iWitness November 2009: Sharing the Wealth

Publication Date: 
November 21, 2009
Header Image.
News and Inspiration from Sierra Friends Center
November 2009
  Join Us
Documentary Screening: Dec 4
Global Issues Forum: Dec 11
Sustainability Tour: Dec 14
Baccalaureate: Dec 18
Graduation Festivities: Dec 19
More info about upcoming events
Featured Video
From the Woolman YouTube Channel


Students engage with questions of social justice in US-Mexico Border: The New Berlin Wall?.
Crossing Borders
Scenes from the road trip to Mexico


Studying water issues


And the California desert


Across the border in Agua Prieta


Visiting a migrant services center


and community center in Mexico


Walking to the border fence


and surmounting it!


Honoring lives lost at the border


Exploring permaculture


And helping to make bricks
Sharing the Wealth
The week spent in Mexico tied together all three classes, bringing together water issues from Environmental Science with wealth and poverty from Peace Studies and border politics from Global Issues. In this issue you'll find students making connections between these themes, articulating global problems in need of solutions, and envisioning ways to create positive change. Please join the dialogue, either on WordPress, Facebook, or by submitting an article for publication.
A Traveler's Treatise
by Ravahn Samati, Community Intern
      With varying degrees of travel experience and Spanish proficiency, the Woolman Semester set out to La Frontera. Our journey was a 1000 mile round-trip caravan across borders both inward and outward. Meanwhile, Latin Americans were crossing similar distances in search of better lives among hardship and risk. The borderlands terrain revealed itself only after we left town to see the wall for ourselves. Only the most well-adapted species of plants and animals were able to make homes in this arid climate. The black edifice loomed large in the distance. Zoe mentioned how the two sides of the border were identical in their makeup and if not for the wall itself there would be no distinguishing the two countries. We refilled water tanks for thirsty migrants, and made our way to the town of Aqua Prieta.
      "There is nothing new about migration, its been happening for as long as human have been alive," said Marc, our host from the Immigrant Resource Center. Our task here was a simple one, serve food upon the arrival of migrants freshly deported from the United States. Unconcerned with where we were from, they accepted purposefully. One night we met with a band of 12 and another night a group of 10. They were hungry, thirsty, boots unlaced, most of them planned on returning to the desert to make the trek again soon. This was the cycle.
      Thanks to all the people we met, who shared there stories of reflective pasts or their visions for the future, welcomed us into their homes and fed us. The gifts of travel will continue to reveal themselves thanks to you.
Border Crossing In Another's Shoes
      by Jennifer Thao, Student
During our week in Mexico we crossed the border every day. Each time I made the trip I imagined how different it would be without my American passport, as an immigrant with no papers but a wish for a better life...


Each time I cross the Border I:
    See footprints left behind from my brothers and sisters...
        Feel the scorching heat of the sun on my face...
          Hear the heavy breathing of the other border crossers...
            Taste the dust from the desert land...
              Smell nothing but the sweat from my body...
Each time I cross the Border I:
    Am terrified that the coyotes will abandon me...
      Worry about my family waiting for me to return...
        I Tell myself that I need this,
          and my family needs this...
Each time I cross the Border:
      A piece of me stays with the desert lands...
Life Without Water
by Ruby Brinkerhoff, Student
      On our way to Mexico, I watched the desert land pass by. The barren mountains, with scattered brush, baked in the sunlight. All of a sudden, we came down into a sea of green, with flat horizons of fields and farms. This is a synthetic paradise that people have come to rest their very survival on. These water systems are all over the world, and it creates a false sense of security. People believe they can just keep pumping away at dwindling resources, and technology will come to the rescue. I think it is a social injustice to create a security blanket out these water systems, when failure is a very possible reality. People ignorant of this overbearing crisis, and who solely rely on artificial water projects, will hit rock bottom if those systems fail.
      Beyond these small, water guzzling utopias, the world struggles with the effects of environmental degradation, famine, and war. Intrinsic value is lost as rivers are dammed and water is fouled. The livelihood of all people is depressed when water becomes a waste basket for our carelessness and the squandering of our most precious resource. One of the greatest social injustices of all is that the voices of the people, those bearing the brunt of the water crisis, are not being heard. That unified cry for help is being drowned out by the gallons of gushing water, the floods of faulty dams, and the cracking of dry earth as rivers run dry.
Who Gets Water, Who Gets Sewage?
by Malka Howley, Student
      In Gujarat, India, and in many other parts of the developing world, farmers have to irrigate their crops with raw sewage. Like many places, water is scarce and in great demand. And while the irrigation canals are virtually always empty and the water table is dropping rapidly, the flow of effluent is never-ending. This is happening all over the world; in When The Rivers Run Dry, Fred Pearce reports that a tenth of the world's irrigated crops are watered with sewage.
      Human waste is bad enough, but this also includes toxic chemicals dumped by factories. Farmers are forced to water their crops with pathogenic toxic waste because it's the only water available. And the people in towns, similarly, have no choice but to buy those crops. Of course, there can be benefits to using sewage for irrigation, but only if measures are taken to make it safe. As it is, the practice is harmful and dangerous. Good water shouldn't be something only some people can afford. If we accept that the right to life is a basic human right, which we must if we believe in any other rights, then we must uphold the right to clean, safe water for everyone.
Preguntas Para Una Fantasma
by Ben Kercheval, Student
Rusted metal poles slide between my hands, burn my thighs as I shimmy down the Fence.
Old Jumex cans litter the desert.
Who would bring sugary juice to the Devil's Playground?
I feel the mystery of the desert; ancient, haunted, barren, and parched.
Is your ghost there too?
Do you feel it too?
Does your skin burn under the molten sun?
Do you feel scared, nervous, excited, hopeful?
Are you dying of thirst?
Are your lungs full of rocks?
Who are you?
Are your hands specked with red from the rusted metal poles,
as you go to the Other Side?
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