UTEP researchers developing water filter to help colonias

Maricela Reyna and her family pay property tax on their home, located in an

El Paso County colonia. Yet they lack access to municipal water and gas services. Instead,

they hire a tanker truck to deliver water each week, and buy propane for cooking. City trash trucks do not run down the unpaved road outside Reyna’s home, either. Instead, she shells out $80 a month for a private hauler to take the family’s waste.

El Paso group moves to save mountains

EL PASO — Although the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition can’t move mountains, they’re hoping a petition can move the boundaries that protect them. The coalition’s “We the People” petition aims to preserve the undeveloped land owned by the city of El Paso to the west and the east of Franklin Mountains State Park—making the land part of the park. The petition, said Jim Tolbert, member of the Franklin Mountain Coalition, garnered more than 6,000 signatures. He plans to present it to the Public Service Board next week. “Privately owned land is not part of the petition,” Tolbert said.

El Paso zoo turns animal waste into compost

Animal poop is natural, free and right there on the ground for the scooping up, but converting it into an eco-friendly useful resource for use on lawns, gardens and farms takes staff, space and money. In the latest environmentally friendly effort by the El Paso Zoo, which strives to be a sustainable and conservation minded organization, animal manure once destined for a landfill is now being recycled into compost. Zoo veterinarian, Dr. Victoria Milne said the zoo has always had an interest in potentially using animal manure for a better purpose but didn’t have the capacity to run their own composting program on site. “It takes a dedicated staff and amount of space, so we started looking for a big partner who would work with us and it wasn’t until last year that we were able to find one,” said Milne. As part of a field conservation pilot program, the Zoo department started through a partnership with other support organizations including the Sustainability Office and the Environmental Services Department to develop a six-month pilot program in 2014.

Pet ducks dumped at El Paso lake struggle to survive

EL PASO — Ascarate Park in East-Central El Paso has recently become home to a flock of aggressive, starved and abused birds — primarily ducks — as Easter gifts and unwanted pets have been dumped at the lake. Animal rescue workers estimate some 200 ducks and geese have been abandoned at Ascarate as the pets became too much for their owners to handle. “People sometimes don’t know what they are getting themselves into,” said Julie Ito Morales, member from local wildlife rescue Stick House Sanctuary. “They start as small cute birds, but they will grow in size and need care just like a dog or any other type of pet.” Although no official cause has been established as to how the large white ducks got into the park, Morales believes that it is the result of people who saw the park as a solution to their problem.

Celebra la Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas 125 años de razón y diálogo

Por Myriam Cruz

En este año de 2014, estamos de fiesta, celebramos el triunfo de la razón, el diálogo y la diplomacia, celebramos los 125 años del establecimiento de la Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas (CILA), con su Sección Mexicana y su Sección Estadounidense, una institución que nos marca el camino de lo que significa tratar con tus vecinos de manera pacífica, y que ha dejado una profunda huella en nuestra historia y seguirá siendo crucial en el desarrollo de esta bendita frontera. Una forma de trabajar única, porque las secciones de cada país siempre están consultando entre sí, -con todo lo que eso conlleva, lidiar con cultura, puntos de vista, lineamientos de los gobiernos, y por supuesto, personalidades; trabajando para el bien común de todos, mexicanos y estadounidenses, los que vivimos en las ciudades y los agricultores que esperan con gran anticipación las descargas del río para empezar una nueva cosecha y un nuevo sueño. “CILA es ejemplo de cooperación fronteriza en el mundo”, dijo Enrique Serrano, Presidente Municipal de Ciudad Juárez, en septiembre 2014. Como a veces pasa, la razón de su creación se desprende del Tratado de Guadalupe-Hidalgo, cuando México pierde más de la mitad de su territorio y hay que establecer una nueva Línea Divisoria Internacional, en los tiempos en que se hacían los deslindes y marcaciones a través del compás y observando las estrellas, viajando por meses y acampando en medio de la nada para establecer la nueva frontera. Sucesivas convenciones van estableciendo las delicadas funciones de la CILA, usando los instrumentos a la mano de acuerdo con la época, para dirimir desde los límites de cada país -las fotografías que ilustran la forma en que se medían los aforos de agua, en canastilla a mitad del rio en los 40’s, hasta las modernas estaciones telemétricas que se utilizan actualmente, que nos van llevando por los entramados de un largo camino para repartir de manera justa lo que nos corresponde a cada uno.

Are you a thrifty shopper? The earth says thank you

EL PASO – Savvy shoppers who hunt through thrift stores and vintage shops to create one-of-a-kind outfits may not even realize they are helping to improve the planet, too. “My family used to shop in those stores because it was cheaper and because the clothing isn’t at all bad,” said avid shopper Cinthia Prado “To us it was a normal and smart habit because of how much you could save.”

For Prado, 21, the search was about finding great deals on designer fashions. “I like how sometimes you find brands like Mango at a very cheap price,” she said. While consumers like Prado are looking for style and savings in used clothing stores, they don’t usually think about the Earth-friendly benefits of their shopping habits. “It wasn’t on my mind that buying used clothing is something positive in an environmental way.” Prado said.

