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Earth Day and the City of Dalhart

Posted by: tdt -

By Robin Scott

In 1970, President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The mission of the EPA was to protect the environment and public health. Numerous laws and amendments to laws have been passed since 1970 that have changed the face of the earth. Some of the major accomplishments of the EPA include eliminating lead from paint and gasoline, eliminating the use of DDT pesticides in the United States, enactment of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the banning of chlorofluorocarbons in aerosol cans, discovery of a hole in the ozone layer that appears each spring over Antarctica and the discovery that second-hand smoke is a dangerous pollutant to indoor air.

Earth Day is an annual celebration that is designed to heighten the public’s awareness of not only the long list of accomplishments toward a cleaner environment, but encourages the continued effort of people in their every day lives. Anyone over 40 who has traveled to a large city like Houston, Chicago, or Los Angeles can attest that the air quality in those cities is greatly improved since the 1970’s. Evidence that the regulations regarding auto emissions in Los Angeles are reduced is so overwhelming that younger generations have no recollection of smog eye burn that used to occur on a daily basis to anyone in the southern California region of the United States.

Efforts to improve the environment are also just as prevalent in the Texas panhandle that as recently as 50 years ago was still trying to overcome the dustbowl years of the 1930’s. Developments in the agricultural use of land, water irrigation systems and the science of agriculture are so improved in the panhandle that younger generations have no recollection of lung-destroying dust storms that lasted for weeks on end.

Tossing trash out of a car window has nearly been eradicated since the Texas legislature adopted the "Don’t Mess with Texas" campaign in 1986. It is almost hard to imagine a time when disposing of trash out of a car window didn’t warrant a traffic citation. Citizens of Texas have embraced cleaner highways and roadways with enthusiasm, and for those who haven’t, the fine is costly for the lack of concern for the environment.

In Dalhart, many environmentally sound activities are well established. The most obvious transformation is that surrounding the use of farmland. Not that the problem with dust is eradicated, but certainly the combination of sound farming techniques, irrigation and agricultural principals that put the future use of land in the overall equation have transformed the landscape in the Texas panhandle and within Dallam and Hartley Counties.

Another trend that seems to have a strong foothold are the City of Dalhart’s recycling efforts. The last ten years have shown a marked improvement in the volume of cardboard and paper products that are recycled and a reduction in the amount of refuse that is transferred to the landfill. Dalhart residents are recyclers, even though that term was once considered something only tree-hugging hippies cared about. Dalhart’s recycling efforts are so remarkable that the city has consistently been recognized with awards for its recycling regimen.

In the beginning recycling campaigns were targeted toward children, which makes sense since children pick up new habits relatively easily and they will inevitably become adults. But in the last few years the target audience has expanded to include every living being on the planet. More than likely within the lifetime of the baby boomers, driving energy efficient "green" vehicles will become the norm and just as leaded gasoline easily faded away, fossil fuels may only be found within history books.

Earth Day represents the hope that any destruction to the planet caused by man’s technological advances may become a thing of the past as technology finds new ways to run the world. Earth Day is also a reminder that although thousands of advances and improvements have been made in the way man lives on the planet, the journey is not yet over, and may never be over. The journey is one that people have come to embrace however, and being "green" has become a reputable quality rather than a sarcastic judgment. Dalhart and its citizens continue the journey, in a cooperative effort, and proudly proclaim, "Earth Day happens here."

(Photo by Susan Clay)