Archives mensuelles : juillet 2013

The Forest Man of India |

The Forest Man of India
May 6, 2013 | Lindsey Blomberg | forests, india, jadav payeng


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    Jadav Payeng who planted a 1,360-acre forest.
    In 1979, Jadav Payeng embarked on what would ultimately become a successful 30-year project to single-handedly plant a 1,360-acre forest. Payeng’s tree-planting mission began at age 16, when flooding wiped away a large portion of forest along the Brahmaputra river sandbar in Assam, India. Wildlife were left without adequate shade, and Payeng watched helpless creatures begin to die off from the heat. Deeply saddened, Payeng realized his true calling, to “grow trees all my life.”
    “After the floodwaters receded, the temperatures soared. The snakes died in the heat without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage,” Payeng told the Times of India. “I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested.”
    Payeng started his forest by watering bamboo saplings morning and evening. He even brought red ants from his home village to the sandbar to help improve the soil. When his bamboo trees grew, Payeng decided to slowly introduce other species of trees into the island.
    “I then decided to grow proper trees. I collected and planted them,” Payeng told the Times of India. “I also transported red ants from my village and was stung many times. Red ants change the soil’s properties. That was an experience.”
    Through his individual, unprecedented act of conservationism, Payeng transformed the barren sandbar once prone to flooding into a lush, green forest that now shelters numerous birds, deer, rhinos, tigers and elephants. Payeng’s forest went largely unnoticed until 2008, when a team of Assam state officials came upon it in search of a herd of wild elephants that had run amok in a neighboring village.
    “We were surprised to find such a dense forest on the sandbar,” Gunin Saikia, Assam’s Assistant Conservator of Forests, told the Times of India. “We’re amazed at Payeng. He has been at it for 30 years.”
    Now, at 52, Payeng makes a living with his family in the forest he planted by rearing cows and selling milk, and he has his sights set on planting a second forest on yet another 1,300-acre sandbar.
    “It may take another 30 years, but I am optimistic about it,” Payeng told the Times of India. “I feel sad when I see people felling trees. We have to save the nature or else we all will perish. I may live a very lowly life but I feel satisfied that I have been able to stir up a lot of people who love nature.”

