he Green Friendship Bridge series examines a simple question: “What makes better sense, extending the border wall with Mexico 1,300 miles or taking 13 miles of fence investment to build 8,600 algae microfarms and sprinkle them throughout Mexico and Central America?”
Algae veterans may already know many of the substantial social, health, economic and environmental benefits that will accrue to all stakeholders through the distribution of algae microfarms. The national security benefits to the U.S. will exceed those of a border wall extension at 1% of the cost. Algae microfarms will enable people to stay on their land and grow sustainable and affordable healthy and delicious food, feed, biofertilizers and medicines locally and not be forced to migrate north.
The idea for distributing microfarms throughout the southern migration trail to the U.S. was first suggested by Francisco Monteverde. Francisco is a very thoughtful man and became such a strong advocate, he had Peace Microfarms: A Green Algae Strategy to prevent War translated into Spanish. We intend to make both the English and Spanish version of Peace Microfarms available free to microfarmers globally. Currently, Peace Microfarms profits go to Wounded Warriors.
I am a student of military history and benefited greatly from education at the U.S. Naval Academy. In my opinion, algae microfarms offer the strongest tool available to promote peace anywhere in the world where people need healthier, sustainable food. Microfarms are priceless in communities with insufficient natural resources to grow food: fertile soils, fresh water, fossil fuels, fertilizers and agricultural chemicals. Microfarms produce sustainable food because they can grow freedom foods that use no or minimal non-renewable resources. Microfarms preserve natural resources for our next generation.
Algae microfarms offer a means to build a strong and beautiful friendship bridge with our neighbors. Algae Industry Magazine will post a free color PDF of the Green Friendship Bridge series after series completion for leaders, policy makers, educators and students who may want to push Friendship forward. While the target of this series focuses on Mexico and Central American, a Green Friendship Bridge can be built for any community or region.
The Green Friendship Bridge series addresses fascinating questions.
- Can Algae Trump Trump’s Fence with Mexico?
- Can Algae Microfarms Build a Green Friendship Bridge?
- How can We Build the Green Friendship Bridge?
- What Foods can Algae Microfarms Grow?
- What are Social Benefits for the Green Friendship Bridge?
- What are the Green Friendship Bridge Health Benefits?
- What are Economic Benefits for the Green Friendship Bridge?
- What are the Environmental Benefits of the Green Friendship Bridge?
Part 1: Can Algae Trump Trump’s Fence with Mexico?
A border wall along 1,954 miles, (3,145 km) of the US-Mexico border undermines national security, wastes money and promotes a incredibly ugly American image.
The U.S. can improve national security significantly and create a very positive image by a simple policy change. Instead of wasting billions on a border wall, build algae microfarms and give these high-value, low cost microfarms to Mexican and Central American farmers. This Green Friendship Bridge project offers substantial advantages compared with erecting 1,300 additional miles of border wall that experts say would not stop illegal traffic.
Mexico’s ex-president Vicente Fox reacted to Trump’s proposal to build a wall separating the two countries. “I told him: I am not going to pay for this f**** wall,” Fox said during an interview with journalist Jorge Ramos for Univisión. When a slew of objections came from Mexican leaders, Trump said, “The wall just got 10 feet higher.”
Donald Trump issued a memo saying he would force Mexico to pay for a border wall by threatening to cut off billions of dollars in remittances sent by immigrants living in the U.S. Trump threatened to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law, to cut off funds sent to Mexico through money transfers known as remittances. Trump said he would withdraw the threat if Mexico makes “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to finance the wall.”
Building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants is not a novel plan. About 670 miles of fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border was completed in accordance with the Bush administration’s Secure Fence Act of 2006. The first section built on relatively easy terrain cost about $2.4 billion.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimates the cost of building and maintaining steel fences along the U.S.-Mexico border could be $49 billion over the expected 25-year life span of the fence. Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute estimates construction of the rest of the border wall would take a minimum of 10 years. The price of private land acquisitions and maintenance of fencing could push that total cost far higher. Wall maintenance would like cost around $1 billion a year.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff waived 36 federal laws in order to build the existing wall. In addition to environmental laws, he swept aside the Farmland Protection Policy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Secretary Chertoff waived those laws because he knew that border walls would violate them.
DHS officers have pointed out repeatedly that border fences in remote locations do nothing other than annoy border crossers. The fence does not stop people from going over or under the barrier. Both Democrats and Republicans have testified that the U.S. has all the fencing needed.
People cross the U.S. boarder illegally with the hope of getting better jobs in order to provide food for their families. Subsidized U.S. crops, especially corn, have destroyed the ability of many foreign farmers to make a living. Most of Haiti’s farmers went bankrupt decades ago from U.S. food aid that dumped grains on Haiti’s economy at prices lower than farmers could produce. Now Haiti is dependent on subsidized U.S. grain.
Similarly, over 1.5 million Mexican farmers were forced to leave their land because they could not compete with subsidized U.S. corn. NAFTA sealed a trade agreement but left untouched the serious problem of U.S. crop subsidies that undermine Mexican (and Canadian) farmers. Many of these farmers added their feet to the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico. Homeland Security should consider joining the World Trade Organization where several countries, including Mexico and Canada, are suing to end U.S. crop subsidies.
The border wall conflicts with core American values. Our symbol of liberty, the Statue of Liberty, contains Emma Lazarus’ Famous Poem, which says:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
The border wall is an embarrassment to every American who cheered with the breaking of the Berlin Wall. In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin in June 1987, Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear down the wall as a symbol of increasing freedom in the Eastern Bloc.
