The Threat to America that’s been Growing Inside America

While the Middle East and the border crisis get all the attention, Charlottesville and El Paso remind us that America’s worst threat is right here at home.

White supremacists gathered for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. By Anthony Crider. CC by 2.0.

White supremacists gathered for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. By Anthony Crider. CC by 2.0.

August 12th 2017, fresh out of my first year at the University of Virginia, I sat in front of my TV horrified, watching white supremacists marching through a place I had recently starting calling home. Headlines on every major paper ran with Trump’s quote regarding “fine people on both sides.”

When classes started in the fall, my peers and I returned to Charlottesville deeply unsettled by what had happened on our grounds. Our community was rocked to its core. However, the rest of the world quickly moved on without us.

 The past two years, this weekend has marked a time for remembrance, but also caution and fear in Charlottesville. The dates, August 11th and 12th, have become something of the towns very on 9/11, and the police presence during these two days isn’t easy to ignore. The events that took place to years ago are on our minds, however, not on the mind of the nation.  

The march on Charlottesville was the last time I saw white supremacy dominate all the major headlines, that is, until this weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso. We, as a nation, let ourselves become distracted and forgetful of a real problem that’s been growing in the heart of our country. We can point to how the nation has so eagerly embraced the narrative of the “dangerous outsider” to explain why.  

 A decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security released a report on the growing threat of right wing extremism, correctly predicting “the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” However, this warning was not given serious merit by the Trump administration. President Trump’s transition team made it clear to the DHS that it wanted to focus on Islamic terrorism and reorient programs meant to counter violent extremism to exclusively target international threats like al-Qaeda and ISIL. These Islamic terrorist groups have stayed in the headlines, despite the fact they no longer pose a serious domestic threat. It should come as no surprise that this June the FBI reported a significant rise in white supremacist domestic terrorism in recent months.

 President Trump’s rhetoric has also turned American’s attention away from the alt-right matter at hand, and turned our attention to what he would call an “infestation.” Searching through theTrump Twitter Archive, I failed to find one mention of domestic terrorism, white nationalists or the growing menace they pose to our country. After all, why shouldn’t Trump protect his loyal voter base? It’s no secret that white nationalists are Trump supporters; alt right leaders have even been spotted at his rallies.

President Trump says immigrants “infest” our country. Via Twitter. June 19, 2018.

President Trump says immigrants “infest” our country. Via Twitter. June 19, 2018.

The president has protected these terrorists by turning the national discussion elsewhere -the southern border. As a result, liberals have kept themselves busy investigating the disgusting conditions of border control centers and “children in cages,” while conservatives call for further border restrictions. These leaves no one time for anyone to wage war against the real domestic threat --white supremacy. 

Trump denounced “racist hate” Monday after the shooting this weekend. He blamed violent video games, mental health and, ironically, internet bigotry from prompting the Dayton and El Paso attacks. He failed to make mention of any real action that might be taken against white supremacist terrorism, let alone endorse gun law reform. 

 Had the attackers been Black, Hispanic or Middle Eastern, the White House would surely be taking extreme action. However, just like during the aftermath of Charlottesville, nothing serious is being done to combat alt-right violence. 

 Now,in light of the two year anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if our country truly took notice of the event that shook our little community two years ago. I still pass by the street where Heather Heyer was killed by a domestic terrorist who drove his car into a crowd of people two years ago. The street, now named Heather Heyer Way, remains adorned with chalk writing, flowers and crosses dedicated to her memory. How many more memorials must we lay in El Paso, and the rest of the world, before we address the white supremacist threat?  






EMILY DHUE is a third year student at the University of Virginia majoring in media. She is currently studying abroad in Valencia, Spain. She's passionate about writing that makes an impact, and storytelling through digital platforms.

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Scientists Have Discovered a Large Freshwater Aquifer off the Northeast Coast of the U.S.

The discovery could point to similar reservoirs adjacent to water starved areas.

Photo of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, by  Ryan Loughlin  on  Unsplash .

Photo of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash.

It’s rare to hear good news on the climate, but occasionally we get lucky. Last month, scientists led by Chloe Gustafson of Comumbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory published an article in the Scientific Reports journal. Their discovery? A large freshwater aquifer located off the northeast coast of the U.S.

The possibility of an aquifer was initially discovered during offshore oil drilling in the 1970’s, when oil companies noticed that they occasionally hit pockets of freshwater in the north Atlantic. There was no consensus at the time on whether these were merely isolated areas or if they pointed to something larger. Then, in the late 90’s, Kerry Key, a geophysicist who co-authored the study, began working with oil companies to develop electromagnetic imaging techniques that could help them better examine the sea floor for oil. He later adapted the technology to look for freshwater deposits.

More recently, Key and his colleagues spent 10 days on board a research vessel, charting areas where freshwater had been discovered. “We knew there was freshwater down there in isolated places, but we did not know the extent or geometry,” Chloe Gustafson explained in a press release.

According to the report, the aquifer spans from New Jersey to Martha’s Vineyard, and carries an estimated 670 cubic miles of water lying beneath sponge-like sediment which separates it from the saline ocean water. “These aren’t open caverns or lakes underneath the seafloor,” Gustafson told NBC, “this is water trapped within the pores of rocks, so it’s sort of like a water-soaked sponge.” The reservoir reaches from 600 to 1,200 feet below the seafloor. For comparison, the aquifer carries more than half the water of Lake Michigan.

While the discovery of a large freshwater source is exciting under any circumstance, it is unlikely to have a major impact on access to water in New England, as the area is receives a good amount of rainwater. While the aquifer could be pumped, and the water exported to more arid areas, such efforts would be expensive and unsustainable. Graham Fogg, hydrogeology professor at the University of California Davis, told NBC that “there’s a limit to how much you can pump sustainably. It would take a long time to empty these aquifers, but we wouldn’t want to get to a point where we’ve pumped so much that we’ve exhausted the supply.”

The impact of the study lies in the possibility that such reservoirs could exist off the coasts of drier, more arid places that are prone to water shortage. NBC reports that pointers to the possibility of aquifers have already been found off the coasts of Greenland, South Carolina, and California.

As we experience the effects of climate change, and especially in light of the water shortage in Chennai, this is indeed good news.





EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her. 

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Visiting National Parks Could Change Your Thinking About Patriotism

Entry to Mount Rushmore along the Avenue of Flags.  Xiao Fang/Wikimedia ,  CC BY

Entry to Mount Rushmore along the Avenue of Flags. Xiao Fang/Wikimedia, CC BY

When I took a post-college job as a seasonal ranger at Grand Teton National Park 23 years ago, I noticed right away that my “Smokey Bear” hat carried some serious emotional baggage. As I later wrote in my book, “Reclaiming Nostalgia: Longing for Nature in American Literature,” park visitors saw the hat as an icon of tradition and romance, a symbol of a simpler era long gone.

For many Americans the physical grandeur of parks like Grand Teton, Yosemite and Yellowstone also inspires patriotic pride. Twenty-first-century patriotism is a touchy subject, increasingly claimed by America’s conservative right. But the national park system is designed to be democratic – protecting lands that belong to the public for all to enjoy – and politically neutral. The parks are spaces where love of country can be shared by all.

But some sites send more complex messages. In my new book, “Memorials Matter: Emotion, Environment, and Public Memory at American Historical Sites,” I explore how patriotism plays out at sites where education, not recreation, is the priority. To research it I visited seven memorials to see how their structures and natural landscapes inspire patriotism and other emotions.

For me, and I suspect for many, national memorials elicit conflicting feelings: pride in our nation’s achievements, but also guilt, regret or anger over the costs of progress. Patriotism, especially at sites of shame, can be unsettling – and I see this as a good thing. In my view, honestly confronting the darker parts of U.S. history as well as its best moments is good for tourism, for patriotism and for the nation.

Whose history?

Patriotism has roots in the Latin “patriotia,” meaning “fellow countryman.” It’s common to feel patriotic pride in U.S. technological achievements or military strength, but Americans also glory in the diversity and beauty of our natural landscapes. That kind of patriotism, I think, has the potential to be more inclusive, less divisive and more socially and environmentally just.

National memorials can summon more than one kind of patriotism. Take Mount Rushmore, which was designed explicitly to evoke national pride. Tourists walk the Avenue of Flags, marvel at the labor required to carve four U.S. presidents’ faces out of granite and applaud when rangers invite military veterans onstage during visitor programs. Patriotism at Rushmore centers on labor, progress and the “great men” that the site describes as founding, expanding and defending the U.S.