    The Forest Man of India |

2013 July 10 – EPA’s abandoned Wyoming fracking study one retreat of many — High Country News

EPA’s abandoned Wyoming fracking study one retreat of many

When the federal Environmental Protection Agency abruptly retreated on its multimillion-dollar investigation into water contamination in a central Wyoming natural gas field last month, it shocked environmentalists and energy industry supporters alike.
In 2011, the agency had issued a blockbuster draft report saying that the controversial practice of fracking was to blame for the pollution of an aquifer deep below the town of Pavillion, Wyo. – the first time such a claim had been based on a scientific analysis.
The study drew heated criticism over its methodology and awaited a peer review that promised to settle the dispute. Now the EPA will instead hand the study over to the state of Wyoming, whose research will be funded by EnCana, the very drilling company whose wells may have caused the contamination.
Industry advocates say the EPA’s turnabout reflects an overdue recognition that it had over-reached on fracking and that its science was critically flawed.
But environmentalists see an agency that is systematically disengaging from any research that could be perceived as questioning the safety of fracking or oil drilling, even as President Obama lays out a plan to combat climate change that rests heavily on the use of natural gas.
Over the past 15 months, they point out, the EPA has:
·      Closed an investigation into groundwater pollution in Dimock, Pa., saying the level of contamination was below federal safety triggers.
·      Abandoned its claim that a driller in Parker County, Texas, was responsible for methane gas bubbling up in residents’ faucets, even though a geologist hired by the agency confirmed this finding.
·      Sharply revised downward a 2010 estimate showing that leaking gas from wells and pipelines was contributing to climate change, crediting better pollution controls by the drilling industry even as other reports indicate the leaks may be larger than previously thought.
·      Failed to enforce a statutory ban on using diesel fuel in fracking.
« We’re seeing a pattern that is of great concern, » said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. « They need to make sure that scientific investigations are thorough enough to ensure that the public is getting a full scientific explanation. »
The EPA says that the string of decisions is not related, and the Pavillion matter will be resolved more quickly by state officials. The agency has maintained publicly that it remains committed to an ongoing national study of hydraulic fracturing, which it says will draw the definitive line on fracking’s risks to water.
In private conversations, however, high-ranking agency officials acknowledge that fierce pressure from the drilling industry and its powerful allies on Capitol Hill – as well as financial constraints and a delicate policy balance sought by the White House — is squelching their ability to scrutinize not only the effects of oil and gas drilling, but other environmental protections as well.
Last year, the agency’s budget was sliced 17 percent, to below 1998 levels. Sequestration forced further cuts, making research initiatives like the one in Pavillion harder to fund.
One reflection of the intense political spotlight on the agency: In May, Senate Republicans boycotted a vote on President Obama’s nominee to head the EPA, Gina McCarthy, after asking her to answer more than 1,000 questions on regulatory and policy concerns, including energy.
The Pavillion study touched a particular nerve for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the former ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.
According to correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Inhofe demanded repeated briefings from EPA officials on fracking initiatives and barraged the agency with questions on its expenditures in Pavillion, down to how many dollars it paid a lab to check water samples for a particular contaminant.
He also wrote a letter to the EPA’s top administrator calling a draft report that concluded fracking likely helped pollute Pavillion’s drinking water « unsubstantiated » and pillorying it as part of an « Administration-wide effort to hinder and unnecessarily regulate hydraulic fracturing on the federal level. » He called for the EPA’s inspector general to open an investigation into the agency’s actions related to fracking.
When the EPA announced it would end its research in Pavillion, Inhofe — whose office did not respond to questions from ProPublica — was quick to applaud.
« EPA thought it had a rock solid case linking groundwater contamination to hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion, WY, but we knew all along that the science was not there, » Inhofe said in a press release issued the day of the announcement.
Others, however, wonder whether a gun-shy EPA is capable of answering the pressing question of whether the nation’s natural gas boom will also bring a wave of environmental harm.
« The EPA has just put a ‘kick me’ sign on it, » John Hanger, a Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania and the former secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, wrote on his blog in response to the EPA news about Pavillion. « Its critics from all quarters will now oblige. »
Page 2 of 5
Before fracking became the subject of a high-stakes national debate, federal agencies appeared to be moving aggressively to study whether the drilling technique was connected to mounting complaints of water pollution and health problems near well sites nationwide.
As some states began to strengthen regulations for fracking, the federal government prepared to issue rules for how wells would be fracked on lands it directly controlled.
The EPA also launched prominent scientific studies in Texas, Wyoming and Pennsylvania, stepping into each case after residents voiced concerns that state environmental agencies had not properly examined problems.
The EPA probe in Pavillion began in 2008 with the aim of determining whether the town’s water was safe to drink. The area was first drilled in 1960 and had been the site of extensive natural gas developmentsince the 1990s. Starting at about the same time, residents had complained of physical ailments and said their drinking water — drawn from wells — was black and tasted of chemicals.
The EPA conducted four rounds of sampling, first testing the water from more than 40 homes and later drilling two deep wells to test water from layers of earth that chemicals from farming and old oil and gas waste pits were unlikely to reach.
The sampling revealed oil, methane, arsenic, and metals including copper and vanadium — as well as other compounds — in shallow water wells. It also detected a trace of an obscure compound linked to materials used in fracking, called 2-butoxyethanol phosphate (2-BEp).
The deep-well tests showed benzene, at 50 times the level that is considered safe for people, as well as phenols — another dangerous human carcinogen — acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel, which seemed to show that man-made pollutants had found their way deep into the cracks of the earth. In all, EPA detected 13 different compounds in the deep aquifer that it said were often used with hydraulic fracturing processes, including 2-Butoxyethanol, a close relation to the 2-BEp found near the surface.[1]
The agency issued a draft report in 2011 stating that while some of the pollution in the shallow water wells was likely the result of seepage from old waste pits nearby, the array of chemicals found in the deep test wells was « the result of direct mixing of hydraulic fracturing fluids with ground water in the Pavillion gas field. »
The report triggered a hailstorm of criticism not only from the drilling industry, but from state oil and gas regulators, who disagreed with the EPA’s interpretation of its data. They raised serious questions about the EPA’s methodology and the materials they used, postulating that contaminants found in deep-well samples could have been put there by the agency itself in the testing process.
In response, the EPA agreed to more testing and repeatedly extended the comment period on its study, delaying the peer review process.
Agency officials insist their data was correct, but the EPA’s decision to withdraw from Pavillion means the peer-review process won’t go forward and the findings in the draft report will never become final.
« We stand by what our data said, » an EPA spokesperson told ProPublica after the June 20 announcement, « but I do think there is a difference between data and conclusions. »
Wyoming officials say they will launch another year-long investigation to reach their own conclusions about Pavillion’s water.
Meanwhile, local residents remain suspended in a strange limbo.
While controversy has swirled around the deep well test results — and critics have hailed the agency’s retreat as an admission that it could not defend its science — the shallow well contamination and waste pits have been all but forgotten.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the federal government’s main agency for evaluating health risk from pollution, has advised Pavillion residents not to bathe, cook with, or drink the water flowing from their taps. Some have reported worsening health conditions they suspect are related to the pollution. They are being provided temporary drinking water from the state in large cisterns.
Page 3 of 5
The EPA opened its inquiry in Dimock, Pa., after residents provided it with private water tests detecting contaminants and complained that state regulators weren’t doing enough to investigate the cause.
When an elderly woman’s water well exploded on New Year’s morning in 2009, Pennsylvania officials discovered pervasive methane contamination in the well water of 18 homes and linked it to bad casing and cementing in gas company wells. In 2010, they took a series of steps against the drilling company involved, citing it for regulatory violations, barring it from new drilling until it proved its wells would not leak and requiring it to temporarily supply water to affected homes.
But residents said state officials hadn’t investigated whether the drilling was responsible for the chemicals in their water. The EPA stepped in to find out if residents could trust the water to be safe after the drilling company stopped bringing replacement supplies.
Starting in early 2012, federal officials tested water in more than five dozen homes for pollutants, finding hazardous levels of barium, arsenic and magnesium, all compounds that can occur naturally, and minute amounts of other contaminants, including several known to cause cancer.
Still, the concentration of pollutants was not high enough to exceed safe drinking water standards in most of the homes, the EPA found (in five homes, filtering systems were installed to address concerns). Moreover, none of the contaminants – except methane — pointed clearly to drilling. The EPA ended its investigation that July.
Critics pointed to the Dimock investigation as a classic example of the EPA being overly aggressive on fracking and then being proven wrong.
Yet, as in Pavillion, the agency concluded its inquiry without following through on the essential question of whether Dimock residents face an ongoing risk from too much methane, which is not considered unsafe to drink, but can produce fumes that lead to explosions.
The EPA also never addressed whether drilling – and perhaps the pressure of fracking – had contributed to moving methane up through cracks in the earth into their water wells.
As drilling has resumed in Dimock, so have reports of ongoing methane leaks. On June 24, the National Academy of Sciences published a report by Duke University researchers that underscored a link between the methane contamination in water in Dimock and across the Marcellus shale, and the gas wells being drilled deep below.
The gas industry maintains that methane is naturally occurring and, according to a response issued by the industry group Energy In Depth after the release of the Duke research, « there’s still no evidence of hydraulic fracturing fluids migrating from depth to contaminate aquifers. »
Page 4 of 5
In opening an inquiry in Parker County, Texas, in late 2010, the EPA examined a question similar to the one it faced in Dimock: Was a driller responsible for methane gas bubbling up in residents’ water wells?
This time, though, tests conducted by a geologist hired by the agency appeared to confirm that the methane in the wells had resulted from drilling, rather than occurring naturally.
« The methane that was coming out of that well … was about as close a match as you are going to find, » said the consultant, Geoffrey Thyne, a geochemist and expert in unconventional oil and gas who has been a member of both the EPA’s Science Advisory Board for hydraulic fracturing, and a National Research Council committee to examine coalbed methane development.
The EPA issued an « imminent and substantial endangerment order » forcing Range Resources, the company it suspected of being responsible, to take immediate action to address the contamination.
But once again, the EPA’s actions ignited an explosive response from the oil and gas industry, and a sharp rebuke from Texas state officials, who insisted that their own data and analysis proved Range had done no harm.
According to the environmental news site Energy Wire, Ed Rendell, the former Governor of Pennsylvania, whose law firm lobbies on behalf of energy companies, also took up Range’s case with then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Internal EPA emails used in the EnergyWire report and also obtained by ProPublica discuss Rendell’s meeting with then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, though Range has denied it employed Rendell to argue on its behalf. Neither the EPA nor Rendell responded to a request for comment on the Parker County case.
In March 2012, the EPA dropped its case against Range without explanation. Its administrator in Texas at the time had been assailed for making comments that seemed to show an anti-industry bias. He subsequently lost his job. An Associated Press investigation found that the EPA abandoned its inquiry after Range threatened not to cooperate with the EPA on its other drilling-related research.
Agency critics see a lack of will, rather than a lack of evidence, in the EPA’s approach in Parker County and elsewhere.
« It would be one thing if these were isolated incidents, » said Alan Septoff, communications director for Earthworks, an environmental group opposed to fracking. « But every time the EPA has come up with something damning, somehow, something magically has occurred to have them walk it back. »
Page 5 of 5
So where does this leave the EPA’s remaining research into the effects of fracking?
The agency has joined with the Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Interior to study the environmental risks of developing unconventional fuels such as shale gas, but those involved in the collaboration say that little has happened.
That leaves the EPA’s highly anticipated national study on hydraulic fracturing.
When the EPA announced it was ending its research in Pavillion, it pointed to this study as a « major research program. »
« The agency will look to the results of this program as the basis for its scientific conclusions and recommendations on hydraulic fracturing, » it said in a statement issued in partnership with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
That national study will concentrate on five case studies in Pennsylvania, Texas, North Dakota and Colorado.
It will not, however, focus on Pavillion or Parker County or Dimock.
Nor will it devote much attention to places like Sublette County, Wyo., where state and federal agencies have found both aquifer contamination and that drilling has caused dangerous levels of emissions and ozone pollution.
It will be a long time before the EPA’s national study can inform the debate over fracking. While the agency has promised a draft by late 2014, it warned last month that no one should expect to read the final version before sometime in 2016, the last full year of President Obama’s term.

