“Natural” and “Artificial” Boundaries

Lately boundaries have been more noticeable. Everyday I walk down a hill towards the Ithaca commons and see signage “Downtown Ithaca.” This makes the division between the residential area I live in and the downtown area obvious. While walking down the hill everyday, I also always see the Six Mile Creek below.


This Creek leads to the Ithaca reservoir towards South Hill. Each time I see something different as the water passes over the stones and create dynamic shapes.  Even when I am in a hurry to get up the hill on my way home, I can’t miss the river because I hear the tumultuous small waves crashing against the stones and the cemented walls that act as boundaries. I always wonder how high the river can actually get. To me, it seems pretty low even in this long Winter season.

Observing these boundaries led me to realize the larger boundaries within Ithaca. Urban and forested area is an obvious boundary, but there are so many boundaries within the city. In the illustration below I convey the different boundaries including the highways, watersheds, forested areas, and residential boundaries.

ithaca illus

The map in the background conveys the names of the boundary areas: Highway 89, Hector st., Beebe Lake, Cornell Plantations, Cass Park, South Hill, Ithaca. Everything is labeled and boundaries are inevitable.

In this local context, boundaries are harmless, and act as a mediator between the urban and natural environment.

However, in the national and international context, these boundaries may have detrimental effects on the well-being of society. One of my friends, a fellow Cornell graduate student, was arrested in Brownsville Texas for refusing to show proof of his American citizen to the Border Patrol in an airport. He believed the Border Patrol was racially profiling him. He was willing to show proof of his citizenship to the TSA agent, which seemed more appropriate. Due to intimidation by the Border Patrol, the Brownsville police arrested my friend and he has been charged with misdemeanors. My friend grew up in Brownsville Texas and it is sad that he experienced this injustice in his own hometown. The story was also featured on Democracy NOW!

Boundaries between nations create tension and injustice against people on both sides of the border. Although geographic boundaries seem to provide simplicity, they induce complex issues in society. Racism and inequality are both underlying issues that are continually fostered by boundaries.

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