great green barrier



Walls are meant to keep people out or keep people in. They are always built out of fear. Those who saw how to exploit it stoked he legitimate fear of what happened in 2001. One of the most egregious was the authorization and funding of the wall between the United States and Mexico.

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff used his new power to “waive in their entirety” the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act to extend triple fencing through the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve near San Diego.

In fear we will agree to almost anything. Before one study was done it was common knowledge this wall could be laddered over and tunneled under. Enough money has already been spent on this Wall [the first 300 miles averaged $3.9 million per mile-nearly 4 x the original estimate-with portions of the primary fencing near San Diego costing $20 million per mile], to suggest exploring other options to define and protect our border.

Walls are interesting things, they can show strength or they can demonstrate vulnerability. Two of the most famous walls were built less then 100 years apart. Both were engineering wonders built by arguable the two most advanced nations in the world.  One was hastily built by the military; the other carefully designed and built. The one built by the military is today no more then a few rocks here and there -- a foot note in history. Hadrian’s Wall is a symbol of the decline of the great Roman Empire. The other, built earlier and never breached, is a man made wonder of the world. The Great Wall of China, an enduring example of great design and artistry at 5,500 miles, remains a powerful symbol of the Chinese people.  It is the number one tourist attraction in the world and the only man made object that can be seen from space.

If the need is such that we must have a barrier between us and our neighbors then let it reflect who we are. Make it great and designed for its purpose, not as the hostile act of a bully. Use what the border already offers and turn that into art. Create a barrier that is not hostile to the land it protects and yet more impenetrable than a wall.  Our national symbol is the Statue of Liberty.  That image is undermined by razor wire fencing at our border.  And yet our border must be secure and the rule of law must be followed.


In the case of the border, the art of landscape design, specifically xeriscaping.  We know that sections of the wall already built have destroyed habitat. We propose to supplement existing walls along the US-Mexico Border with sections of Living Art Installations. Created using

indigenous, drought resistant cactus selected for aggressive growth and spread with sharp spines and razor edges. In five to seven years when it has reached maturity, it will grow together becoming an impenetrable barrier, 300 feet deep, and expand natural habitat for native animals and migratory birds. Dense on the whole, thinner in other places to accommodate native wildlife movement.











A living art installation that does double duty as: a lower cost alternative to provide enhanced national security for the approximately 1,200 miles of unfenced border between Yuma, AZ and Brownsville, TX.  Enhanced security would be provided by utilizing upright concrete security barriers to keep vehicles and machinery away from the Great Green Barrier.  Designed to enhance and expand natural habitat and employment opportunities in the Southwest. 

Protect Threatened and Endangered Species

The Southwest deserts are a hotspot for endemism (species found nowhere else) and are home to an incredible diversity of threatened and endangered plants and animals—23 species in just one Sonoran desert county alone. Because many species are adapted to very specialized niches, their survival is fragile. 

The Sonoran Desert alone (covering about 2/3 of Arizona’s border) contains approximately 5,000 plant species, 600 species of vertebrates and thousands of invertebrates, including 1000 native bee species. The Chihuahuan desert (covering New Mexico’s Border and that of West Texas) contains more than 500 of the world’s 1,500 cacti species.

Enhance National Security

It will assist U.S. Customs & Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security by directing the flow of illegal entry, thereby maximizing existing security systems. It will do this in a way that will make us proud rather then the shame that inevitably comes from building a wall that rapes the earth.

Yes, it is audacious in its vision and scale.  How else to address national security at the most crossed border in the world, in a manner that reflects our ideal as a nation?

Some background on the U.S.-Mexico border:

At 1938* miles in length, [curiously the USGS only has an estimate for this critically important, contiguous stretch of land] it is the most frequently crossed border in the world.  There are 31 crossing points, 5 in California, 6 in Arizona, 3 in New Mexico and 17 in Texas. The fence is actually several separate barriers designed to prevent illegal movement across the United States-Mexico border. These account for 700 miles of “effectively controlled” border. These were built as part of three larger "Operations" to combat transportation of illegal drugs manufactured in Latin America and illegal immigration: Operation Gatekeeper in California, Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas, and Operation Safeguard in Arizona.

These barriers are strategically placed to mitigate the flow of illegal border crossings along the United States-Mexico international border into the southwestern U.S.  Supporters cite the ongoing escalation of national security risks, relating to Cartel border violence, and possible co-operation with overseas terrorists. Opponents claim the barriers are an ineffective deterrent, with costs ballooning out of control and they destroy animal. habitat, prevent animals from reaching water, disturb animal migration patterns, and otherwise damage the environment.

+ US-Mexico border has been completely surveyed

+ Approximately 500-550 miles [45% of the 1200 miles] is owned or administered

   Federal land, making it easy to implement planting.

+ Areas not covered by government’s proposed fence include ~ 200 miles

   between Columbus, NM and Douglas, AZ [virtually all federal land].

+ As of January 2010, the fence project has been completed from

   San Diego, California to Yuma, Arizona.

The Great Green Barrier Offers Substantial Cost Savings

Construction costs on the border walls to date have ranged between $4 million and $20 million per mile.  Their effectiveness has been called into serious question. Supplemental efforts, such as domestic surveillance drones have also been questioned: “After six years and $250 million spent, the nine predator drones have yet to prove very useful in stopping contraband or illegal immigrants.” Los Angeles Times 4-29-12

Our preliminary estimates suggest construction and maintenance costs would be $1 million per mile, representing a 75% cost savings over the lowest border wall costs.

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