Le poisson c’est maximum deux fois par semaine – Orange – Ile de la Réunion

Le poisson c’est maximum deux fois par semaine

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Jeudi 10 Novembre 2011Pêche de daurades coryphène
Dans un avis rendu public ce vendredi 5 juillet 2013, l’Anses (Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail) recommande de consommer au maximum deux portions de poisson par semaine. Il s’agit, selon l’Agence, d’établir un équilibre entre les besoins nutritifs et les risques de contamination au mercure ou aux PCB (Polychlorobiphényle, des polluants organiques persistants, classés « cancérogènes probables »). L’Agence émet également des mises en garde sur la consommation de plusieurs espèces de poissons d’eau douce et de certaines autres espèces, en particulier chez les femmes enceintes ou les jeunes enfants.
« Le poisson et les produits de la pêche possèdent des qualités nutritionnelles précieuses qui en font des aliments particulièrement intéressants au plan nutritionnel », indique l’Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’Alimentation, citée par « Cependant, du fait qu’ils vivent en contact permanent avec l’environnement, les aliments qui en sont issus sont susceptibles d’être contaminés par des substances chimiques (méthylmercure) mais également par des micro-organismes (bactéries, parasites) » remarque l’ANSES.

L’ANSES recommande donc de consommer du poisson au maximum deux fois par semaine dont un poisson gras, à forte teneur en oméga 3. Par exemple du saumon, de la sardine, du maquereau, du hareng. L’Agence souligne par ailleurs qu’il est important « de limiter à 2 fois par mois la consommation de poissons d’eau douce, fortement bio-accumulateurs » note Cette recommandation et valable pour la population générale, mais à une fois tous les deux mois pour les femmes en âge de procréer, enceintes ou allaitantes ainsi que les enfants de moins de trois ans, les fillettes et les adolescentes.

Les femmes enceintes ou allaitantes ainsi que les jeunes enfants sont également invités à limiter leur consommation de poissons prédateurs sauvages (lotte, loup ou bar, bonite, anguille, grenadier, flétan, brochet, dorade, raie, sabre, thon) et même à éviter celle d’espadon, marlin, siki, « en raison du risque lié au mercure », indique

Cet avis de l’ANSES, écrit, est également l’occasion de rappeler des conseils précieux aux consommateurs. Les adeptes du poisson cru doivent par exemple vider rapidement le poisson après l’achat ou demander au poissonnier de le faire. Avant de le consommer, il est impératif de le congeler pendant au moins 7 jours. Concernant les coquillages, il faut toujours s’assurer qu’ils proviennent d’une zone d’élevage autorisée et contrôlée. L’Anses souligne que la consommation de ces produits est spécifiquement déconseillée aux populations « sensibles » (femmes enceintes, jeunes enfants, personnes âgées, ou immunodéprimées ou souffrant de pathologies comme le cancer ou le diabète) tout comme celle de crustacés décortiqués vendus cuits souligne

Saisie il y a un an par les autorités pour faire le point, l’Anses indique avoir « étudié différents scénarios » en tenant compte à la fois des « effets bénéfiques sur la santé » de la consommation des acides gras oméga 3 qu’on trouve principalement dans les poissons gras et du niveau de contamination des poissons en dioxine, MeHg (mercure organique) et PCB (polychlorobiphényles, isolant utilisé dans l’industrie) « dont l’action toxique est particulièrement importante pendant la période périnatale » cite

Les effets positifs des oméga 3 ont fait l’objet de nombreuses études scientifiques ces dernières années, qu’il s’agisse de leur effet protecteur face à certains cancers, comme celui du sein, ou de leur intérêt pour le coeur. Ils pourraient également jouer un rôle dans le fonctionnement cérébral.