Bhutanese visitor sees home in unique Texas university architecture

EL PASO –Sweating from a three-hour rehearsal of George Fredric Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea, Bhutanese performer Tshering Goen, dressed in blues, yellows, and deep reds began to prepare for a second round of practice. Goen, a director of the Bhutan Royal Academy of Performing Arts, came here to perform at the University of Texas at El Paso, a campus filled with buildings inspired by Bhutanese architecture. The Kingdom of Bhutan is at the eastern end of the Himalayas in South Asia. “I feel as if I am back in Bhutan,” Goen said with calmness in his voice as he donned an animal mask to continue with the rehearsal of a classic Western opera in Bhutanese dress. Related story and video: Love and Death visit Handel’s Acis and Galatea in a Bhutanese cremation field

The Bhutanese interpretation of the classic Handel opera fit perfectly with the architectural history of this campus, nestled in the foothills of the Franklin Mountains in the Chihuahuan desert.

Fracking squeezes more natural gas from the desert, but it may also inject new pollutants

EL PASO — Arnold Escobar leaves his apartment under the hot sun of Odessa, Texas, a desert region abundant in oil nicknamed the Texas Petroplex, drives past oil derricks and pumpjacks, to a remote well site where heavy machinery whirs loudly. He slowly walks along the plant to get to the two-ton blender he operates and starts his work day, a long shift that can last 48 hours. “I feel like my job is an important one,” said Escobar, 24. Escobar is a Senior Equipment Operator for Archer, an oilfield service company that specializes in drilling and well services. One of those services is the process known as hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” for short.

About 25 people participate in the Huerto Amistad garden on Beverly Ann in San Elizario. The garden was started in 2013. (Kirstie Hettinga/Borderzine.com)

Water, commitment are challenges for sustainable gardens in El Paso

EL PASO — San Elizario, Texas is a newborn city with a long history. The area was established in the mid-18th century as part of the Spanish colonial mission trail, but it’s only been officially incorporated since November 2013 and its first mayor took office on May 22, 2014. The rich history of San Elizario is largely agricultural and according to Mayor Maya Sanchez, honoring those roots and protecting the rural community is critical. “My family goes back five generations in San Elizario. It’s an agricultural community, historically has been.

The results of a workshop at La Semilla on how to produce herb infused cooking oil. (April Lopez/Borderzine.com)

La Semilla Food Center — planting the seeds of sustainable agriculture in the borderland

EL PASO — Almost four years ago, founders of La Semilla Food Center went on a mission to build a more sustainable and self-reliant food system in the El Paso-Las Cruces, NM, border region. In 2010, Aaron Sharratt, Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, and Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard created a small community garden in Anthony, New Mexico. Today they farm land, create policy to help local farmers, and organize numerous community outreach programs.

“They took on a task that seems monumental to me, but because people in our region are so unfamiliar with food justice issues and food systems. It takes a lot of education,” said Catherine Yanez, La Semilla Program and Outreach Coordinator. “We’ve already seen a difference in the people that we’re engaging; we’re seeing that light bulb turn on.”

Within their community outreach programs, La Semilla hosts many youth projects. And through them La Semilla has engaged more than 800 local children.

Cleaning up a neighborhood in Calexico, Calif.

CALEXICO, Calif.– “This city has been on a tight budget lately, but we can’t just stay here and wait for a miracle, we have

to do something about it because this is where our children are going to grow up,” said Saul Garcia during the Kennedy Gardens neighborhood clean-up on Saturday March 9, 2013. Garcia joined forces with Javier Gonzalez, the KG Neighborhood Watch leader, to organize a cleanup for the Kennedy Gardens neighborhood and park in Calexico. Gonzalez wanted to organize an event where residents of the neighborhood and volunteers from the community got together to fix, paint, and clean up their parks and streets. Gonzalez and Garcia worked hard to get permission from the city as well as garnering donations for supplies. The City of Calexico and the Imperial Irrigation District provided paint and tools for the event.

Carlo Mendo, co-founder of EPPG, explains the basics of permaculture to students of Somerset Charter School. (Josue Moreno/Borderzine.com)

Volunteers hope to transform urban blight into green gardens

EL PASO – A once destroyed alleyway covered in syringes and broken bottles in downtown El Paso was turned into a thriving garden by a group of volunteers brought together by the El Paso Permaculture Group (EPPG). “Permaculture is a way of life that helps everyone, and teaches you to respect the earth,” said Claudia Paolla, a volunteer with EPPG. “It teaches the children to learn about their food sources and to appreciate the environment.” EPPG invested staff time and money to set up the garden for nearby families and taught them how to tend the crops. Created about a year ago with the help of various activists and volunteers, EPPG continues to reach out to the community, creating gardens in local schools and unexpected places. Permaculture is a growing movement that examines the issues and problems brought up by the way human beings relate to the earth.

San Elizario’s unique revival gathers local history, gardening and hundreds of artists

SAN ELIZARIO, TX – There’s only one place in El Paso County where a family can see work by hundreds of artists, visit a veteran’s museum, get a homemade empanada at a café, see a live band at a restaurant that’s right next to the jail that once housed Billy the Kid, then walk a few blocks down the street to a community garden. This is the San Elizario Historic district, also known as “San Eli,” home to the only art district in the county, located about 10 miles east of the city limits. “We started this madness out here in 2009 with the Main Street Gallery and things just quickly grew,” said Al Borrego, a self-taught artist who invests most of his time promoting San Elizario and all the artists. “I take pride in my community and I think with the history and talent out here, it’s the perfect place for something like this.”

There are over 100 artists exhibiting their artwork in about 40 galleries, with more venues on the way. The artworks range from traditional acrylic and oil paintings, to iron and woodwork as well as sculptures, stained glass and jewelry.