But there are other perspectives. Viewed from the Peter Norbeck Overlook, a short drive from the main site, the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln are tiny elements embedded in the expansive Black Hills region. The Black Hills were and still are a sacred place for Lakota peoples that they never willingly relinquished. Viewing Mount Rushmore this way puts those rock faces in context and raises questions about history and justice.

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, viewed from the Peter Norbeck Overlook. Jennifer Ladino,  CC BY-ND

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, viewed from the Peter Norbeck Overlook. Jennifer Ladino, CC BY-ND

Some national monuments conduct reenactments to help visitors relive the past and feel a sense of history and authenticity. At Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah, tourists can view replica steam locomotives and watch a reenactment of driving the spike that completed the first transcontinental railroad.

This park also ties patriotism to technology, labor, unity and progress. But it downplays countless lives lost during construction, including a disproportionate number of Chinese laborers. There’s an implied whiteness to the patriotism here, although those Chinese workers are receiving belated recognition.

Away from the main complex, however, visitors can see an impressive natural landscape carved by geologic forces. At “Chinaman’s Arch,” they can read about ancient Lake Bonneville, which once covered 20,000 square miles. Against the backdrop of geologic time, human labor and technological power look less impressive. A different feeling of patriotism emerges here that can embrace the physical country all Americans share.

Chinese railroad workers in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, photographed between 1865 and 1869.  Alfred Hart/Library of Congress

Chinese railroad workers in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, photographed between 1865 and 1869. Alfred Hart/Library of Congress

Sites of shame

Even sites where visitors are meant to feel remorse leave some room for patriotism. But at places like Manzanar National Historic Site in California – one of 10 camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II – natural and textual cues prevent any easy patriotic reflexes.

Reconstructed guard towers and barracks help visitors perceive the experience of being detained. I could imagine Japanese-Americans’ shame as I entered claustrophobic buildings and touched the rough straw that filled makeshift mattresses. Many visitors doubtlessly associate mountains with adventure and freedom, but some incarcerees saw the nearby Sierra Nevada as barricades reinforcing the camp’s barbed wire fence.

Rangers play up these emotional tensions on their tours. One ranger positioned a group of schoolchildren atop what were once latrines, and asked them: “Will it happen again? We don’t know. We hope not. We have to stand up for what is right.” Instead of a self-congratulatory sense of being a good citizen, Manzanar leaves visitors with unsettling questions and mixed feelings.

Young tourists experience the humiliating lack of privacy at Manzanar National Historic Site. Jennifer Ladino,  CC BY-ND

Young tourists experience the humiliating lack of privacy at Manzanar National Historic Site. Jennifer Ladino, CC BY-ND

Humble patriotism

Visiting and writing about these sites made me consider what it would take to recast patriotism as collective pride in the United States’ diverse landscapes and peoples. I believe one essential ingredient is compassion. Recent controversies over Confederate monuments showed that many Americans were unwilling to imagine how public memorials could be offensive or traumatic for others.

Greater clarity about value systems can also help. Psychologists have found striking differences between the moral frameworks that shape liberals’ and conservatives’ views. Conservatives generally prioritize purity, sanctity and loyalty, while liberals tend to value justice in the form of concerns about fairness and harm. In my view, patriotism could bridge the apparent gap between these moral foundations.

My research suggests that visits to memorial sites are helpful for recognizing our interdependence with each other, as inhabitants of a common country. In her recent book, “The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks,” Terry Tempest Williams wonders, “What is the relevance of our national parks in the twenty-first century – and how might these public commons bring us back home to a united state of humility?” Places like Manzanar and Golden Spike are part of a common heritage embedded in public lands. It’s our responsibility as citizens to visit these places with both pride and humility.

JENNIFER LADINO is an Associate Professor of English, University of Idaho.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

The LGBTQ Migrant Caravan that Sought Asylum in the US

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Daniel Arauz. CC 2.0

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Daniel Arauz. CC 2.0

LGBTQ migrants from Central America seeking asylum in the US faced hardship and discrimination not only from gangs that prey on migrants as they travel, but also from their fellow travelers. They were a part of a “caravan” of 3,600 asylum seekers, that started to journey from San Pedro Sula, Honduras in October 2018, traveled through Mexico, and reached the Northern Mexican city Tijuana, bordering the US, in November 2018. The members of the caravan were escaping all kinds of violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

The LGBTQ group of the caravan traveled together, in a group of around 80, to provide safety in numbers. They were subject to verbal abuse from all ends, and were even denied food and access to showers by other members of the caravan and other local groups. They weren’t about to receive a warm welcome from the US either, as President Trump frequently targeted the group of migrants during the 2018 Midterm Elections.

Migrant caravans from Central America travel through Mexico in the hopes of passing through the US-Mexico border in search for freedom. Many don’t make it in, and those who do are held at the border.

The migrants were fleeing discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ people in their own countries. They were threatened to be killed or tortured because of their sexuality. They embarked on a journey to the US in the hopes of obtaining a new life, with new opportunities to make a living in a more accepting community.

The LGBTQ group of the caravan stuck together and looked out for each other, for fear of being assaulted. They slept in abandoned, dilapidated hotels rather than outside, where they are subject to more violence. To prevent attacks, human rights workers have sent two people in green vests to travel with the caravan. These groups found the migrants through strong media coverage and decided to help.

They trekked over 1,000 miles in a month. Most of the traveling is done by foot when they are unable to hitch a ride on buses, trucks, or tractor-trailers.

When they finally reached Tijuana, they were subject to anger from the local residents, who were angry that they were staying in a house in their neighborhood.


They waited at detention centers in Texas for a very long time after crossing the border. These detention centers had no experience in housing transgender women. However, recently, it was announced that ten transgender women have won their asylum cases, and were allowed to leave the detention center. The immigrant rights group RAICES helped to provide legal support for the migrants to win their cases.





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 


This Small Mexican Border Town Prizes its Human and Environmental Links with the US

Lucia Orosco holding her daughter, Arely, in Boquillas. Much of the embroidery created here reads ‘no el muro’ (no wall). Matthew Moran,  CC BY-ND

Lucia Orosco holding her daughter, Arely, in Boquillas. Much of the embroidery created here reads ‘no el muro’ (no wall). Matthew Moran, CC BY-ND

The tiny Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen sits nestled between the Sierra del Carmen Mountains and the Rio Grande. Its Chihuahuan Desert location is strikingly beautiful, with green vegetation along the river, the brown soil of the surrounding desert and pink mountain cliffs creating splendid color contrasts.

I have been taking students to this magnificent landscape for 20 years – mostly to Big Bend National Park in Texas, just a mile north of Boquillas. My colleagues and I have also studied the ecological and economic value of this habitat, one of the most biodiverse and ecologically important desert regions in the world.

Recently I returned to study the ecotourism and conservation potential of Boquillas. In the process, I learned about a local vision for the border that is markedly different from the prevailing U.S. view.

Mexican jays range north into the U.S. through the Big Bend region and in southeastern Arizona.  NPS/Cookie Ballou

Mexican jays range north into the U.S. through the Big Bend region and in southeastern Arizona. NPS/Cookie Ballou

Here the Rio Grande forms the line between the United States and Mexico. The river is an ecological gathering place that draws humans and wildlife. For Boquillas residents, the idea of building a wall here is sacrilegious. As Lilia Falcon, manager of a local restaurant, said to me, “We have friends on both sides of the river, we want these interactions to continue.” Her husband, Bernardo Rogel, was more succinct: “We love both countries.”

View of Boquillas, Mexico. Matthew Moran,  CC BY-ND

View of Boquillas, Mexico. Matthew Moran, CC BY-ND

A fragile ecotourism economy

Boquillas was originally a mining town, with local deposits of silver, lead and zinc that attracted prospectors. By the early 20th century, 2,000 people lived there and a thriving industry was exporting ore.

That boom turned to bust, and by the end of World War I the mines were closed. The town nearly disappeared in the 1960s, but in 1999 when I first visited there, it had about 200 residents. They made their living from cross-border tourism, with U.S. visitors to Big Bend National Park entering Mexico via a legal but unofficial border crossing.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, however, the United States closed all of these informal crossings. Overnight Boquillas lost its income source, ruining livelihoods and jeopardizing years of effort by residents and government officials to build cooperative border relations.

The nearest place to get supplies was now a 300-mile round trip over rough roads deep into rural Mexico. Just three miles away on the U.S. side, gas, food and services in Big Bend National Park’s Rio Grande Village campground were now inaccessible. Relatives who were citizens on opposite sides of the border were separated, 115 miles from the nearest legal crossing point.

After more than a decade of lobbying by residents, the U.S. government created a “remote” passport facility, where people crossing the border could present their documentation by phone to a border agent located in El Paso. Boquillas reopened and merchants and guides returned. In 2018 more than 11,000 visitors crossed over from the United States.