Mais un nombre croissant d’experts s’inquiètent de l’aggravation de la pollution des eaux de mer et de rivières par des produits toxiques allant des hydrocarbures aux métaux lourds : selon une étude publiée en janvier dernier juste avant l’adoption d’une Convention internationale sur le mercure, la déforestation dans le monde s’est traduite par un déversement dans les lacs et rivières de quelque 260 tonnes de mercure auparavant retenues dans les sols, tandis que les quantités de mercure présentes dans les 100 premiers mètres de profondeurs des océans ont doublé en 100 ans, indique l’Agence France Presse (AFP).

Le poisson c’est maximum deux fois par semaine – Orange – Ile de la Réunion,661972.html

Étang St-Paul-Septembre 2012

Un grand merci aux contributrices dont Pilou, Françoise, … pour leurs photos.
C’est un groupe encore élargi qui se retrouve au portail de l’entrée de la Réserve Nationale Naturelle, dont on pourra se faire une idée en consultant ce document  et en cliquant  ici.
Fabrice l’éco-garde est arrivé très tôt et part organiser la sortie. Puis arrive Nicolas et les kayaks qui rejoint Fabrice tandis que l’on attend les derniers arrivants.
Le groupe s’engage alors dans la magnifique allée conduisant au bord de l’étang : c’est toute la magie des anciens domaines de Bourbon qu’évoquent ces grands arbres alignés.
Allée cocos Photo de Pilou

Arrivés à l’embarcadère, nous aidons à installer kayaks, gilets et pagaies puis Nicolas nous fait les recommandations nécessaires à la navigation. Fabrice présente ce milieu naturel protégé selon le principe maintenant répandu d’une périphérie ouverte au public et d’un cœur totalement protégé en théorie. La création de la Réserve remonte à 2008 à une époque où les eaux de l’étang avaient un niveau plus élevé que maintenant. L’embouchure ayant été dégagée à l’occasion d’un épisode très pluvieux les eaux ont baissé et les anciens occupants des terrains dégagés ont demandé à les récupérer. On retrouve ici le problème récurrent du cadastre et des questions qu’il soulève.
Commencent alors les travaux d’embarquement où chacun se positionne en fonction de son expérience nautique ou de ses appréhensions aquatiques.
Photo de Pilou
La flottille s’éparpille le long du canal et finit par se regrouper. Les explications botaniques se perdent un peu dans l’euphorie communicative de la découverte d’un exceptionnel milieu naturel par des moyens non conventionnels : nous ne cesserons de remercier Christine qui a tout orchestré sans oublier Nicole qui a assuré.
Photo de Françoise Lemblin 
Nous retiendrons à ce stade la présence de laitues (28 Pistia stratiotes Laitue d’eau ARACEE pantropicale) et de jacinthes (9 Eichhornia crassipe Jacinthe d’eau PONTEDERIACEE Amérique du Sud) déjà observées à l’embouchure de l’Étang, au ras de l’eau, derrière lesquelles se dressent les persicaires (25 Persicaria poiretii Persicaire POLYGONACEE endémique M), puis les houppes des papyrus (8 Cyperus papyrus Papyrus CYPERACEE Afrique, Madagascar), où parfois se hissent les lianes de sept ans (Ipomoea cairica Liane de sept ans CONVOLVULACEE paléotropicale) dont les fleurs mauves évoquent le liseron. Partout les songes noirs (4 Colocasia esculenta Songe ARACEE Pacifique ?). Et en cherchant bien au milieu des laitues, on finit par trouver de minuscules feuilles de lentille d’eau (19 Lemna aequinoctialis Lentille d’eau ARACEE cosmopolite).
La flottille retrouve un groupe de manœuvres partis dégager le canal des envahissantes jacinthes. Nous les saluons au passage. Mais plus loin après avoir rejoint un autre canal de l’étang, la végétation flottante arrêtera définitivement notre progression. Retour.
Ayant retrouvé la terre ferme, nous aidons à ranger le matériel avant de reprendre nos explorations botaniques. Un superbe Talipot “Le Guelte” d’une dizaine d’années nous attend. Lorsqu’il fleurira, son tronc sera formé et son aspect aura changé. ??? L’arbre pour l’instant nous sert d’arrière-plan pour de nombreuses photos du groupe.
Dans la végatation dense nous retrouvons de jeunes et difficilement reconnaissables Totos Margot. Dans les herbes alentour sont repérés des Zerbes tombées (rouges, à ne pas confondre avec l’herbe tombée des services malbars), des Zerbes à bouc (froissées, les feuilles dégagent une forte odeur de bouc), des Zerbes de l’eau (Commelina diffusa (Petite) herbe de l’eau COMMELINACEE Afrique), et un Héliotrope scorpoïde ??? .
Au-dessus de nous un Ylang-ylang en fleurs et plus loin un Latanier ou Palmier fontaine (Livingstonia je présume, mais je présume mal puisqu’il s’agit du Livistona chinensis (Jacq.) R. Br. ex Mart.) côtoient des Movas ou Ibiscus de bord’mer.
Un Thevetia peruviana permet quelques rappels anatomiques et vernaculaires.
Un pied de Bois malgache est l’occasion de rappeler que cet arbre servait à la confection de manches d’outils.
Nous retournons par l’allée des cocotiers flanquée de chaque côté d’un petit canal où nous découvrons de nouvelles plantes et plantules. À côté des omniprésentes tiges de Voune (18 Juncus effusus Jonc JUNCACEE indigène ?) qui servent à l’empaillage des chaises du Gol, il y a là de la Canne maïs qui elle sert à l’alimentation du bétail, ainsi que de hautes tiges de Fataque millet, et des spécimens d’Indigo café.

