ecosystem.
Organ Pipe was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve by the UN in 1976, which called it "a pristine example of an intact Sonoran Desert ecosystem," according to BBC News. Environmentalists are worried construction could harm an underground aquifer, as well as migrating wildlife.
Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity told The Washington Post that construction had "butchered" Monument Hill.
"It's completely different from what it's been before — there's a swath of land gone from right in the middle," he said.
Jordahl said construction was also destroying 200-year-old saguaro cacti.
"They are also sacred to the O'odham," he explained to The Washington Post. "They see them as the embodiment of their ancestors. So to see them turned into mulch — it's deeply upsetting."
This is the top of "Monument Hill," a sacred site to multiple tribes, that @DHSgov is dynamiting right now to build… https://t.co/QlSLdl0Jr9— Russ McSpadden (@Russ McSpadden)1581271395.0
Grijalva sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in January asking it to consult with the Tohono O'odham Nation about construction, but did not hear back.
The Trump administration is able to blast through sacred sites and threaten endangered wildlife on federal land because of the 2005 REAL ID Act, which permits the government to waive laws that interfere with national security, BBC News explained.
Grijalva said he would convene a hearing in the coming weeks to begin the process of repealing the act.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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