Crossing to Boquillas by rowboat from Big Bend National Park.  NPS / T. VandenBerg

Crossing to Boquillas by rowboat from Big Bend National Park. NPS / T. VandenBerg

Today Boquillas residents are working again to teach visitors about this part of Mexico, and ecotourism companies are expanding. People here envision a future for the border in which respect, cooperation and shared economic gain will create a prosperous and sustainable future for communities on both sides.

Welcoming visitors and valuing connections

It is obvious to me that people in Boquillas love their town and are hopeful about the future. “I want to show visitors the beauty of my home and to have a more prosperous life for my family,” Lacho Falcón, a local guide whose family owns the only grocery store in town, told me on my most recent visit as we hiked into Boquillas canyon, its massive vertical walls gleaming in soft morning light.

Lacho Falcón (second from left, rear) and his family in Boquillas. Matthew Moran,  CC BY-ND

Lacho Falcón (second from left, rear) and his family in Boquillas. Matthew Moran, CC BY-ND

I have heard that sentiment repeated many times as I have gotten to know more people in the town. Thanks to economic activity from tourism, “We have been able to buy a vehicle, improve our house, and most importantly, send our oldest daughter Wendy to college,” said Lucia Orosco. She sells crafts to help support her family, which includes husband Adrián, who manages the ferry crossing over the Rio Grande, and their three children.

Canoeing the Rio Grande is a favorite tourist activity. The river cuts through spectacular canyons, supports abundant wildlife and provides water for this thirsty land. I spoke with Ernesto Hernández Morales from Vera Cruz, Mexico and Mike Davidson from Terlingua, Texas about the river’s potential to unify their countries. As partners with Boquillas Adventures, a Mexican registered ecotourism company that focuses on natural and historic interpretation, they are working to expand sustainable tourism opportunities in nearby protected areas, hiring local residents as guides.

“We see our work as more than a business,” said Hernández Morales. “It’s an opportunity to show Mexico and the U.S. working together for security and prosperity.” Davidson concurs: “It is our goal to provide our guests a high-quality, safe experience…and offer them a glimpse of daily reality on this part of the border.”

Ernesto Hernández Morales helps run Boquillas Adventures, an ecotourism company in the Boquillas region. Matthew Moran,  CC BY-ND

Ernesto Hernández Morales helps run Boquillas Adventures, an ecotourism company in the Boquillas region. Matthew Moran, CC BY-ND

Chalo Diaz, a local guide who takes visitors on river trips, is excited about his work. “Boquillas is a beautiful town where you can visit friendly people. Now that the border has reopened, we have improved it and are connected to the world,” he told me.

United ecologically, separated politically?

In 2011 Mexico and the United States signed a cooperative agreement to conserve the spectacular Chihuahuan Desert landscape. This initiative builds on proposals dating back nearly a century to create a cross-border international peace park.

American black bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep and a host of smaller animals, as well as over 400 species of birds, move across this landscape. Studies show that conserving this region requires maintaining free movement for wildlife. Researchers warn that building a border wall through the area could threaten thousands of plant and animal species by preventing them from moving between patches of the best habitat.

Currently Boquillas is the only access point where people can cross between the protected areas in this region. This makes it critical to future conservation success. People in Boquillas believe that building a border wall would sever this connection, causing hardship and insecurity on both sides.

MATTHEW D. MORAN is a Professor of Biology at Hendrix College.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION.

For Native Americans, US-Mexico Border is an ‘Imaginary Line’

A steel wall along the U.S. border near Tecate, California, cuts across Mount Cuchame, a site sacred to the Kumeyaay people.  Reuters/Adrees Latif

A steel wall along the U.S. border near Tecate, California, cuts across Mount Cuchame, a site sacred to the Kumeyaay people. Reuters/Adrees Latif

Immigration restrictions were making life difficult for Native Americans who live along – and across – the U.S.-Mexico border even before President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to build his border wall.

The traditional homelands of 36 federally recognized tribes – including the Kumeyaay, Pai, Cocopah, O’odham, Yaqui, Apache and Kickapoo peoples – were split in two by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and 1853 Gadsden Purchase, which carved modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas out of northern Mexico.

Today, tens of thousands of people belonging to U.S. Native tribes live in the Mexican states of Baja California, Sonora, Coahuila and Chihuahua, my research estimates. The Mexican government does not recognize indigenous peoples in Mexico as nations as the U.S. does, so there is no enrollment system there.

Still, many Native people in Mexico routinely cross the U.S.-Mexico border to participate in cultural events, visit religious sites, attend burials, go to school or visit family. Like other “non-resident aliens,” they must pass through rigorous security checkpoints, where they are subject to interrogation, inspection and rejection or delay.

Many Native Americans I’ve interviewed for anthropological research on indigenous activism call the U.S.-Mexico border “the imaginary line” – an invisible boundary created by colonial powers that claim sovereign indigenous territories as their own.

border wall would further separate Native peoples from friends, relatives and tribal resources that span the U.S.-Mexico border.

Homelands divided

Tribal members say that many Native Americans in the U.S. feel detached from their relatives in Mexico.

“The effect of a wall is already in us,” Mike Wilson, a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, told me. “It already divides us.”

The Tohono O’odham are among the U.S. federal tribes fighting the government’s efforts to beef up existing security with a border wall. In late January, the Tohono O'odham, Pascua Yaqui and National Congress of Indian Americans met to create a proposal for facilitating indigenous border crossing.

The Tohono O'odham already know how life changes when traditional lands are physically partitioned.

Verlon Jose, vice-chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, at the border barrier that traverses the Tohono O'odham reservation in Chukut Kuk, Ariz., in 2017.  Reuters/Rick Wilking

Verlon Jose, vice-chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, at the border barrier that traverses the Tohono O'odham reservation in Chukut Kuk, Ariz., in 2017. Reuters/Rick Wilking

By U.S. law, enrolled Tohono O’odham members in Mexico are eligible to receive educational and medical services in Tohono O'odham lands in the U.S.

That has become difficult since 2006, when a steel vehicle barrier was built along most of the 62-mile stretch of U.S.-Mexico border that bisects the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Previously, to get to the U.S. side of Tohono O’odham territory, many tribe members would simply drive across their land. Now, they must travel long distances to official ports of entry.

One Tohono O'odham rancher told The New York Times in 2017 that he must travel several miles to draw water from a well 100 yards away from his home – but in Mexico.

And Pacific Standard magazine reported in February 2019 that three Tohono O'odham villages in Sonora, Mexico, had been cut off from their nearest food supply, which was in the U.S.

Native rights

Land is central to Native communities’ historic, spiritual and cultural identity.

Several international agreements – including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – confirm these communities’ innate rights to draw on cultural and natural resourcesacross international borders.

An 1894 map of indigenous North American languages shows how Native homelands span modern-day national borders. British Library

An 1894 map of indigenous North American languages shows how Native homelands span modern-day national borders.British Library

The United States offers few such protections.

Officially, various federal laws and treaties affirm the rights of federally recognized tribes to cross between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The Jay Treaty of 1794 grants indigenous peoples on the U.S.-Canada border the right to freely pass and repass the border. It also gives Canadian-born indigenous persons the right to live and work in the United States.

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 says that the U.S. will protect and preserve Native American religious rights, including “access to sacred sites” and “possession of sacred objects.” And the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act protects Native American human remains, burial sites and sacred objects.

United States law also requires that federally recognized sovereign tribal nations on the U.S.-Mexico border must be consulted in federal border enforcement planning.

In practice, however, the free passage of Native people who live across both the United States’ northern or southern border is curtailed by strict identification laws.

The United States requires anyone entering the country to present a passport or other U.S.-approved identification confirming their citizenship or authorization to enter. The Real ID Act of 2005 allows the Department of Homeland Security secretary to waive any U.S. law – including those protecting indigenous rights – that may impede border enforcement.

Several standard U.S. tribal identification documents – including Form I-872 American Indian Card and enhanced tribal photo identification cards – are approved travel documents that enable Native Americans to enter the U.S. at land ports of entry.

Arbitrary identity tests

Only the American Indian Card, which is issued exclusively to members of the Kickapoo tribes, recognizes indigenous people’s right to cross the border regardless of citizenship.

According to the Texas Band of Kickapoo Act of 1983, “all members of the Band” – including those who live in Mexico – are “entitled to freely pass and repass the borders of the United States and to live and work in the United States.”

The majority of indigenous Mexicans wishing to live or work in the United States, however, must apply for immigrant residence and work authorization like any other person born outside of the U.S. The relevant tribal governments in the U.S. may also work with Customs and Border Patrol to waive certain travel document requirements on a case-by-case basis for short-term visits of Native members from Mexico.