Dans la profusion végétale alentour sont repérés des exemplaires d’herbe tam tam (13 Hydrocotylebonariensis Herbe tam-tam ARALIACEE paléotropicale) alias Ombilic de Vénus, des fougères de l’eau, de grimpantes Lianes de sept ans (15 Ipomoea cairica Liane de sept ans CONVOLVULACEE paléotropicale) et leurs fleurs pareilles au liseron, mais de couleur mauve, et des Lianes zano (Thunbergia xxx ???) dont la graine ??? permet de faire une boucle d’oreille végétale.

Sur l’eau ou à ses abords, des fougères flotantes (32 Salvinia molesta SAVINACEE Amérique tropicale Fougère flottante IMG 0030) (ci-dessus) dont nous retrouverons les congénères dans un autre canal aux abords du stade où nous allons pique-niquer, face à la maison du « colom » (commandeur et non colon), belle bâtisse de basalte qui devait autrefois présider aux destinées d’un domaine mais dont les fenêtres et autres ouvertures sont désormais murées.
En fait, le document proposé en consultation au début de ce compte-rendu en haut de page précise que :
La Grande Maison de Savanna a été construite vers la deuxième moitié du XIX ème siècle.
Cette maison qui se trouve à l’arrière de l’usine servait à l’origine de logement à son directeur. C’est une grande bâtisse à un étage dont la toiture, d’abord en bardeaux, a été remplacée par des feuilles de tôle après le cyclone de 1948. Depuis cette date, la Grande Maison a servi d’entrepôt de stockage du sucre, la plupart des fenêtres ont été murées et l’ensemble n’est plus entretenu.
Un parc et 3 viviers jouxtaient la maison. Les poissons comestibles qui étaient élevés dans ces viviers permettaient de nourrir les propriétaires et le personnel de l’usine.
Ainsi de l’autre côté de l’allée, nous pouvons distinguer trois grandes dépressions. Ces dépressions correspondent à l’emplacement des anciens viviers. Les viviers contenaient des espèces souvent déjà présentes dans l’Etang de Saint-Paul. Cependant certaines espèces provenant d’autres îles ont été élevées ici comme les gouramiers (Osphronemus goramy), une variété assez rare de poissons de rivière.
En nous rendant du parking à l’ère de pique-nique, nous avons trouvé trois magnifiques spécimens, l’un de kapokier, l’autre de Bois noir et enfin un arbre à chewing gum (???) dont le nom scientifique pose problème. Quelques Pongames etMalayes sont espacés le long du chemin. Le Malaye (Morinda citrifolia Malaye RUBIACEE Exotique) alias nono est une plante qui a connu un certain succès quand le chikungunya a frappé l’île car le jus que l’on en tire est censé avoir des vertus curatives  (Photo M.S.). Les fruits dégagent une puanteur abominable. Les tortues en raffolent.
Fabrice qui a toujours répondu avec une extrême amabilité à nos questions nous fait part des aléas de la réserve. Un épisode cyclonique a permis aux écrevisses d’Australie de l’élevage voisin de ganger l’étang où elles font des ravages. Il nous raconte qu’un jour alors qu’avec ses collègues ils ramenaient un filet pris aux braconniers dont une partie traînait dans l’eau, ils ont constaté une fois à terre que les poissons pris dans le filet avaient été cisaillés par les pinces des crustacés. Fabrice nous parle encore de sa mission d’éducation auprès des scolaires et des progrès dans la sensibilisation du public et des populations vivants aux abords de l’étang aux menaces qui pèsent sur un milieu naturel exceptionnel par sa richesse et chargé d’histoire. Nous saluons son implication et son dévouement.


La forêt semi-sèche de l’Ouest reconstituée

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Nous allons bientôt monter les marches qui mènent à l’ancien domaine de Chateauvieux qui surplombe la Baie de Saint-Leu. Ce long escalier se gravit toujours avec délectation à l’ombre fraîche des hauts arbres qui le bordent, figures tutélaires gardiens de ces lieux d’histoire dans la claire lumière d’un matin d’hiver austral : entre les frondaisons, un ciel d’un bleu intense, immaculé : « de l’éternel azur la sereine ironie ».
L’objet de cette sortie est de retrouver reconstituée autant que faire se peut la forêt semi-sèche originelle, désormais disparue, qui autrefois s’étalait entre la côte et sa forêt sèche elle aussi disparue, et les Hauts. Ce que nous allons explorer est une forêt reconstituée et entretenue par le Conservatoire Botanique National de Mascarin.
Nicole CRESTEY mentionne aussi d’autres efforts allant dans le même sens, ceux de l’APN de Raymond Lucas, l’auteur de Cent plantes endémiques et indigènes de la Réunion – Azalées éditions : 
On notera que certains Lataniers rouges, endémiques, commandés pour la Route des Tamarins pour là encore suivre une politique de sauvetage, ayant attendu trop longtemps et devenus trop gros sont envoyés à la décharge.
À titre anecdotique, mentionnons encore qu’un certain pied de Bois de chandelle d’une certaine commune du Sud a coûté sept cent mille nouveaux Francs en son temps pour être déplacé et sauvé. Il est maintenant rongé par les maladies et autres prédateurs.
Il demeure que la Réunion est un site exceptionnel : grâce à sont relief tourmenté et montagneux, elle a pu préserver 40 % de sa végétation originelle.
Les marches furent donc gravies et au cours de l’ascension un arrêt au bassin des Laitues d’eau a permis de mieux les observer (photo ci-dessus) : cette Aracée a des poils hydrophobes et se retourne quand on la retourne sur l’eau.

