Back when I was growing up in a small town on the Rio Grande, the border with Mexico was just a line in the sand – sometimes a barb wire fence, sometimes a totally imaginary line stretching across those hundreds of miles of desert. We’d go out in that desert to explore old lava flows, sink holes, canyons and mountains, and never give a thought to the fact we were next to, and sometimes accidentally entering, a foreign country. The need for a wall never entered our minds.
That, of course, is all different now. President Trump’s plan for a wall has divided the country. Yet, I think most of us see that there is a need for a secure border. The times have changed. An open border is a luxury we just can’t afford any more. A wall is one suggestion. Another group dreams of building an international peace park. But the most bold idea would have us build something useful that becomes an asset for both countries.
The idea comes out of Perdue University. Professors there envision a 2,000 mile solar and wind energy park and transmission route. Some of the electricity would power massive desalination plants, which would travel by pipeline to new agricultural, industrial, and community centers along or near the route.
The plan would transform the entire region. The area is energy-rich with large reserves of natural gas and shale oil nearby. With copious desert sunshine, just think how much power a 2,000 mile string of solar panels along the border, coupled with wind machines in the high wind areas, would generate. All of these sort of facilities require a lot of security, so including them in the border zone seems practical.
According to the scientists, it makes good sense. The development cost would be an investment, with returns from electrical power sales and land development. New industrial and agricultural centers would grow out of the desert sand, under controlled circumstances which could reduce environmental impacts and protect the sovereign rights of both countries, while controlling the flow of people and products over the border. It makes more sense than a wall that has to be maintained and monitored with no other return on our investment.