Since border patrol agents have expansive discretionary power to refuse or delay entries in the interest of national security, its officers sometimes make arbitrary requests to verify Native identity in these cases.

Such tests, my research shows, have included asking people to speak their indigenous language or – if the person is crossing to participate in a Native ceremony – to perform a traditional song or dance. Those who refuse these requests may be denied entry.

Border agents at both the Mexico and Canada borders have also reportedly mishandled or destroyed Native ceremonial or medicinal items they deem suspicious.

“Our relatives are all considered ‘aliens,’” said the Yaqui elder and activist José Matus. “[T]hey’re not aliens. … They’re indigenous to this land.”

“We’ve been here since time immemorial,” he added.

CHRISTINA LEZA is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Colorado College.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Alaska

Tim Kellner recorded this video to display his experience traveling in Alaska. In regard to his experience, Tim states “When I was a kid I would stare up at the giant stuffed grizzly bear in the Buffalo Science Museum and imagine seeing it alive and in the wild. That dream finally came true. I can't even begin to describe with words my experiences in Alaska so hopefully this video will capture just a small piece.” The music in the video is also by Tim.

From New York

Leonard Witte had the chance to travel around the world to capture some of the biggest cities of the world. He decided to create his own version for each city - this is number one! The film is a mixture of audiovisual moments he experienced and voices from real New Yorkers telling about their city.

How Urban Agriculture Can Improve Food Security in US Cities

City Farm is a working sustainable farm that has operated in Chicago for over 30 years.  Linda from Chicago/Wikimedia ,  CC BY

City Farm is a working sustainable farm that has operated in Chicago for over 30 years. Linda from Chicago/WikimediaCC BY

During the partial federal shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019, news reports showed furloughed government workers standing in line for donated meals. These images were reminders that for an estimated one out of eight Americans, food insecurity is a near-term risk.

In California, where I teach, 80 percent of the population lives in cities. Feeding the cities of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, with a total population of some 7 million involves importing 2.5 to 3 million tons of food per day over an average distance of 500 to 1,000 miles.

This system requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also is extremely vulnerable to large-scale disruptions, such as major earthquakes.

And the food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line – mostly senior citizens, children and minorities. Access to quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7 percent fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.

Many organizations see urban agriculture as a way to enhance food security. It also offers environmental, health and social benefits. Although the full potential of urban agriculture is still to be determined, based on my own research I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.

The growth of urban agriculture

Urban farming has grown by more than 30 percent in the United States in the past 30 years. Although it has been estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20 percent of global food demand, it remains to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities.

One recent survey found that 51 countries do not have enough urban area to meet a recommended nutritional target of 300 grams per person per day of fresh vegetables. Moreover, it estimated, urban agriculture would require 30 percent of the total urban area of those countries to meet global demand for vegetables. Land tenure issues and urban sprawl could make it hard to free up this much land for food production.

Other studies suggest that urban agriculture could help cities achieve self-sufficiency. For example, researchers have calculated that Cleveland, with a population of 400,000, has the potential to meet 100 percent of its urban dwellers’ fresh vegetable needs, 50 percent of their poultry and egg requirements and 100 percent of their demand for honey.

Can Oakland’s urban farmers learn from Cuba?

Although urban agriculture has promise, a small proportion of the food produced in cities is consumed by food-insecure, low-income communities. Many of the most vulnerable people have little access to land and lack the skills needed to design and tend productive gardens.

Cities such as Oakland, with neighborhoods that have been identified as “food deserts,” can lie within a half-hour drive of vast stretches of productive agricultural land. But very little of the twenty million tons of food produced annually within 100 miles of Oakland reaches poor people.

Paradoxically, Oakland has 1,200 acres of undeveloped open space – mostly public parcels of arable land – which, if used for urban agriculture, could produce 5 to 10 percent of the city’s vegetable needs. This potential yield could be dramatically enhanced if, for example, local urban farmers were trained to use well-tested agroecological methods that are widely applied in Cuba to cultivate diverse vegetables, roots, tubers and herbs in relatively small spaces.

In Cuba, over 300,000 urban farms and gardens produce about 50 percent of the island’s fresh produce supply, along with 39,000 tons of meat and 216 million eggs. Most Cuban urban farmers reach yields of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per square meter per year.

An organic farm in Havana, Cuba, that produces outputs averaging 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per square meter per year without agrochemical inputs. Miguel Altieri,  CC BY-ND

An organic farm in Havana, Cuba, that produces outputs averaging 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per square meter per year without agrochemical inputs. Miguel Altieri, CC BY-ND

If trained Oakland farmers could achieve just half of Cuban yields, 1,200 acres of land would produce 40 million kilograms of vegetables – enough to provide 100 kilograms per year per person to more than 90 percent of Oakland residents.

To see whether this was possible, my research team at the University of California at Berkeley established a diversified garden slightly larger than 1,000 square feet. It contained a total of 492 plants belonging to 10 crop species, grown in a mixed polycultural design.

In a three-month period, we were able to produce yields that were close to our desired annual level by using practices that improved soil health and biological pest control. They included rotations with green manures that are plowed under to benefit the soil; heavy applications of compost; and synergistic combinations of crop plants in various intercroppingarrangements known to reduce insect pests.

Research plots in Berkeley, Calif., testing agroecological management practices such as intercropping, mulching and green composting. Miguel Altieri,  CC BY-ND

Research plots in Berkeley, Calif., testing agroecological management practices such as intercropping, mulching and green composting. Miguel Altieri, CC BY-ND

Overcoming barriers to urban agriculture

Achieving such yields in a test garden does not mean they are feasible for urban farmers in the Bay Area. Most urban farmers in California lack ecological horticultural skills. They do not always optimize crop density or diversity, and the University of California’s extension program lacks the capacity to provide agroecological training.

The biggest challenge is access to land. University of California researchers estimate that over 79 percent of the state’s urban farmers do not own the property that they farm. Another issue is that water is frequently unaffordable. Cities could address this by providing water at discount rates for urban farmers, with a requirement that they use efficient irrigation practices.

In the Bay Area and elsewhere, most obstacles to scaling up urban agriculture are political, not technical. In 2014 California enacted AB511, which set out mechanisms for cities to establish urban agriculture incentive zones, but did not address land access.

One solution would be for cities to make vacant and unused public land available for urban farming under low-fee multiyear leases. Or they could follow the example of Rosario, Argentina, where 1,800 residents practice horticulture on about 175 acres of land. Some of this land is private, but property owners receive tax breaks for making it available for agriculture.

In my view, the ideal strategy would be to pursue land reform similar to that practiced in Cuba, where the government provides 32 acres to each farmer, within a few miles around major cities to anyone interested in producing food. Between 10 and 20 percent of their harvest is donated to social service organizations such as schools, hospitals and senior centers.

Similarly, Bay Area urban farmers might be required to provide donate a share of their output to the region’s growing homeless population, and allowed to sell the rest. The government could help to establish a system that would enable gardeners to directly market their produce to the public.

Cities have limited ability to deal with food issues within their boundaries, and many problems associated with food systems require action at the national and international level. However, city governments, local universities and nongovernment organizations can do a lot to strengthen food systems, including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. The first step is increasing public awareness of how urban farming can benefit modern cities.

MIGUEL ALTIERI is a Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Aleppo: The Struggle to Rebuild a City After Years of War

A view of Aleppo from above. CC by 2.0

A view of Aleppo from above. CC by 2.0

The Syrian Civil War has put Syria in the headlines since 2011. The War has devastated the entire country of Syria, and the United Nations Envoy for Syria estimates that 400,000 Syrians were killed in the Civil War. The war was fought between the Bashar al-Assad’s regime (backed by Russian and Iranian forces), ISIS, Kurdish Forces, and others (including Jaish al Fateh, Ahrar al-Sham, and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki). Because of the violence of the Syrian Civil War, the United Nations estimates that 5 million refugees have fled Syria thus far.  

One of the most significant battles in Syria during the Civil War has been the Battle of Aleppo, which lasted from 2012 to 2016. Aleppo is one of the largest cities in Syria. Its significance is partially historical, as Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world due to its location on the end of the Silk Road. Before the Battle, Aleppo was controlled by rebel forces, which made Aleppo a target for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was interested in controlling Aleppo due to its significance as an industrial powerhouse. Although the Syrian Civil war is ongoing, the Battle of Aleppo ended in december of 2016 when al-Assad’s forces gained control of the city.