Le long des marches, le Muguet péï, qui a déjà fleuri.
Le Bauhemia d’Afrique du Sud (ci-dessus)  a quatre pétales identiques.
Le « Benjoin » local aurait des vertus médicinales et a été victimes des tisaneurs et autres personnes à la recherche des bénéfices de ses vertus.
Toujours aux abords des marches montant au domaine, un Palmiste poison (ou Palmiste cochon, Hyophorbe indica) donne la gratte au cochon dont la gorge douloureuse le conduit à manger toujours plus pour soulager sa gêne : il engraisse.
Une fois contourné le superbe bâtiment qui abrita la famille de Chateauvieux nous suivons une allée bordée de Ti ouète, dont les boules contiennent une ouate qui vole au vent.
Sur un emplacement qui reconstitue la végétation de bord de mer, un tapis de (1) Patate cochon qui a le même habitat que la Patate à Durand, et un peu son aspect. On trouve ici le Veloutier du bord de mer et la Saliette qui exsude le sel par ses feuilles.
Puis le long du sentier qui parcourt la forêt semi-sèche reconstituée, sont observés :
[Les numéros entre parenthèses sont ceux de la liste]

(14) Bois de chenille, ci-dessus, hétérophylle


(10) Mazambron marron (ci-dessus) , seul aloès de la Réunion. Médicinal.


(2) (19) Le Bois d’éponge (ci-dessus)
(25) Bois de Demoiselle
(27) Bois de sinte a de petites feuilles
() Carissa spinarum est une espèce d’arbuste épineux protégé de la famille des Apocynaceae qui a aussi de petites feuilles pour résister à la sécheresse.
(15) Ti bois de senteur

(26) Bois de senteur (ci-dessus)
(16) Le Bois d’huile était utilisé pour les torches.
(18) Bois puant
(17) Le Bois de balai est une Rubiacée aux feuilles opposées.

(28) Le Tanguin péï (ci-dessus) au fruit tricoque caractéristique est une Euphorbiacée.
(20) La liane savon aux pilosités de velours mousse quand agitée dans l’eau.
(9) La Mauve dont les fleurs offrent leur nectar loin du pollen ne favorise pas la pollinisation par les abeilles. Butiner lAbutilon exstipulare n’est sans doute pas une stipulation au contrat naturel.
(41) Psiadia dentata est une plante endémique qui a son wiki .

(55) Le Bois d’olive grosse peau (ci-dessus) hétérophylle, a des feuilles pointues, émargées ??? puis arrondies.
(40) Le Bois blanc rouge est le Zévi marron.
() Le Bois de cabri possède d’énormes domaties.
(59) Le Bois d’ortie attire le papillon Salamis augustina.


(39) Le Bois de papaye (ci-dessus) offre de belles cicatrices.
() Change écorce
() Grand natte
(61) Bois de pintade
(46) Le Bois de prune a des feuilles comme celles du houx quand il est jeune.
(60) Le Bois de fièvre combat … la fièvre. Est-il dioïque ? Voir ici. De di- (« deux ») et du grec ancien οἷκος, oïkos (« maison ») : ces plantes ont les fleurs mâles et les fleurs femelles sur des pieds différents.
(47) Bois dur
(66) La Liane d’olive est une Apocynacée au latex blanc.


(53) Bois de sable (ci-dessus)
(43) Bois noir des hauts
À noter que nombre de ces arbustes et arbres bénéficient d’un environnement propice et se développent pleinement ce qui en modifie l’aspect habituel. Par ailleurs, nombre de ces plantes et arbustes ne se trouvent plus dans la nature, leur habitat ayant été envahi par les activités anthropiques.
La visite se termine à la cafeteria dont les produits sont très appréciés.

Epistle to the Ecotopians | The Nation



Epistle to the Ecotopians

This article originally appeared at To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from 
[This document was found on the computer of Ecotopia author Ernest Callenbach (1929–2012) after his death.]
To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support—a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging.

About the Author
Ernest Callenbach

Ernest Callenbach, author of the classic environmental novel Ecotopia among other works, founded and edited the…

As I survey my life, which is coming near its end, I want to set down a few thoughts that might be useful to those coming after. It will soon be time for me to give back to Gaia the nutrients that I have used during a long, busy and happy life. I am not bitter or resentful at the approaching end; I have been one of the extraordinarily lucky ones. So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times.

How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?

I contemplate these questions in the full consciousness of my own mortality. Being offered an actual number of likely months to live, even though the estimate is uncertain, mightily focuses the mind. On personal things, of course, on loved ones and even loved things, but also on the Big Picture.

But let us begin with last things first, for a change. The analysis will come later, for those who wish it.

Hope. Children exude hope, even under the most terrible conditions, and that must inspire us as our conditions get worse. Hopeful patients recover better. Hopeful test candidates score better. Hopeful builders construct better buildings. Hopeful parents produce secure and resilient children. In groups, an atmosphere of hope is essential to shared successful effort: “Yes, we can!” is not an empty slogan, but a mantra for people who intend to do something together—whether it is rescuing victims of hurricanes, rebuilding flood-damaged buildings on higher ground, helping wounded people through first aid, or inventing new social structures (perhaps one in which only people are “persons,” not corporations). We cannot know what threats we will face. But ingenuity against adversity is one of our species’ built-in resources. We cope, and faith in our coping capacity is perhaps our biggest resource of all.

Mutual support. The people who do best at basic survival tasks (we know this experimentally, as well as intuitively) are cooperative, good at teamwork, often altruistic, mindful of the common good. In drastic emergencies like hurricanes or earthquakes, people surprise us by their sacrifices—of food, of shelter, even sometimes of life itself. Those who survive social or economic collapse, or wars, or pandemics, or starvation, will be those who manage scarce resources fairly; hoarders and dominators win only in the short run, and end up dead, exiled or friendless. So, in every way we can we need to help each other, and our children, learn to be cooperative rather than competitive; to be helpful rather than hurtful; to look out for the communities of which we are a part, and on which we ultimately depend.

Practical skills. With the movement into cities of the US population, and much of the rest of the world’s people, we have had a massive de-skilling in how to do practical tasks. When I was a boy in the country, all of us knew how to build a tree house, or construct a small hut, or raise chickens, or grow beans, or screw pipes together to deliver water. It was a sexist world, of course, so when some of my chums in eighth grade said we wanted to learn girls’ “home ec” skills like making bread or boiling eggs, the teachers were shocked, but we got to do it. There was widespread competence in fixing things—impossible with most modern contrivances, of course, but still reasonable for the basic tools of survival: pots and pans, bicycles, quilts, tents, storage boxes.