President Regan said: “We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Yet 30 years later, the U.S. fails to advance human liberty and instead erects an ugly wall to keep foreigners out. Donald Trump wants to spend $20+ billion to build out the wall. The GAO estimates the additional wall will cost roughly $16.6 million/mile.
Rather than waste money on 1300 miles of ugly wall, why not build a Green Friendship Bridge? The Friendship Bridge proposed here would shift the cost for 13 miles of wall, $216 million, to finance the Green Friendship Bridge composed of microfarms scattered across Mexico and Central America. The microfarms will create jobs, reduce or eradicate malnutrition, improve health as well as enable farmers and families to produce good food locally so they do not have to migrate north.
Friendship Bridges have been built in many ways. Microloans and education create Friendship Bridges that empower Guatemalan women to create their own solutions to poverty for themselves, their families and their communities. The Gates Foundation has built Friendship Bridges in many countries with projects to empower people locally to improve the health and prosperity for people and their communities.
Antenna Technologies provides an excellent model for distributing the knowledge and technology for building Friendship Bridges. Antenna Technologies is a Swiss foundation committed to the scientific research of technological, health and economic solutions in partnership with universities, non-profit organizations and private companies to meet the basic needs of marginalized populations in developing countries. Antenna is active in the local production and distribution of spirulina, a microalga of high nutritional value. A daily dose of just a few grams can lead to spectacular improvements in the nutritional state of malnourished children. Antenna pursues awareness and information activities on nutrition and spirulina.
Child malnutrition is the single biggest contributor to under-five mortality due to greater susceptibility to infections and slow recovery from illness. The World Bank reports that in several countries in Central America, over 50% of children under 5 are malnourished.
Child malnutrition causes significant cognitive impairments and serious health problems throughout life. Studies show that stunted children in the first two years of life have lower cognitive test scores, delayed enrollment, higher absenteeism and more class repetition compared with non-stunted children. Vitamin A deficiency reduces immunity and increases the incidence and gravity of infectious diseases resulting in increased school absenteeism.
Child malnutrition impacts on economic productivity. The mental impairment caused by iodine deficiency is permanent and directly linked to productivity loss. The loss from stunting is calculated as 1.38% reduced productivity for every 1% decrease in height.
Maternal malnutrition increases the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes including obstructed labor, premature or low-birth-weight babies and postpartum hemorrhage. Severe anemia during pregnancy is linked to increased mortality at labor.
Low-birth-weight is a significant contributor to infant mortality. Moreover, low birth-weight babies who survive are likely to suffer growth retardation and illness throughout their childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Growth-retarded adult women are likely to carry on the vicious cycle of malnutrition by giving birth to low birth-weight babies.
Antenna Technologies research shows that on an annual basis, a 1 m² tank yields a production of 6 g/ day, which sums to 2 kg of dried spirulina a year.
- Each m² cultivated can supply a cure for 20 children with nutritional deficiencies.
- Each m² cultivated can supply sufficient critical nutrients for 20 pregnant mothers or mothers of nursing newborns.
- The cure for a malnourished child lasts for 6 to 8 weeks, using 2 g of spirulina a day, thus requiring only => 100 g of dried spirulina
Spirulina provides substantial health benefits for people of all ages. The phycocyanin, polysaccharides, antioxidants and phytonutrients in a 3-gram spirulina serving per day:
- Restores and enhances beneficial intestinal flora.
- Promotes and stimulates immune system protection.
- Strengthens neuro-protection and promotes anti-aging.
- Enhances the body’s own healing response with phycobilins.
- Detoxifies pollutants, heavy metals, radioactive compounds.
- Improves eye and cell health with antioxidants and carotenoids.
Growers can produce fresh, frozen or dried spirulina. Microfarmers in the U.S. typically sell 100 grams, (3.5 oz) of spirulina for about $20. Fresh or frozen spirulina may bring 2x higher prices. French, Spanish, U.S. and Asian microfarmers are supplementing their income by selling spirulina in their communities.
A standard algae microfarm may cost $20,000 to construct using mostly local labor. Microfarm accessories may cost another $5,000. Therefore, 13 miles of the wall cost can finance 8,600 algae microfarms. Further detail on how the microfarms will be built will follow. Operation of a modest microfarm requires about 2 hours four times a week.
Note to DIY microfarmers. Single microfarms typically require a larger investment. This project plans to source necessary materials in bulk. Robert Henrikson has created a “Getting started checklist” for people interesting in building an algae microfarm.
So, what is the value proposition for the Green Friendship Bridge consisting of 8,600 algae microfarms versus Trump’s wall?
A Friendship Bridge constructed with 8,600 algae microfarms sited throughout Mexico and Central America would give farmers an opportunity to support their family and community. Since microfarms require only modest physical labor, women, the physically handicapped and elderly people could grow highly nutritious food locally. Families could support themselves and stay in the communities they love.
The highly nutritious algae offer a wide variety of delicious and healthy foods. One microfarm can support a community’s need for vital nutrition for babies and young children as well as for their mothers. Strong nutrition can avoid low birth weight babies, stunting and cognitive loss for children. Many older people that suffer from malnutrition can recover their normal lives with algae-based nutrients that are easily bioabsorbed by the body.
Prior Algae Secrets posts described the ability of spirulina and other algae species to chelate with heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic and cleanse the brain and body of these poisons. A single community microfarm would provide sufficient algae to safely remove these poisons.
Healthier families improve economic outcomes. Algae microfarms can provide jobs for farmers and their families so they can continue to live and thrive in their home communities.
The only downside of the Friendship Bridge project is that the USDA reports that one in five U.S. children live in food insecure families. We will need a sister Green Friendship Bridge project for food deserts and rural areas with high food insecurity across the U.S.