In order to comprehend the damage inflicted on Aleppo during the war, the United Nations recently took satellite photos of Aleppo. The photos reveal that more than half of the buildings photographed have moderate to severe damage, and ten percent of historically significant sites show severe damage. Despite the damage, nearly 60,000 Syrian refugees have returned home now that Aleppo is controlled only by al-Assad. Although the Battle of Aleppo is over, there are still safety issues in the city; in early February of this year, an entire block of apartments collapsed killing 11 people, including four children. Much of the city lacks running water and electricity, and Syrian officials estimate that it will cost upwards of $10 billion to rebuild the city which held 2.3 million inhabitants before the war.

United States and European officials are reluctant to support efforts in rebuilding the city due to their distrust of president Bashar al-Assad. The president has been accused war crimes including using chemical weapons against civilians, and torturing his opponents. It is estimated that 5,000 Syrian civilians have died at the hands of his army. Despite international distrust of al-Assad, the United States has shied away from attempting to remove him from office because he is arguably the most promising chance for stability in Syria. Although the United States will not attempt a coup, former United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserted in a speech that: "We will discourage economic relationships between the Assad regime and any other country” (including the rebuilding of Aleppo). The Battle of Aleppo may have ceased, but it will take years before Aleppo is restored to its formed status in Syria.

GINNY KEENAN is an NYU student currently studying abroad in London. She intends to major in journalism, and reads in her free time. She is always looking for new travel opportunities.

The Impacts of Climate Change on Native Alaskan Communities

A female walrus and her pup sitting on an ice flow. US Geological Survey.

A female walrus and her pup sitting on an ice flow. US Geological Survey.

While climate change affects everyone, its effects are especially strong in northern, cold climates. In Alaska, for instance, temperatures are rising faster than any other state, according to the National Climate Assessment. Although the dramatic rise in temperatures has lengthened the agricultural growing season, Alaska will now face water shortages, coastal erosion, and melting sea ice.

Alaska holds 40% of the United States’ native population, and Alaskan native populations are more susceptible to climate change than non-native Alaskans. Often living in remote locations, native Alaskans depend on the oceans for fish, and the land for hunting and agriculture. One threat facing native communities is a decline in sea ice. The National Climate Assessment predicts that northern waters will be ice free by 2030, which will likely result in a decline in food sources. Many native communities rely on walruses for food, and walruses need sea ice in order to survive. In 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recorded that the number of walruses caught by Alaskans fell by a third of the amount caught at the turn of the century. A reduction in sea ice will also reveal underwater possibilities for ocean oil rigs which were once concealed by ice. This will make the Alaskan coast prone to oil spills, which could have a detrimental effect on oceanic ecosystems.

The increase in temperatures will also cause permafrost, a thick layer of frozen soil, to thaw beneath lakes and ponds. Permafrost often contains organic material which will release carbon dioxide into the air as it melts. However, the thawing permafrost is causing the land to become unstable. This will make once stable lands unstable, and cause coastal erosion, landslides, and floods.

The coastal erosion caused by thawing permafrost is the most pressing issue facing Alaskans. Many native communities, such as the Yup’ik aboriginal peoples of Newtok, Alaska, have been forced to relocate because their homeland is now uninhabitable, due to coastal erosion caused by permafrost. The coastal community of Shishmaref, Alaska is slowly eroding into the ocean, and by 2023 almost half of the village is estimated to be eroded by raising temperatures. Newtok and Shishmaref are unfortunately not unique cases for native communities; as of 2017, there were 12 native towns considering relocation.

Although some countries are attempting to minimize their carbon footprint, their efforts are undermined by the many countries who choose to ignore the realities of climate change. Thus, climate change is only accelerating, and Alaskan indigenous communities will be affected at greater rates in the future. The National Climate Assessment estimates that temperatures will rise by 10 degrees fahrenheit  to 12 degrees fahrenheit in the north, and 8 degrees fahrenheit to 10 degrees fahrenheit in the interior. The United States has allocated $15 million to Newtok to cover the cost of relocating to a more stable environment, yet little is being done on a grand scale to put an end to climate change. Although it was kind to offer aid to native communities, it is unfair to forced to communities to relocate due to forces out of their control. One can only hope that in the future, governments will take a more proactive role in preventing damage from climate change, so that areas like those in Alaska will not undergo major challenges due to the warming climate.

GINNY KEENAN is an NYU student currently studying abroad in London. She intends to major in journalism, and reads in her free time. She is always looking for new travel opportunities.

America’s Public Schools Seldom Bring Rich and Poor Together – and MLK Would Disapprove

America’s public schools were meant to bring together children from all walks of life.  Monkey Business Images/www.shutterstock.com

America’s public schools were meant to bring together children from all walks of life. Monkey Business Images/www.shutterstock.com

Five decades after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., many carry on his legacy through the struggle for racially integrated schools. Yet as King put it in a 1968 speech, the deeper struggle was “for genuine equality, which means economic equality.” Justice in education would demand not just racially integrated schools, but also economically integrated schools.

The fight for racial integration meant overturning state laws and a century of history – it was an uphill battle from the start. But economic integration should have been easier. In the mid-18th century, when education reformers first made the case for inclusive and taxpayer-supported education, they argued that “common schools” would ease the class differences between children from different backgrounds.

As Horace Mann, the most prominent of these reformers, argued in 1848, such schools would serve to counter the “domination of capital and the servility of labor.” Learning together on common ground, rich and poor would see themselves in common cause – a necessity for the survival of the republic.

More than 150 years later, the nation has yet to realize this vision. In fact, it has been largely forgotten. Modern Americans regularly scrutinize the aims and intentions of the Founding Fathers; but the early designs for public education – outlined by Mann, the first secretary of education in Massachusetts, as well as by leaders like Henry BarnardThaddeus Stevens, and Caleb Mills – are mostly overlooked. Today, the average low-income student in the U.S. attends a school where two-thirds of students are poor. Nearly half of low-income students attend schools with poverty rates of 75 percent or higher.

Education historians, like myself, have generally focused their research and attention on racial segregation, rather than on economic segregation. But as income inequality continues to deepen, the aim of economically integrated schools has never been more relevant. If we are concerned with justice, we must revitalize this original vision of public education.

Shared community

Early advocates of taxpayer-supported common schools argued that public education would promote integration across social classes. They thought it would instill a spirit of shared community and open what Horace Mann called “a wider area over which the social feelings will expand.”

Horace Mann (1796-1859) was an early advocate of public education in the U.S.  Fotolia/AP

Horace Mann (1796-1859) was an early advocate of public education in the U.S. Fotolia/AP

And, generally speaking, it worked. The ultra-rich mostly continued to send their children to private academies. But many middle- and upper-income households began to send their children to public schools. As historians have shown, economically segregated schools did not systematically emerge until the mid-20th century, as a product of exclusionary zoning and discriminatory housing policies. Schools weren’t perfectly integrated by any means, particularly with regard to race. They were, however, vital sites of cross-class interaction.

Many prominent Americans – including U.S. presidents – were products of the public schools. Commonly, they sat side by side in classrooms with people from different walks of life.

But over the past half-century, students have been increasingly likely to go to school with students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Since 1970, residential segregation has increased sharply, with twice as many families now living in either rich or poor neighborhoods – a trend that has been particularly acute in urban areas. And segregation by income is most extreme among families with school-age children. Poor children are increasingly likely to go to school with poor children. Similar economic isolation is true of the middle and affluent classes.

Contemporary Americans commonly accept that their schools will be segregated by social class. Yet the architects of American public education would have viewed such an outcome as a catastrophe. In fact, they might attribute growing economic inequality to the systematic separation of rich and poor. As Horace Mann argued, it was the core mission of public schools to bring different young people together – to consider not just “what one individual or family needs,” but rather “what the whole community needs.”

Many parents do continue seek out diverse schools. A number of school districts have worked to devise student assignment plans that advance the aim of integration. And some charter schools are reaching this market by pursuing what has been called a “diverse-by-design” strategy. As demonstrated by research, diverse schools can and often do improve achievement across a range of social and cognitive outcomes, such as critical thinking, empathy and open-mindedness.

Largely overlooked, however, has been the political benefit of integrated schools. One rarely encounters the once-common argument that the health of American democracy depends on rich and poor attending school together. This is particularly surprising in an age of tremendous disparities in wealth and power. Members of Congress, on average, are 12 times wealthier than the typical American. Moreover, lawmakers are increasingly responsive to the privileged, even at the expense of middle-class voters.

If elites are isolated from their lower- and middle-income peers, they may be less likely to see a relationship of mutual commitment and responsibility to those of lesser means. As scholars Kendra Bischoff and Sean F. Reardon have argued, “If socioeconomic segregation means that more advantaged families do not share social environments and public institutions such as schools, public services, and parks with low-income families, advantaged families may hold back their support for investments in shared resources.”