We all need to learn, or relearn, how we would keep the rudiments of life going if there were no paid specialists around, or means to pay them. Every child should learn elementary carpentry, from layout and sawing to driving nails. Everybody should know how to chop wood safely, and build a fire. Everybody should know what to do if dangers appear from fire, flood, downed electric wires and the like. Taking care of one another is one practical step at a time, most of them requiring help from at least one other person; survival is a team sport.

Organize. Much of the American ideology, our shared and usually unspoken assumptions, is hyper-individualistic. We like to imagine that heroes are solitary, have superpowers and glory in violence, and that if our work lives and business lives seem tamer, underneath they are still struggles red in blood and claw. We have sought solitude on the prairies, as cowboys on the range, in our dependence on media (rather than real people), and even in our cars, armored cabins of solitude. We have an uneasy and doubting attitude about government, as if we all reserve the right to be outlaws. But of course human society, like ecological webs, is a complex dance of mutual support and restraint, and if we are lucky it operates by laws openly arrived at and approved by the populace.

If the teetering structure of corporate domination, with its monetary control of Congress and our other institutions, should collapse of its own greed, and the government be unable to rescue it, we will have to reorganize a government that suits the people. We will have to know how to organize groups, how to compromise with other groups, how to argue in public for our positions. It turns out that “brainstorming,” a totally noncritical process in which people just throw out ideas wildly, doesn’t produce workable ideas. In particular, it doesn’t work as well as groups in which ideas are proposed, critiqued, improved, debated. But like any group process, this must be protected from domination by powerful people and also over-talkative people. When the group recognizes its group power, it can limit these distortions. Thinking together is enormously creative; it has huge survival value.

Learn to live with contradictions. These are dark times, these are bright times. We are implacably making the planet less habitable. Every time a new oil field is discovered, the press cheers: “Hooray, there is more fuel for the self-destroying machines!” We are turning more land into deserts and parking lots. We are wiping out innumerable species that are not only wondrous and beautiful, but might be useful to us. We are multiplying to the point where our needs and our wastes outweigh the capacities of the biosphere to produce and absorb them. And yet, despite the bloody headlines and the rocketing military budgets, we are also, unbelievably, killing fewer of each other proportionately than in earlier centuries. We have mobilized enormous global intelligence and mutual curiosity, through the Internet and outside it. We have even evolved, spottily, a global understanding that democracy is better than tyranny, that love and tolerance are better than hate, that hope is better than rage and despair, that we are prone, especially in catastrophes, to be astonishingly helpful and cooperative.

We may even have begun to share an understanding that while the dark times may continue for generations, in time new growth and regeneration will begin. In the biological process called “succession,” a desolate, disturbed area is gradually, by a predictable sequence of returning plants, restored to ecological continuity and durability. When old institutions and habits break down or consume themselves, new experimental shoots begin to appear, and people explore and test and share new and better ways to survive together.

It is never easy or simple. But already we see, under the crumbling surface of the conventional world, promising developments: new ways of organizing economic activity (cooperatives, worker-owned companies, nonprofits, trusts), new ways of using low-impact technology to capture solar energy, to sequester carbon dioxide, new ways of building compact, congenial cities that are low (or even self-sufficient) in energy use, low in waste production, high in recycling of almost everything. A vision of sustainability that sometimes shockingly resembles Ecotopia is tremulously coming into existence at the hands of people who never heard of the book.

Now in principle, the Big Picture seems simple enough, though devilishly complex in the details. We live in the declining years of what is still the biggest economy in the world, where a looter elite has fastened itself upon the decaying carcass of the empire. It is intent on speedily and relentlessly extracting the maximum wealth from that carcass, impoverishing our former working middle class. But this maggot class does not invest its profits here. By law and by stock-market pressures, corporations must seek their highest possible profits, no matter the social or national consequences—which means moving capital and resources abroad, wherever profit potential is larger. As Karl Marx darkly remarked, “Capital has no country,” and in the conditions of globalization his meaning has come clear.

The looter elite systematically exports jobs, skills, knowledge, technology, retaining at home chiefly financial manipulation expertise: highly profitable, but not of actual productive value. Through “productivity gains” and speedups, it extracts maximum profit from domestic employees; then, firing the surplus, it claims surprise that the great mass of people lack purchasing power to buy up what the economy can still produce (or import).

Here again Marx had a telling phrase: “Crisis of under-consumption.” When you maximize unemployment and depress wages, people have to cut back. When they cut back, businesses they formerly supported have to shrink or fail, adding their own employees to the ranks of the jobless, and depressing wages still further. End result: something like Mexico, where a small, filthy rich plutocracy rules over an impoverished mass of desperate, uneducated, and hopeless people.

Barring unprecedented revolutionary pressures, this is the actual future we face in the United States, too. As we know from history, such societies can stand a long time, supported by police and military control, manipulation of media, surveillance and dirty tricks of all kinds. It seems likely that a few parts of the world (Germany, with its worker-council variant of capitalism, New Zealand with its relative equality, Japan with its social solidarity, and some others) will remain fairly democratic.

The United States, which has a long history of violent plutocratic rule unknown to the textbook-fed, will stand out as the best-armed Third World country, its population ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-educated, ill-cared for in health, and increasingly poverty-stricken: even Social Security may be whittled down, impoverishing tens of millions of the elderly.

As empires decline, their leaders become increasingly incompetent—petulant, ignorant, gifted only with PR skills of posturing and spinning, and prone to the appointment of loyal idiots to important government positions. Comedy thrives; indeed, writers are hardly needed to invent outrageous events.

We live, then, in a dark time here on our tiny precious planet. Ecological devastation, political and economic collapse, irreconcilable ideological and religious conflict, poverty, famine: the end of the overshoot of cheap-oil-based consumer capitalist expansionism.

If you don’t know where you’ve been, you have small chance of understanding where you might be headed. So let me offer a capsule history for those who, like most of us, got little help from textbook history.

