by John Byrne Barry
Where the United States meets Mexico, the challenges are awesome.
Fortunately, so are the Club activists working on border issues.
It stretches 1,500 miles from San Diego and Tijuana on the Pacific Ocean to Brownsville
and Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico. It separates the wealthiest, most powerful nation on
the planet from a country where factory workers earn less than $10 a day.
The border, however, is more like a sieve than a barrier. It's not just immigrants
slipping north, but jaguars and wolves, air pollution and toxic sewage. And the movement
is in both directions. Due in part to the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S.
companies continue to move south to take advantage of lower wages, lower taxes and weaker
Fighting to protect the environment is difficult enough in the United States. For those
Sierra Club volunteers and staff working along the Mexican border, it's even hairier. They
face different laws, different languages, different priorities and huge discrepancies in
On these pages, we provide a sampling of some of these battles. Some, like the recent
defeat of a nuclear-waste dump in Sierra Blanca, illustrate the best of cross-border
cooperation. Others, like the fight to rescue the Salton Sea, show how daunting these
problems can be.
While a lot of the pollution flows south to north, it's short-sighted to blame Mexico.
"After all," says Michael Gregory, a Sierra Club volunteer in Arizona,
"more than 3,000 of the Mexican plants releasing toxics are U.S.-owned and
-affiliated, and they're making goods for U.S. consumers."
Go on to the next article, "Cat
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