What can be done?

Today more than 100 school districts or charter school chains work to integrate schools economically. Cambridge, Massachusetts, for instance, has four decades of experience balancing enrollments by social class, seeking to match the diversity of the city as a whole in each school.

This, of course, is only possible in a diverse place. Median family income in Cambridge is roughly US$100,000, while 15 percent of city residents live below the poverty line. It is also made possible through heavy investments in public education in the city. After all, it is far easier to convince middle-class and affluent parents to send their children to the public schools when per-pupil expenditures rival the highest-spending suburbs, as they do in Cambridge.

But not every district has Cambridge’s advantages. Nor does every district have similar political will.

The latter of those two constraints, however, may soon begin to change. Faced with a growing divide between rich and poor, Americans may begin to demand schools that not only serve young people equally from a funding standpoint, but also educate them together in the same classrooms.

Common schools by themselves are not enough to solve the problem of economic inequality. Yet if Americans seek to create a society in which the rich and the poor see themselves in common cause, common schools may be a necessary – and long overdue – step. We must come to see, in the words of Martin Luther King, that, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

JACK SCHNEIDER is an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Fighting Food Waste in Los Angeles

hen Rick Nahmias realized that fresh produce in his community was routinely being tossed out for minor bruising or browning, he knew something needed to be done to end the unnecessary waste. He founded Food Forward, a non-profit dedicated to ending hunger by sharing abundance. The organization recovers fresh produce that may otherwise go to waste, collecting from farmers markets, wholesale food suppliers, and even residential backyards. Within the past year, they’ve already fed 1.5 million people across Los Angeles.

The 12-Year-Old Scientist Taking On Flint's Water Crisis

When Gitanjali Rao first heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, she wanted to help in any way she could. Now, at only 12 years old, Gitanjali is the proud inventor of “Tethys,” a portable device that detects lead in water. Named “America’s Top Young Scienist,” Gitanjali hopes to inspire other kids to get moving and make a difference in their own communities.

Americans and Mexicans Living at the Border are More Connected Than Divided

People cross the international border from Mexico to the U.S. in Nogales, Arizona. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

People cross the international border from Mexico to the U.S. in Nogales, Arizona. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

In 2002, I began traveling the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border on both sides. From Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, the border measures almost 2,000 miles.

What distinguished my journey was that I began traveling well before the idea of fortifying the U.S.-Mexico border entered public consciousness. Inadvertently, I became witness to the wall’s construction and its impact on the lives of border dwellers, which I reported in my book, “Why Walls Won’t Work.”

Shortly after 9/11, as I explain in the the book, the U.S. built 650 miles of walls and fences along of the 700-mile land boundary with Mexico. The 1,200-mile river boundary has few walls, but the Rio Grande/Río Bravo del Norte acts as a natural barrier and is supplemented by other methods of surveillance, including sound and motion detectors.

Nothing like it ever existed in the territory that is now the U.S.-Mexico boundary. It usurps cross-border connections that have origins in prehistoric times. Twin-city communities remain closely connected through work, family, schooling, leisure, commerce and culture. For them, the territory between the two nations is not a matter of sovereignty, difference and separation, but instead is the very foundation of their way of life.

The wall slices through borderland communities disrupting binational trade worth over US$400 billion every year as well as the lives of more than 10 million U.S. and Mexican citizens who reside in the borderland’s six major “twin cities” – San Diego-Tijuana, Calexico-Mexicali, the two Nogales, El Paso-Ciudad Juárez, Laredo-Nuevo Laredo and Brownsville-Matamoros. Adding a new wall, as President Trump proposes, could only worsen the situation without making any measurable impact on border security.

A third nation

During my travels, I started thinking of the space between the two countries as a kind of “third nation.” I confess, I’ve never heard anyone in a border city refer to their turf as a third nation. Locals have many other ways of describing their special connection across the line, like “twin cities” and “ciudades hermanas” (sister cities). Some even call themselves “transborder citizens” living in a “transfrontier metropolis.”

I’ve often been told by people who live binational lives that they forget which side of the border they’re on. But in my experience, the single most common expression of cross-border connection is when people assert that they have more in common with one another than with citizens of their countries.

Traditionally, the word “nation” refers to a group of people who voluntarily identify with others on the basis of shared history, geography, ethnicity, cultural tradition, language and alliances against external threat. The sentiment that unites them is commonly called nationalism. Both terms are imprecise – which is why experts sometimes refer to nations as imagined communities – but there can be no doubt about their appeal, potency and consequence. When a nation acquires the right to govern a territory, then the territory is considered a formal nation-state.

I define a third nation as a community of common interest carved out of two existing nation-states. Transcending geopolitical boundaries, it occupies an in-between space and fosters an identity that is distinct from each country. The alliance is not solely based on material connections such as trade, but also represents a kind of “mental map,” or cognitive awareness, shared by citizens.

I consider the U.S.-Mexico border to be a third nation, which has evolved out of several forms in the past. Historically, these include the 12th- and 13th-century Chichimeca region, which was located between the Anasazi people of the pre-U.S. Southwest and the southern Aztec heartland of Mesoamerica. It was also manifested along the northern edges of Nueva España (New Spain) which buffered the volatile indigenous southwestern tribes from the more regulated Spanish colonial heartland around Mexico City.

Today, the Tohono O’Odham Indian Nation is bisected by the U.S.-Mexico boundary between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. It possesses an enduring sense of identity, autonomous tribal institutions and laws, and formal territorial organizations that straddle the boundary line.

Imagining a territory as a third nation draws attention to the depth of integration between peoples on either side of the border. The other terms I mentioned (twin city, etc.) convey a sense of material connectivity and integration, but the “third nation” idea adds the weight of subjective attachment, tradition and shared outlook that transcends the line.

Borderland voices

A year ago, I was on the Mexican side of the border in Nogales, where an earlier prototype of the wall had appeared during the mid-1990s. A teenage student asked me what would happen if the walls came down, and I replied: “It will be like it was in the old days.” Hesitating, she asked: “What was it like in the old days?”

I realized then that her generation had lived most of their lives in the shadow of walls. Their parents remember a different time, when they crossed over the line without hindrance to graze animals or join a weekend softball game. They recall the times when crossing the border was as easy as crossing a street.

A woman walks toward the U.S. border port with Mexico in Nogales, Arizona. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A woman walks toward the U.S. border port with Mexico in Nogales, Arizona. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

These days, despite the wall, people continue to traverse the line legally in large numbers but only through official ports of entry. For instance, San Diego-Tijuana is the busiest port on the borderline, processing an average of 70,000 northbound vehicle passengers and 20,000 northbound pedestrians per day. Border crossers have become accustomed to delays imposed by the wall, and tune into media to factor them into their commutes. You might see agricultural workers driving at 4 a.m. from Mexicali, Mexico to fields in the Imperial Valley. Or, parents of Mexican children organizing early morning carpools to ferry their kids to school in Calexico, California using special passes that speed up the commute. They’ve learned how to cope.

But make no mistake: Border people want their former lives back. They insist that the damage caused by the walls be repaired. They ask that no more walls be constructed, and that the $25 billion it would cost to build more walls be diverted to increasing the number and capacity of official ports of entry. They ask for the right to manage their destinies without interference from outsiders.

A 2016 survey of residents in the twin cities confirmed that the borderland is increasingly becoming “one giant economically integrated, bicultural society.” An Arizona respondent emphasized the importance of maintaining connections across the line: “Our lifeline is across the border… Without Mexicans, we don’t exist. Our life is sucked away.” Another, this time from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in Tamaulipas state, expressed his concern this way: “If [they] build a wall, we will be alone.”

Interviews from the survey show that unlike many people in the U.S., border residents do not equate wall-building with national security. One man, originally from Mexico but now living in Texas, said that he was not opposed to more Border Patrol officers, nor the presence in Mexico of U.S. military helping in the drug war. But walls he resisted, because “A wall is a symbol of discrimination, racism, segregation, not a solution for security, or for reducing violence.”

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, captured a sentiment widely held by survey respondents: “It says something really beautiful that the border, two countries, two languages, two cultures, at this point become essentially one people.”

The third-nation citizens I meet are fiercely independent. They work hard. They have no choice but to shoulder the burdens of our nation’s obsession with immigration, drugs and national security. Yet their aspirations are no different from yours or mine, and now more than ever their voices deserve to be heard.

MICHAEL DEAR is a Professor Emeritus of City & Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkeley.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Sexism, Racism Drive More Black Women to Run for Office in Both Brazil and US

Black women in Brazil protest presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, who is known for his disparaging remarks about women, on Sept. 29, 2018.  AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Black women in Brazil protest presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, who is known for his disparaging remarks about women, on Sept. 29, 2018. AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Motivated in part by President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about women and the numerous claims that he committed sexual assault, American women are running for state and national office in historic numbers. At least 255 women are on the ballot as major party congressional candidates in the November general election.

