Trump’s 2020 Budget Calls for $8.6 Billion to Build Ecologically Devastating Border Wall
President Donald Trump's 2020 budget calls for $8.6 billion in funding for his proposed border wall, NPR reported Monday, signaling that Trump is intent on a project that environmental groups say would be devastating to borderland communities and wildlife and that he is willing to keep fighting Congress to get it.
A funding battle with Congress at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 over $5.7 billion for the project led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which caused "irreparable" damage to some of the country's most beloved national parks.
"President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement Sunday. "The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson."
Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will… https://t.co/KtNYGZCdbM— Nancy Pelosi (@Nancy Pelosi)1552237907.0
Other potential public health and environmental impacts of Trump's 2020 budget include a 15 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a 31 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The news also comes days after the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife released an interactive story map showing exactly how Trump's wall would impact the nature and communities of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in Texas. The map acts in lieu of an environmental impact statement, which the Trump administration has refused to conduct, Defenders of Wildlife said in a press release about the map.
"The Lower Rio Grande Valley has become ground zero for the Trump administration in its pursuit of a border wall that will destroy precious landscapes and communities," President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement. "This region is home to some of the most biodiverse habitat in the United States and is crucial to the survival of endangered species like the ocelot."
“This region is home to some of the most biodiverse #habitat in the US & is crucial to the survival of… https://t.co/rYGb0RZSM5— Defenders of Wildlife (@Defenders of Wildlife)1552017611.0
The LRGV is home to more than 700 species of vertebrate, 300 species of butterfly, more than 300 bird species and at least 18 threatened or endangered species. There are already 115 miles of concrete or steel barrier along the Texas / Mexico border, and Congress has earmarked enough funds in 2018 and 2019 to build 88 more miles of concrete and steel wall in the LRGV. The Trump administration has issued legal waivers for 35 miles of wall and contracts for 14 miles, and the wall construction would seal off parts of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Defenders of Wildlife said.
Sites like the Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, the National Butterfly Center and the La Lomita chapel in Mission, Texas are also threatened by planned construction, but the construction has not been funded yet.
The map also shows how the wall will impact communities, cutting people off from homes, businesses and recreation trails. It includes quotes from stakeholders like property owner Nayda Alvarez:
"I have lived here all my life. This land belonged to my great-grandparents since this area was part of Mexico. Unlike some people [who] say that we might be first generation — no, my parents and great-grandparents have been here forever ... I'm not losing a piece of my land. I'm actually going to lose my house."A 2017 study from the Center for Biological Diversity found that the border wall could put 93 endangered species at risk.
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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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