Rabbitbrush Rambler: ah-CHOO

It’s springtime in the Rockies, and the wind is blowing! ah-CHOO!

In Del Norte, not far from the San Juans, every morning I’ll find that my car has a blanket of dust, blown from the Four Corners. In Alamosa, Monte Vista, Center, Mosca, and Hooper, people will close their windows while the wind blows across the Valley.

Sales of Kleenex and nasal sprays and humidifiers will soar! ah-ah-ah-ah-CHOO! Bushes and trees and fences will be aflutter with plastic bags. Pollen and seeds from elm trees will be piling up along walls and on porches, while blizzards of crab tree petals will be sweeping across the streets.    

Farmers will watch their expensive topsoil and irrigation water from sprinklers flying away to the Sand Dunes and over the Sangre de Cristos. Golf courses, cemeteries, parks, and home owners will be running hoses and sprinkler systems while meters spin. ah-CHOO! ah-CHOO!

Then one day in June or so, we hope, the wind will stop until next spring. We’ll set aside the Kleenex boxes, get our cars washed, sweep up the dust and the debris or possibly just leave it there, and put some water on the brown patches in our yards and fields.

Let’s take a longer view. While the ever-growing population as a whole was moving east to west and kicking up dust all along the way, the wind still was moving from west to east regardless of what settlement was doing. Meanwhile, the eager human transplants were not thinking much about how the environment was changing in the San Luis Valley, Colorado, North America, and the rest of the world during all those decades or centuries.   

But humans were changing nearly everything in their paths. And much of the dust was because of loss of ground cover, grasses, shrubs, and trees. Forests and fields were stripped bare. If you don’t believe it, take a look at photographs of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and the Denver metro area, I-70, and the Vail Valley since the 1950s, or just take a drive around the San Luis Valley.

(I’ll leave smoke and invisible gasses out of this discussion for brevity’s sake. Climate change? Even President Donald Trump’s own children believe it.)

We have to admit, no matter what else we think about Tricky Dick, that the Republican President Richard M. Nixon and a lot of mainstream America could see almost 50 years ago what was happening to the environment and got their priorities straightened out. As a result, several laws were enacted in Congress and signed by President Nixon.

They were passed because they were needed: National Environmental Policy Act (1969), Clean Water Act (1970), and Endangered Species Act (1973). Also in that period came the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970) and the Consumer Safety Act (1973).

As a result, the environment, air, water, and health have improved in many ways while still leaving much to do. Public and bureaucratic wrangling, delays, and contrary opinions have occurred in many instances, but broad protections now exist and should not be undone or compromised.

Yet, the current president, his appointees in the administration, many in Congress, and a lot of private interests would like to turn the clock back. You hoped we had heard the last from the O&G interests around here? Guess again. We citizens should protest every back step loudly and vigorously.   

More than 70 percent of us Americans want to protect the environment, and the majority of Coloradans concur, as long as we can still have our fun and games. ah-choo!