Famous idiot and current President Donald Trump is obsessed with building a wall along America’s Southern border. You might have heard him mention it in rallies, press conferences, tweets, and any time he feels like it, regardless of context.
Now that Trump has released prototypes of his wall and declared it impossible to climb, professional and amateur climbers have taken literal minutes out of their day to prove him wrong. An eight year old girl was among their number.
This is a fun story to report, but let’s not get carried away. The little girl who scaled the wall so easily declared it a 5.7 difficulty, which means she understands the grading system used in climbing. Anyone who understands that system, which is esoteric to the point of madness, is a serious climber. The average desperate immigrant, thirsty, exhausted and with no training, probably can’t climb Trump’s wall. Their kids definitely can’t.
The issue with the wall should never be whether it is climable, but rather that it exists at all. It’s a literal monument to stupidity and racism, and saying “Pffft, a professional climber could get over that, easy…” is missing the point by a country mile.
If I stole every charity donation bucket in a three county area and used that cash to build a giant asbestos cross in my garden so that it could be permanently burning, most people’s first thought wouldn’t be “What an idiot – everyone knows asbestos is dangerous!”
So it is with The Wall. It’s a moral abomination and a colossal waste of money that could have otherwise been used for schools and hospitals and veterans benefits and a hundred other things. Whether or not someone who climbs walls all the time can climb this particular wall is academic.
Fortunately for posterity, the wall is probably doomed. The following post was made by professional engineer Amy Patrick on Facebook, and I’ll let her explain:
To recap: I’m a licensed structural and civil engineer with a MS in structural engineering from the top program in the nation and over a decade of experience on high-performance projects, and particularly of cleaning up design disasters where the factors weren’t properly accounted for, and I’m an adjunct professor of structural analysis and design at UH-Downtown. I have previously been deposed as an expert witness in matters regarding proper construction of walls and the various factors associated therein, and my testimony has passed Daubert.
Am I a wall expert? I am. I am literally a court-accepted expert on walls.
Structurally and civil engineering-wise, the border wall is not a feasible project. Trump did not hire engineers to design the thing. He solicited bids from contractors, not engineers. This means it’s not been designed by professionals. It’s a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen.
Off the top of my head…
1) It will mess with our ability to drain land in flash flooding. Anything impeding the ability of water to get where it needs to go (doesn’t matter if there are holes in the wall or whatever) is going to dramatically increase the risk of flooding.
2) Messes with all kind of stuff ecologically. For all other projects, we have to do an Environmental Site Assessment, which is arduous. They’re either planning to circumvent all this, or they haven’t accounted for it yet, because that’s part of the design process, and this thing hasn’t been designed.
3) The prototypes they came up with are nearly impossible to build or don’t actually do the job. This article explains more:
And so on.
The estimates provided for the cost are arrived at unreasonably. You can look for yourself at the two-year-old estimate that you see everyone citing.
It does not account for rework, complexities beyond the prototype design, factors to prevent flood and environmental hazard creation, engineering redesign… It’s going to be higher than $50bn. The contractors will hit the government with near CONSTANT change orders. “Cost overrun” will be the name of the game. It will not be completed in Trump’s lifetime.
I’m a structural forensicist, which means I’m called in when things go wrong. This is a project that WILL go wrong. When projects go wrong, the original estimates are just *obliterated*. And when that happens, good luck getting it fixed, because there aren’t that many forensicists out there to right the ship, particularly not that are willing to work on a border wall project— a large quotient of us are immigrants, and besides, we can’t afford to bid on jobs that are this political. We’re small firms, and we’re already busy, and we don’t gamble our reputations on political footballs. So you’d end up with a revolving door of contractors making a giant, uncoordinated muddle of things, and it’d generally be a mess. Good money after bad. The GAO agrees with me.
And it won’t be effective. I could, right now, purchase a 32 foot extension ladder and weld a cheap custom saddle for the top of the proposed wall so that I can get over it. I don’t know who they talked to about the wall design and its efficacy, but it sure as heck wasn’t anybody with any engineering imagination.
Another thing: we are not far from the day where inexpensive drones will be able to pick up and carry someone. This will happen in the next ten years, and it’s folly to think that the coyotes who ferry people over the border won’t purchase or create them. They’re low enough, quiet enough, and small enough to quickly zip people over any wall we could build undetected with our current monitoring setup.
Let’s have border security, by all means, but let’s be smart about it. This is not smart. It’s not effective. It’s NOT cheap. The returns will be diminishing as technology advances, too. This is a ridiculous idea that will never be successfully executed and, as such, would be a monumental waste of money.
This is set to public. Have a blast sharing it.
So there you have it. Trump’s wall is doomed to fail, according to an actual wall expert, and it can be climbed pretty easily according to actual climbers.
But the world should never forget that the signature idea of America’s dumbest president wasn’t just unfeasible and ineffective. It was racist, cruel, and a permanent stain on the nation’s conscience.