The surge includes a record number of women of color, many of whom say their candidacies reflect a personal concern about America’s increasingly hostile, even violent, racial dynamics. In addition to the 59 black female congressional candidates, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams hopes to become her state’s first black governor.

The U.S. is not the only place where the advance of racism and misogyny in politics has has spurred black women to run for office at unprecedented levels.

In Brazil, a record 1,237 black women will be on the ballot this Sunday in the country’s Oct. 7 general election.

Brazilian women rise up

I’m a scholar of black feminism in the Americas, so I have been closely watching Brazil’s 2018 campaign season – which has been marked by controversy around race and gender – for parallels with the United States.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of Brazilian women marched nationwide against the far-right presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, under the banner of #EleNao – #NotHim.

Bolsonaro, a pro-gun, anti-abortion congressman with strong evangelical backing, once told a fellow congressional representative that she “didn’t deserve to be raped” because she was “terrible and ugly.”

Bolsonaro has seen a boost in the polls since he was stabbed at a campaign rally on Sept. 8 in a politically motivated attack.

Protests in Rio de Janeiro against Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 29, organized under the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim).  AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Protests in Rio de Janeiro against Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 29, organized under the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim). AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Brazil has shifted rightward since 2016, when the left-leaning female president Dilma Rousseff was ousted in a partisan impeachment process that many progressives regard as a political coup.

Her successor, then-Vice President Michel Temer, quickly passed an austerity budget that reversed many progressive policies enacted under Rousseff and her predecessor, Workers Party founder Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

The move decimated funding for agencies and laws that protect women, people of color and the very poor.

Racism in Brazil

In Brazil, these three categories – women, people of color and the very poor – tend to overlap.

Brazil, which has more people of African descent than most African nations, was the largest slaveholding society in the Americas. Over 4 million enslaved Africans were forcibly taken to the country between 1530 and 1888.

Brazil’s political, social and economic dynamics still reflect this history.

Though Brazil has long considered itself colorblind, black and indigenous Brazilians are poorer than their white compatriots. Black women also experience sexual violence at much higher rates than white women – a centuries-old abuse of power that dates back to slavery.

Afro-Brazilians – who make up just over half of Brazil’s 200 million people, according to the 2010 census – are also underrepresented in Brazilian politics, though sources disagree on exactly how few black Brazilians hold public office.

Three Afro-Brazilians serve in the Senate, including one woman. In the 513-member lower Chamber of Deputies, about 20 percent identify as black or brownWomen of color hold around 1 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Black women step into the fray

That could change on Sunday.

This year, 9,204 of the 27,208 people running for office across Brazil are women, which reflects a law requiring political parties to nominate at least 30 percent women. About 13 percent of female candidates in 2018 are Afro-Brazilian.

A campaign ad for Rio city council member Talíria Petrone, who is running for Congress. Facebook

A campaign ad for Rio city council member Talíria Petrone, who is running for Congress.Facebook

In most Brazilian states, that’s a marked increase over Brazil’s last general election, in 2014, according to the online publication Congresso em Foco.

In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, 105 black women ran for office in 2014. This year, 166 are. In Bahia state, there are 106 black female candidates for political office, versus 59 in 2014. The number has likewise doubled in Minas Gerais, from 51 in 2014 to 105 this year.

As in the United States, Brazil’s black wave may be a direct response to alarming social trends, including sharp rises in gang violence and police brutality, both of which disproportionately affect black communities.

But many female candidates in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, say one specific event inspired them to run.

In March, Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian human rights activist and Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, was assassinated – the 11th Brazilian activist to be murdered since November 2017.

Franco’s murder remains unsolved, but she was an outspoken critic of the military occupation of Rio’s poor, mostly black favela neighborhoods. The ongoing police investigation has implicated government agents in the shooting, which also killed her driver.

Her death unleashed an avalanche of activism among black women in Rio de Janeiro, with new groups offering fundraising and political training for female candidates of color.

On Sunday, 231 black women from Rio de Janeiro state will stand for election in local, state and federal races – more than any other state in Brazil and more than double the number who ran in 2014.

Black representation from Rio to Atlanta

Black women may have been historically excluded from Brazil’s formal political arena, but they have been a driving force for social and political change since the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1985.

Decades before #MeToo, Brazilian women of color were on the front lines of activism around issues like gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abortion.

The March 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, Marielle Franco, spurred a wave of black women running for local and federal office in Brazil.  Reuters/Ricardo Moraes

The March 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, Marielle Franco, spurred a wave of black women running for local and federal office in Brazil. Reuters/Ricardo Moraes

Brazil has hundreds of black women’s groups. Some, including Geledes, a center for public policy, are mainstays of the Brazilian human rights movement. The founder of the Rio de Janeiro anti-racism group Criola, Jurema Werneck, is now the director of Amnesty International in Brazil.

The fact that thousands of black women, both veteran activists and political newcomers, will appear on the ballot on Sunday is testament to their efforts.

As in the United States, black Brazilian women’s demand for political representation is deeply personal. They have watched as their mostly male and conservative-dominated congresses chipped away at hard-won protections for women and people of color in recent years, exposing the fragility of previous decades’ progress on race and gender.

Black women in Brazil and the U.S. know that full democracy hinges on full participation. By entering into politics, they hope to foster more inclusive and equitable societies for all.

KIA LILLY CALDWELL is a Professor of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Why Native Americans Struggle to Protect Their Sacred Places

People protest the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

People protest the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Forty years ago the U.S. Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act so that Native Americans could practice their faith freely and that access to their sacred sites would be protected. This came after a 500-year-long history of conquest and coercive conversion to Christianity had forced Native Americans from their homelands.

Today, their religious practice is threatened all over again. On Dec. 4, 2017, the Trump administration reduced the Bears Ears National Monument, an area sacred to Native Americans in Utah, by over 1 million acres. Bears Ears Monument is only one example of the conflict over places of religious value. Many other such sacred sites are being viewed as potential areas for development, threatening the free practice of Native American faith.

While Congress created the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to provide “access to sacred sites,” it has been open to interpretation. Native Americans still struggle to protect their sacred lands.

Land-based religions

Native Americans have land-based religions, which means they practice their religion within specific geographic locations. As Joseph Toledo, a Jemez Pueblo tribal leader, says, sacred sites are like churches; they are “places of great healing and magnetism.”

Some of these places, as in the case of Bears Ears National Monument, are within federal public lands. As a Native American scholar, I have visited many of these places and felt their power.

For thousands of years, tribes have used Bears Ears for rituals, ceremonies and collecting medicines used for healing. The different tribes – the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni – have worked to protect the land. Together they set up a nongovernmental organization, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition to help conserve the landscape in 2015.

Native American tribes believe Bears Ears is the last of undisturbed sacred lands.  Mark Stevens ,  CC BY-NC-SA

Native American tribes believe Bears Ears is the last of undisturbed sacred lands. Mark StevensCC BY-NC-SA

The tribes believe Bears Ears is one of the last large undisturbed areas in the lower 48 states and contains the spirits of those who once lived there. Bears Ears Navajo elder Mark Maryboy emphasized, “It’s very important that we protect the earth, the plants, and special ceremonial places in Bears Ears for future generations — not just for Native Americans, but for everybody.”

Sacred landscape

My great-grandparents, Páyotayàkχkumei and Kayetså’χkumi, (translated as Aims-while-flying-through-the-air and Hollering-in-the-air), were well-known religious leaders on the Blackfeet reservation. They lived in the foothills of the south side of the reservation. However, they went into the mountains and onto public lands in an area now called the Badger-Two Medicine in northcentral Montana to practice their religion.

My great-grandfather traveled into Badger canyon to trap eagles and gather their feathers which he used in ceremonies and for divine protection. My great-grandmother gathered medicinal plants used in healing ceremonies. Together they prayed and sought solitude in this sacred landscape.

Similar to Bears Ears, the Badger-Two Medicine, a 130,000-acre area within the Lewis and Clark National Forest, became embroiled in a controversy over potential natural resource development between 1982 and 2017. The Blackfeet tribe argued that these lands were sacred. And that tribal members, such as my great-grandparents, had used these lands for years for spiritual purposes.

The Blackfeet tribe ultimately succeeded in stopping development, but only after a 35-year-long fight with the Department of Interior, which initially approved almost 50 oil and gas leases. In 2017 Interior Secretary Jewell canceled the last of these leases. This means these public lands will not be used for natural resource development in the future.

