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for people who care about the West

Anti-immigration myopia

  Dear HCN,
Phil Cafaro’s letter “Real environmentalists don’t support immigration” and Ed Marston’s column on a similar topic (HCN, 2/3/03: The son of immigrants has a change of heart) strike me as a tad myopic. Are the lands in the West more worthy of preservation than those in Mexico; does not putting up barriers to protect our resources contribute to depletion elsewhere?

Increased wealth and education lead to increased concern for the environment. We know this. At the same time, it’s those of us with a standard of living that allows for environmental consciousness who generally use the most resources. Hmmm. Perhaps it is we who need to stand at the shore of a Rio Grande and imagine another life. Or, at least, there needs to be a little mixing here — mixing of our wealth and education with their way of living in a truly (in my experience) conservationist way.  

Yes, population control is essential (news flash for the Bush administration). And yes, Mexico needs to cope with its population and economy. But by isolating ourselves and adopting a NIMBY attitude, we fall far short of what we could do.

Consider this: A man sends money to his family in rural Mexico, his son is therefore able to attend college, the son has expertise to implement programs to prevent soil erosion, the boy also helps his sister to become a nurse, a nurse who will soon be educating the village on birth control. I don’t know, but it sounds pretty good to me.   

Marston suggests that on this topic, we use our emotions, tempered by hearts and minds. I remember a small boy, without shoes or shirt (or, I’m sure, a single plastic toy) crouching and drawing pictures in the dirt while he waits for the mail, mail that will bring a money order from his father, money which will someday send him to college — this image tells my heart all it needs to know on the matter.   

Laura Pritchett
Fort Collins, Colorado