Reconnaissance and Attack

February 25, 2008

By Steve Klinger

Despite national economic doldrums, sickness
we are constantly reminded that growth in Las Cruces is on an ever-upward trajectory. The Chamber of Commerce crowd can only dance with glee at some of the latest news: Wal-Mart will be anchoring a 621,000 square-foot shopping center on the East Mesa (its third supercenter in Las Cruces), while Las Cruces International Airport will soon be home to a new federal Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Test Center. The Las Cruces Sun-News gloats that potential applications for NMSU’s new contract with the FAA will range from agriculture to homeland security and military “reconnaissance and attack” — in other words, just about anything where an aerial view would be helpful but is too dangerous for manned aircraft. Why does that sound more military than civilian to me? Why does the reference to usage for “police observation of civil disturbances” raise hackles on my neck?

I find it interesting how a community, fixated on inflowing megadollars, can overlook that institutions of higher learning might have some ethical concerns about allying themselves with development of weaponry as a major portion of their research funding. (In today’s Sun-News, an NMSU article does note that university researchers have joined in a strategic partnership with the Department of Energy in The Solar America Initiative, a project to develop cost-competitive solar technologies in 13 cities — of which Las Cruces, unfortunately, is not one.) Not only should universities be weaning themselves from the codependency of defense contracts and research, they should be sensitive to the eventuality that as partners in the military-industrial complex they will ultimately be pressured into stifling academic freedom when members of the learning community irritate those who hold the research purse strings.

On now to retail development, where Las Cruces is adding to its unassailable reputation as a Wal-Mart town. Is no one but me troubled that, having driven out Smith’s and Raley’s, Wal-Mart will soon extend its near-monopoly to the growing East Side with a vast new supercenter and all the attendant satellite (but rarely local) businesses that spring up beside such structures like barnacles on a whale’s butt? Doesn’t it seem curious that we get a Sam’s Club along with the Wal-Marts but can’t seem to lure a much better, greener and more employee-friendly warehouse club such as Costco?

Of course, localization will overtake even Wal-Mart, which is already struggling to keep its shelves stocked and will only face increasing challenges as transportation costs spiral upward and long-distance food supplies are eroded by climate change, bee die-offs, biofuel competition, etc.

Las Cruces needs to seize the opportunity it has to harness its wealth of natural resources (sun, wind, geothermal, good soil, long growing season) to become a unique localized and self-sufficient community.

Speaking of local, mark your calendar for Local Solutions Las Cruces group’s “A Sustainable Lifestyle Event,” on Saturday, March 8, from 8:30 am-6:00 pm at the Court Youth Center, 402 East Court. This second annual daylong energy and green-collar business fair should be fun and informative, bigger and better than last year’s, and is exactly the kind of focus we need, instead of the “reconnaissance and attack” mentality that seems endemic to this town.

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