UPSTREAM THE RIO GRANDE
HOLLIS MOORE / LAND ARTS OF THE AMERICAN WEST
I walked up the Rio Grande for a mile. I walked to remember what lives downstream … to suggest a common ground in a split landscape … to think about what two countries share. I walked up instead of across the Rio Grande.
In Big Bend State Park, the Rio Grande becomes the border between Texas and Mexico until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. It is here that Energy Transfer Partners plans to install the Trans-Pecos pipeline underneath the river. The pipeline route will lay close enough to groundwater and surface water that if it explodes or leaks it will cause an environmental disaster. The Rio Grande’s mouth is in the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder: how does the river act as a lifeline for the Gulf, which is still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? If the Rio Grande does act like a vein to the Gulf of Mexico, then why would we risk contaminating the Rio Grande with a new pipeline?
With these questions, I walked upstream to give a voice to the marine animals and plants of the Gulf. Maybe the stories of the victims from one environmental disaster can help prevent another. I wore a handmade dress similar to a fishing net. The dress was composed of cheesecloth, tarp, and thread. A black vertical line travels down the front of the dress to represent a pipeline. As I walked the dress turned into the milky green residue of the Rio Grande river water.
What I didn’t know during my walk was what animals I would encounter along the way. I noticed some dark, slithery creatures skirt away as I walked closer, probably river otters. I heard a couple of splashes and once stepped on something moving—most likely trout or catfish. I also saw something that looked like the head of a turtle, which may have been a Rio Grande slider. Or, much to my startled dismay, could have been any of the dozens of snakes that live in the area. Most exciting, though, was my encounter with a bobcat.
The creatures I met during my upstream walk deserve a voice before the installation of the Trans-Pecos pipeline. This is a wild, prosperous desert ecosystem in Big Bend and we cannot let the oil and gas companies obliterate the wildlife as they did to the whales, birds, fish, and corals in the Gulf during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.