This was the headline of a Washington Post editorial published in December.
An employee of the National Butterfly Center along the United States-Mexico border in Mission, Texas, wrote in the column last month that a portion of Donald Trump’s long-proposed border wall will cut through the sanctuary, disrupting feeding, migration patterns, and life in general for hundreds and hundreds of species of plants and wildlife.
“I didn’t take that idea seriously during the campaign,” the author wrote. “I knew he couldn’t get Mexico to pay it—that’d be like asking Hurricane Harvey to foot the bill for rebuilding Houston—and thought it was just talk: another candidate making big promises he couldn’t keep. I never thought it would actually happen.”
Setting that bizarre analogy aside (and the fact that the author was OK with the idea of a wall doing exactly the same thing to human beings), this seems to be a growing phenomenon among voters—“I didn’t think he was being serious,” “I thought it was a joke,” “I didn’t realize he could actually make it happen.”
In the president’s case, “Build the wall” chants were literally the soundtrack of his rallies. He introduced the idea the day he announced his candidacy, saying, “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
By all accounts, he is a man more concerned with results than process, and he is someone who gave no indication that he cared, even on a superficial level, about the environment. It was not a secret that the president does not believe in climate change, frequently denying that it exists and rolling back Obama-era climate regulations. His 2018 budget eliminated $1.5 billion from the Department of the Interior, affecting the National Park Service, National Heritage Areas and more. These are not the actions of someone who is concerned about the state of the planet.
What could happen at the National Butterfly Center is hard reconcile, but the damage will not be (and has not been) limited to Mission. The length of the U.S.-Mexico border is about 2,000 miles. Over one-quarter of that is already walled or fenced off. Adding a 30-foot-tall concrete wall onto that, many scientists say, would be devastating. It’s not a question of “what might happen,” but “how bad will it be,” according to a 2017 story published by the Texas Tribune.
“What the border fence has kept out instead, according to environmentalists, scientists and local officials, is wildlife,” the article read. “And the people who have spent decades acquiring and restoring border habitat say that if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to turn the border fence into a continuous, 40-foot concrete wall, the situation for wildlife along the border—one of the most biodiverse areas in North America—will only get worse.”
Conservation groups have fought for decades to protect and preserve the land around the border for the animals that live and pass through there. But those efforts continue to crumble. Already endangered species are struggling to find food, water and mates, the story said. A wall could interfere with migratory bird paths that pass over parts of the border. Biologist Jesse Lasky conducted a study which found that the range of some species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians has already been cut off by 75 percent. You can imagine how much worse a 40-foot-tall slab of concrete spanning 2,000 miles would make that—on top of the impact that adapting to the noise, traffic and construction equipment would have on the surrounding ecosystem.
It’s clear that the president is either ignorant to the destruction the wall will bring to local habitats, or he does not care. It has been pretty difficult to determine whether he is consumed by ignorance, hatred, or a little bit of both. Either way, it’s not great!
But this president is exactly who he told us he was during that very first candidacy speech. What we’ve seen even over the last several decades from Trump is exactly what we got with his presidency. To him, it doesn’t matter what happens to the people and spaces affected by his policies, as we’ve seen many times two years into this administration. The end result, the ability to say, “I did this,” is what he values most of all.