Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security” by Todd Miller

 

Reviewed by Mark D. Walker

 This book caught my attention, as the author connects climate change and the hostility toward refugees, which is a key theme I focus on in a documentary on immigration in Central America. Although much debate on the existence of climate change that I’m exposed to takes place among relatively well-to-do urban dwellers, the author points out that 48 of the “least developed countries” are five times more likely to die in a climate-related disaster than the rest of world. Floods are now impacting 21 million people worldwide annually and by 2030, a “double exposure of inundations” is expected that will impact over 54 million people.  An average of 21.5 million people were being displaced every year between 2008 and 2015 from the “impact and threat of climate-related hazards,” making climate change one of the key issues of the century.

The book is a well-researched and highly personal, narrative-driven book that brings the dilemmas of climate change on immigration issues. Since Central America has been my focus, I was interested to learn that, according to one source, from 1995-2014 “Honduras was indeed ground zero, the country most impacted by severe weather. During those 19 years, Hondurans endured 73 extreme weather events and an average of 302 climate-related deaths per year…”

Other countries rated in the top 10 long-term climate impacted countries included Guatemala, and Nicaragua. The author points out another unique characteristic in the climate debate, as in 2015 more environmentalists were killed there than in any other country. Most notably, renowned environmental activist and Goldman Prize winner Berta Caceres was gunned down in her home by assailants with possible connections to U.S.-trained Honduran Special Forces, after leading a fight against a dam project.

Of course, the implications of this climate disaster in Central America, between disasters and the “drought corridor,” have together propelled growing numbers of immigrants to the United States. And yet, the response from governments around the world has been the militarization of borders, as opposed to combating the underlying climatic causes. According to Roy Scranton, author of “War Porn and Learning to Die in the Anthropocene,” “Storming the Wall offers a dire report from what are literally the front lines of global warming: the razor-wired security zones and drone-patrolled borderlands where the Anthropocene’s first human victims—climate refugees” are dying in droves.”

This border militarization is personified by Mark Borkowski, from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP Office of Technology Acquisition and Innovation), which commands the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. The 2017 CBP budget, at $14 billion, is almost equal to the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals, and ATF, which come to about $15.7 billion. If you add ICE’s $6 billion budget and that of CBP, there is $20 billion for border and immigration enforcement.

The author ends the book with an excerpt from a letter the “Tucson Weekly” asked him to write as to a loved one—in this case his soon-to-be born son. “The living world, my child, is calling on us to make bridges, not borders. The world is calling us to build bridges across language barriers, gender barriers, social barriers, racial barriers, generational barriers. I think we can eventually cross borders of time and speak with the past, as I did with your great-grandmother, and also speak to the future, as I am speaking with you right now. There is a slight chance in this crossing that we can break the notion that we are threats to each other, and that we have to surround ourselves with militarized borders that we have created for ourselves in the Anthropocene.”

The book is part of the Open Media founded in 1991 as an act of solidarity with social movements promoting greater freedom, justice, and democracy. In 2006, the “City Lights” Open Media Series marked a new chapter in publishing intelligent, inspiring and potentially radicalizing books. According to the group’s founder, Greg Ruggiero, “The heart of a functioning democracy is public engagement, communications and intelligence. The mission of the series is to increase all three.”

Reviews:

“Every so often a book comes along that can dramatically change, or elevate, one’s thinking about a global problem. Much like Naomi Klein’s books, Todd Miller’s Storming the Wall is such a book and deserves far more attention and discussion.”—Izzy Award Judges, Ithaca College

“A galvanizing forecast of global warming’s endgame and a powerful indictment of America’s current stance.”—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

For the past fifteen years, Todd Miller has researched, written about, and worked on immigration and border issues from both sides of the U.S./ Mexico divide for organizations such as BorderLinks, Witness for Peace, and NACLA. He did the brunt of this work in Tucson, Arizona and Oaxaca, Mexico, with stints in New York City sprinkled in. Between Tucson and the Buffalo/Niagara Falls region of New York State where he grew up, he has spent the majority of his life close to the U.S. international boundaries, south and north. He is the author of Border Patrol Nation (City Lights, 2014), and his writings about the border have appeared in the New York TimesTomDispatchMother JonesThe NationAl Jazeera English, and Salon, among other places.

Product details

  • ASIN : 0872867153
  • Publisher : City Lights Publishers (September 12, 2017)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 9780872867154
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0872867154
  • Item Weight : 8.8 ounces
  • Dimensions : 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Best Sellers Rank: #383,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • Customer Reviews: 

4.7 out of 5 stars    51 ratings

Book Reviewer

 Walker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and spent over forty years helping disadvantaged people in the developing world. His memoir, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was recognized by the Arizona Literary Association for Non-Fiction. More than 25 of his articles were published in literary magazines, including one that received Honorable Mention from the Solas Literary Award for the Best Travel Writing, 2020, while another was an essay winner for the “Arizona Authors Association” 2020 Annual Literary Awards competition. He’s a contributing author to “Revue Magazine” and has a column in the “Arizona Authors’ Association Newsletter,” which includes some of his 60 book reviews. Walker is also producing a documentary on immigration in Guatemala. His next book is tentatively entitled, The Moritz Thomsen Reader: His Books, His Letters and His Legacy Told by the Writers Who Knew Him Best. He founded Million Mile Walker LLC in 2016. His wife and three children were born in Guatemala. He can be found at www.MillionMileWalker.com

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