By Dave Lindorff
Three walls doomed to failure: China, the US wall bordering Mexico, and Trump's planned wall
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With the signing of an executive order Wednesday, President Trump has begun to make good on his campaign promise to build a "big beautiful wall" along the as yet unwalled parts of the border with Mexico. But this epic project, which could cost as much as $25 billion according to some reports, is being put in the wrong location and, in any case, will be a complete waste of money anyhow in terms of deterring illegal immigration.
As the Manchus famously proved in the case of China's laughably ineffective Great Wall, a wall, while perhaps a great tourist attraction, is only as strong as the people behind it. After multiple successful raids across the wall, a Manchu army poured through a fortified gate, not by breaking it down but by convincing and bribing a rebel Ming warlord to open it for them so they could march on Beijing and finish off the Ming dynasty, establishing the Qing dynasty that lasted until the early 20th Century).
Already, some 580 miles of the 2000-mile border between Mexico and the US is fenced off, either with actual walls of various types from razor-wire-topped fences to fancier iron-grated structure, or by "virtual walls" of motion sensors and cameras. But despite these fences, desperate immigrants still cross at about pre-fence rate, either by tunneling or making a dash and hoping not to get caught before they can reach some urban center and melt into the crowd. There's no reason to suspect that completing the wall across the whole of what used to be proudly called one of the world's longest unguarded borders, would stop the flow of people seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Some will attempt to climb it risking death or serious injury. Others will burrow under it. Most, or course, as now, will just come to the US legally on visitor visas and then just stay on, working, building a life, and hoping not to get caught and deported.
Clearly, spending what could end up being as much as the entire budget of the State Department, Energy Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development or two Departments of Interior to build a wall that will not work seems like a really dumb idea. But it's actually much worse than that.
The thing is, we really do need to be building walls in the US. It's just that we don't need to be building them on the Mexican border. Our coastal cities need them.
As Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy demonstrated in New Orleans and in New York and northern New Jersey, climate change-induced sea level rise is threatening some of the country's great cities, and unless the federal government starts working to build hugely expensive Dutch-style dikes and levies and surge gates to keep rising waters and storm surges at bay, hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of real estate and possibly tens of thousands of lives will be at risk.
Of course, Trump and his cabinet of Republican sycophants scoff at the idea of climate change, or pretend to disbelieve in it, but the science is clear: Earth is warming at an accelerating rate, and sea level is rising inexorably in response, also at an accelerating rate. The oceans, on average, have already risen three inches over the last 20 years according to the Climate Institute . That may not seem like much, but it's just an inkling of what's coming. The last time the earth was this warm, seas were 30 feet higher than they are now. It's just that this time, the temperature has risen so quickly the ice melt hasn't had time to happen, but the future is already baked into that temperature rise.