Rachel’s Network is a prime example of how women donors in particular use networks to enhance their strategy and address multiple levels of culture with their work, from environmental concerns to helping underserved populations. By championing funding initiatives that pair environmentalism and gender equality and acknowledging the intersection between them, Rachel’s Network has become “one of the most significant funding networks in the ecofeminist space,” as Philanthropy Women has previously reported.
The organization, which has donated about $2 million to relevant causes, is best known for looking at the “other side” of commonly-discussed issues like climate change and environmental preservation, noting how certain marginalized groups often go overlooked by media coverage and funding efforts alike.
The organization announced earlier this summer that donors would be funding both the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in their efforts to preserve the lands and people being affected by the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Border communities and asylum seekers have already been affected by the increased military presence in the area, the traumatic legacy of family separations and incarceration, and inflammatory rhetoric that has caused destruction and confusion in the region.
The lives and well-being of people living on tribal lands, delicate ecosystems, and dozens of animal and plant species at the U.S.-Mexico border would also be disrupted by the expanded border wall proposed by President Trump. Read on to learn more about Rachel’s Network’s past work to protect and preserve the natural landscapes and people at and around the border.
Biodiversity Threatened by the Border Wall
President Donald Trump and Congress are diverting billions in federal funding to expand the border wall. This is bad news for fragile borderlands ecosystems. According to the Center of Biological Diversity, over 650 million miles of barriers already exist along the U.S.-Mexico border. These barriers disrupt animal migration patterns, the well-being of wildlife, and the delicate balance of natural ecosystems, in addition to putting the region at risk for dangerous floods and other catastrophes. Expanding the border wall could result in the destruction of the habitats and food sources for species like desert pupfish, jaguars, and Mexican gray wolves. 93 endangered, threatened, and candidate species could potentially have their lives disrupted or destroyed by the federally-funded border wall project.
“The dominant stories being told about the border are misleading at best and flat lies at worst,” Rachel’s Network President Fern Shepard said in a recent press release. “The only way to cut through the noise is to hand a megaphone to the people at the border so they can tell their stories. We’re proud to fund two groups that are doing just that.”
The Center of Biological Diversity is combating misinformation by producing a series of short documentaries, called the #BorderViews series, around the rich biodiversity of the borderlands. Funding from Rachel’s Network will support public education about the borderlands through journalistic research, public art projects, and social media projects.
Rachel’s Network Continues Work to Preserve the Border
In addition to the wall’s environmental impacts, the lives, homes, and financial stability of landowners and residents in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and other border communities could be devastated by the wall. That’s why Rachel’s Network teamed up with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) to fund a series of initiatives to benefit those seeking justice.
“TCRP traces its roots to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, a vibrant, bicultural and bilingual part of our country that this president has attacked and vilified since the inception of his campaign,” Efrén C. Olivares, TCRP Racial & Economic Justice Legal Director, said in Rachel’s Network’s recent press release. Olivares continued, “Since taking office, his administration has militarized our community more than ever before. We are extremely grateful for this partnership with Rachel’s Network, which will allow us to double down on our commitment to the border, and will help us amplify our capacity to reach communities around the country. We continue to work on behalf of immigrants, against family separations, and against the border wall in South Texas.”
Funding will go toward projects like TCRP’s virtual reality film, Border Stories, which premiered at SXSW earlier this year. The film allowed participants to “visit” the border and immerse themselves in the stories of real people living in and visiting the region. Funding will also go toward pairing area landowners and residents with pro bono attorneys to fight the building and maintenance of the wall, as well as translating eminent domain information and landowners’ rights materials into Spanish.
Rachel’s Network has donated over $100,000 thus far to projects benefiting the people, lands, animals, and plants in the borderlands. Past efforts have benefited the Sierra Club in 2017 and TCRP in 2018.