At 82, my life has included a surprisingly substantial slice of American history. In the century or so up until my boyhood in Appalachian central Pennsylvania, the vast majority of Americans subsisted as farmers on the land. Most, like people elsewhere in the world, were poor, barely literate, ill-informed, short-lived. Millions had been slaves. Meanwhile in the cities, vast immigrant armies were mobilized by ruthless and often violent “robber baron” capitalists to build vast industries that made things: steel, railroads, ships, cars, skyscrapers.

Then, when I was in grade school, came World War II. America built the greatest armaments industry the world had ever seen, and when the war ended with most other industrial countries in ruins, we had a run of unprecedented productivity and prosperity. Thanks to strong unions and a sympathetic government, this prosperity was widely shared: a huge working middle class evolved—tens of millions of people could afford (on one wage) a modest house, a car, perhaps sending a child to college. This era peaked around 1973, when wages stagnated, the Vietnam War took a terrible toll in blood and money, and the country began sliding rightward.

In the next epoch, which we are still in and which may be our last as a great nation, capitalists who grew rich and powerful by making things gave way to a new breed: financiers who grasped that you could make even more money by manipulating money. (And by persuading Congress to subsidize them—the system should have been called Subsidism, not Capitalism.) They had no concern for the productivity of the nation or the welfare of its people; with religious fervor, they believed in maximizing profit as the absolute economic goal. They recognized that, by capturing the government through the election finance system and removing government regulation, they could turn the financial system into a giant casino.

Little by little, they hollowed the country out, until it was helplessly dependent on other nations for almost all its necessities. We had to import significant steel components from China or Japan. We came to pay for our oil imports by exporting food (i.e., our soil). Our media and our educational system withered. Our wars became chronic and endless and stupefyingly expensive. Our diets became suicidal, and our medical system faltered; life expectancies began to fall.

And so we have returned, in a sort of terrible circle, to something like my boyhood years, when President Roosevelt spoke in anger of “one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-fed, ill-clothed.” A large and militant contingent of white, mostly elderly, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant right-wingers, mortally threatened by their impending minority status and pretending to be liberty-lovers, desperately seek to return us still further back.

Americans like to think of ours as an exceptional country, immune through geographical isolation and some kind of special virtue to the tides of history. Through the distorted lens of our corporate media, we possess only a distorted view of what the country is really like now. In the next decades, we shall see whether we indeed possess the intelligence, the strength and the mutual courage to break through to another positive era.

No futurist can foresee the possibilities. As empires decay, their civilian leaderships become increasingly crazed, corrupt and incompetent, and often the military (which is after all a parasite of the whole nation, and has no independent financial base like the looter class) takes over. Another possible scenario is that if the theocratic red center of the country prevails in Washington, the relatively progressive and prosperous coastal areas will secede in self-defense.

Ecotopia is a novel, and secession was its dominant metaphor: How would a relatively rational part of the country save itself ecologically if it was on its own? As Ecotopia Emerging puts it, Ecotopia aspired to be a beacon for the rest of the world. And so it may prove, in the very, very long run, because the general outlines of Ecotopia are those of any possible future sustainable society.

The “ecology in one country” argument was an echo of an actual early Soviet argument, as to whether “socialism in one country” was possible. In both cases, it now seems to me, the answer must be no. We are now fatally interconnected, in climate change, ocean impoverishment, agricultural soil loss, etc., etc., etc. International consumer capitalism is a self-destroying machine, and as long as it remains the dominant social form, we are headed for catastrophe; indeed, like rafters first entering the “tongue” of a great rapid, we are already embarked on it.

When disasters strike and institutions falter, as at the end of empires, it does not mean that the buildings all fall down and everybody dies. Life goes on, and in particular, the remaining people fashion new institutions that they hope will better ensure their survival.

So I look to a long-term process of “succession,” as the biological concept has it, where “disturbances” kill off an ecosystem, but little by little new plants colonize the devastated area, prepare the soil for larger and more complex plants (and the other beings who depend on them), and finally the process achieves a flourishing, resilient, complex state—not necessarily what was there before, but durable and richly productive. In a similar way, experiments under way now, all over the world, are exploring how sustainability can in fact be achieved locally. Technically, socially, economically—since it is quite true, as ecologists know, that everything is connected to everything else, and you can never just do one thing by itself.

Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans’ political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them.

Humans tend to try to manage things: land, structures, even rivers. We spend enormous amounts of time, energy and treasure in imposing our will on nature, on pre-existing or inherited structures, dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go.

All things “go” somewhere: they evolve, with or without us, into new forms. So as the decades pass, we should try not always to futilely fight these transformations. As the Japanese know, there is much unnoticed beauty in wabi-sabi—the old, the worn, the tumble-down, those things beginning their transformation into something else. We can embrace this process of devolution: embellish it when strength avails, learn to love it.

There is beauty in weathered and unpainted wood, in orchards overgrown, even in abandoned cars being incorporated into the earth. Let us learn, like the Forest Service sometimes does, to put unwise or unneeded roads “to bed,” help a little in the healing of the natural contours, the re-vegetation by native plants. Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth.

Epistle to the Ecotopians | The Nation

Crossing the border gets deadlier


Crossing the border gets deadlier

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NEWS – From the June 24, 2013 issue
By Emily Guerin
Between October 2011 and September 2012, 463 people died in the desert after slipping across the U.S.-Mexico border – the most since 2005, when about three times as many entered the country illegally. Today, migrants are eight times more likely to die than a decade ago, according to the National Foundation for American Policy. Most used to cross near San Diego, or other border cities. But in the late 1990s, when the feds stepped up enforcement there, migrants began more dangerous treks across Arizona’s remote Sonoran Desert, where heat exhaustion killed hundreds. Now, the pattern is shifting again. More migrants are Central American and take freight trains up Mexico’s Gulf Coast, entering through south Texas. By the time they arrive, many have traveled for over a month under rugged conditions and are already weakened when they reach the desert. Increased legal avenues into the U.S. for low-skilled immigrants, such as temporary work visas, might ease the situation, but others argue tougher enforcement is the way to reduce border deaths.