Now my family and other Blackfeet, who have used the Badger-Two Medicine for millennia, can use these public lands for their religious practice in solitude.

Forty years later

The reality is, however, that not every dispute between tribes and the U.S. government ends up in favor of the tribes. Historically, Native American tribes have struggled to explain why certain landscapes are sacred for them.

In 1988, just 10 years after the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Supreme Court considered a case involving the construction of a U.S. Forest Service road through undeveloped federal lands sacred to northern California tribes in the Six Rivers National Forest.

The lower court had ruled in favor of the Yurok, Karok and Tolowa tribes stating the road would impact their religious practice.

However, the Supreme Court reversed the decision, ruling that building a road through a sacred landscape would not prohibit the tribes “free exercise” of religion.

The tribes lost, because the Supreme Court viewed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act as a policy and not a law with legal protections.

Ultimately, the road was not built because Congress stepped in and added this sacred area to the existing Siskiyou Wilderness, which is a protected area by federal law.

What was noteworthy in the SCOTUS deliberations, though, was the dissenting opinion of Justice William Brennan, who defended land-based religions. He said,

“Native American faith is inextricably bound to the use of land. The site-specific nature of Indian religious practice derives from the Native American perception that land is itself a sacred, living being.”

Indeed, religion scholars such as Yale professor Tisa Wenger point outthat “the most important religious freedom issues for Native Americans” center around protecting their sacred places.

At a time when the Trump administration has created a new task force to address discrimination against certain religious groups, the exclusion of Bears Ears and other places of religious significance from these discussions raises important questions about religious freedom in the United States and also the legacy of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

ROSALYN R. LAPIER is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at The University of Montana.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Food Insecurity Affects More than 41 Million Americans

In a nation of plenty, why do 1 out of 8 Americans have uncertain or limited access to food?

In America 1 out of 10 don’t have enough to eat, much more than the 1 in 20 in Europe (Source: Bread Institute for America).

In America 1 out of 10 don’t have enough to eat, much more than the 1 in 20 in Europe (Source: Bread Institute for America).

Going hungry in America is not what most would expect. Hunger might mean sacrificing nutritious food for inexpensive, unhealthy options. It might mean periodic disruption to normal eating patterns. And increasingly such hunger occurs among white families, in the suburbs, and among obese people. In other words, any community can be affected; and in 2017, the USDA reported 12.3% of American households are food insecure. Hunger today is a result of tradeoffs between food and other costs—such as health care, bills, and education.

However, hunger does not accurately depict food insecurity in America. Hunger is a prolonged, involuntary lack of food that can lead to personal or physical discomfort. Conversely, food insecure, coined in 2006 by the USDA, defines a household with limited or uncertain access to food. Food insecurity results from limited financial resources and makes it difficult to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. Further, food insecurity can be categorized either as low food insecurity (reduced quality of food, but not intake) or high food insecurity (both reduced quality and intake).

No matter the category given, food insecurity has serious effects. This is most evident in the need for 66% of Feeding America customer households to choose between medical care and food, according to a 2014 study. Considering many food insecure individuals have diabetes or high blood pressure, medical care can be critical. A study by the Bread for the World Institute in 2014 estimated hunger creates $160 billion in healthcare costs. This includes mental health problems, nutrition related issues, and hospitalizations among other potential costs.

Further, 13 million of food insecure individuals are children and 4.9 million are seniors: two critical groups whose bodies rely on proper nutrition. For example, the effects of hunger in children have been known to delay development, cause behavioral problems, and even increase the chances a child will repeat a grade.

One solution for food insecurity is federal food assistance programs. Indeed, 59% of food insecure households are part of at least one major federal food assistance program— but 25% of households do not qualify. The most well-known of these federal programs is SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP requires your gross income be at or below the poverty line by 130%, allowing for adjustments with family size. Still, the average amount per person is around $133.07 a month—or less than $1.50 per meal.

The desired solution though is the end of food insecurity in America. A major force behind this future is the domestic nonprofit, and hunger relief organization, Feeding America. Feeding America supports food banks, funds research, provides meal programs, mobilizes anti-hunger advocacy, and educates the public among other initiatives.

Overall, Feeding America and its partners served 1 out of 7 Americans in 2017. It was able to do so as it works together with 200 food banks and 60,000 pantries. Each affiliated food bank, a non-profit that stores food for smaller organizations, is evaluated according to industry practices and food safety laws. Additionally, all staff receive food safety training. These practices ensure all food is safe when distributed at the food pantries, which directly serve their communities.

Much of the food was higher quality too: around 1.3 billion pounds of nutritional food was delivered to food banks in 2017. Some food is food waste, in 2017 3.3 billion pounds were rescued from landfills and redistributed for consumption from partner companies, such as Starbucks. And all these small initiatives are directly helping communities, making food security an increasing possibility for the future.

 

TERESA NOWALK is a student at the University of Virginia studying anthropology and history. In her free time she loves traveling, volunteering in the Charlottesville community, and listening to other people’s stories. She does not know where her studies will take her, but is certain writing will be a part of whatever the future has in store.

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Happiness and the Environment in Costa Rica vs. the United States

Nichols Arboretum. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jana Shemano, 2018.

Nichols Arboretum. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jana Shemano, 2018.

The Happy Planet Index, founded in July 2006 by statistician Nic Marks measures the wellbeing of a country’s citizens; it “shows that it is possible to live good lives without costing the Earth.” Marks is set on identifying the positive outcomes that environmental action can have on individuals, the planet, and on society’s well being -- steering away from the negative perspective of the future of the environment -- while showing that economic development is not the key to happiness.

 

 

The importance of happiness that Marks utilizes to measure the Happy Planet Index is notably explained in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle asserts his belief that happiness is the final destination in life. He writes that when people make decisions “in the sake of honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue” that “we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy”. Alternatively, when making decisions based on happiness, Aristotle believed that no one chooses happiness for the sake of anything other “than itself”. In summary, Aristotle believed that there is no explanation to the search for happiness, other than happiness is innate to human nature.

 

In Marks’s TedX talk at Oxford, England, he reinterprets Aristotle’s text stating that “we should be happy and the planet should be happy” and that happiness should be the goal “of every nation on the planet”. Marks then presents a graph of what people believe is most important in life ranking happiness first, health and love in second, and wealth in third. Despite these statistics, however, Marks discusses how western culture currently does not account for happiness when making decisions about the environment as they do with economic and materialistic gains. Most notably Americans continue to attribute happiness to wealth and success, when Costa Rica, the happiest place in the world, has a thriving environment and lack of economic wealth.

 

Costa Rica’s continuous ranking as the happiest country in the world is caused by an extremely low Ecological Footprint and highly efficient system of “generating long, happy lives in terms of the resources it consumes”, according to the Happy Planet Index. This way of life can be traced back to 1948 when Costa Rica peacefully abolished their army after a 44 day Civil War and dedicated their military funds to social, environmental and educational projects. Since then, the Costa Rican government has committed to becoming “carbon neutral in 2021” and produces 99% of its energy from renewable resources. Unlike western countries who target economic and technological advancements, Costa Rica focuses on accomplishing health and happiness through environmental action. The country is a jovial place brimming with happy, content people, despite their lack of advanced technology and economy.

 

Comparatively, the United States ranks 108th on the 2016 Happy Planet Index. America’s priorities, according to the Happy Planet Index, are not in order to produce a happy, sustainable society. Lauren Greenfield, creator of the collection of photos “Generation Wealth”, cogently captures America’s distorted desires. In her collection, Greenfield highlights America’s eagerness for opulence, wealth, inflated ego and lack of environmental awareness. Americans’ blatant disregard for anything but economic and technological advancements portrays why the United States ranks extremely low on the Happy Planet Index. They are unable to understand the detrimental effects that over-consumption has on their wellbeing and the environment. Taking care of the environment has a direct impact on an individuals well being. It is crucial that Americans understand and further integrate this correlation between the environment and happiness into daily life in order to create a healthy, happy and sustainable country.

 

The Happy Planet Index represents the necessity of taking care of the environment. Life and nature are precious, serene and beautiful. As a result, nature should not be sacrificed for the consumption of exorbitant amounts of resources and materials in order to redeem the economy or the ego. The assessment of the level of happiness of each country around the globe further demonstrates how environmental action also takes the format of a moral movement as it strives for happiness and peace with life and nature. Facing the environmental movement head on is essential to saving the planet from severe natural destruction and also achieving human’s one true end goal: happiness.

 

 

Jana Shemano is a student at the University of Michigan studying English and Psychology. She loves to learn, meet new people, gain different perspective, and have healthy debates. She also aspires to ski down Mt. Kilimanjaro.

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