Desertification in the American Southwest

Desertification is defined as land degradation, most commonly caused by overgrazing, over-farming, excess woodcutting, enhanced water and wind erosion, and improper farming techniques. Symptoms include reduced plant productivity, reduced species diversity, and soil deterioration, among other hazards. Desertification cannot happen without human intervention. (Source)
Our landscape has already been ravaged by desertification. Nobody can forget the 1930’s Dust Bowl, a time characterized by harsh dust storms and plagues of locusts, and caused by the abuse of our once-rich soil. It was so bad that the dust clouds blocked out the sun, and people couldn’t leave their houses without masks, lest they contract “dust pneumonia,” a fatal condition caused by too much dust in the lungs.
Dorothea Lange, Dust storm near Mills, New Mexico, 1935.jpg

Mills, New Mexico at the time of the Dust Bowl.

The environment seemed to be falling apart around them. The fields, people’s life work and sustenance, were dying, deprived of water,  and buried under dust. Our soil has been changed, and it’s not likely to revert in this lifetime, or even several.The Dust Bowl was, of course, an extreme case, but that does not mean that something like it cannot happen again.
We have been trapped in a drought for the past six years, the largest in more than a century. (Source) This alone would exacerbate our desertification problems, but that’s not all. The issue that we all hear about, air pollution and global warming, affects desertification because the increased temperature causes moisture to evaporate more quickly. (Source) Our climate was already dry due to the location, but all these factors, as well as our own water usage, is causing our reservoirs to dry up. The Rio Grande, our Great River, used to be just that, huge, and great, but it has been reduced to an object of disdain from other states, as they scoff at the small amount of water we consider “great”. Many of us, too, no longer revere the Rio Grande. Our river shriveling into the soil is one of our only visual indicators of how our land is suffering from lack of water.
USA Big Bend Rio Grande TX.jpg

The Rio Grande Project distributes water from the Rio Grande for irrigation. Can you tell how tiny the river’s become?

Perhaps you could tell where I was going with this in the previous paragraph, but I’ll say it anyway. We need to conserve water. We can’t do very much about the drought, but we control our water uses. Keep your showers as short as you can. Save water from the kitchen and bathroom to use in your garden or anywhere else that water is required, but clean water isn’t. If you farm, harvest the little rainwater we get, or better yet, try to only grow crops suitable to our environment, so you won’t have to water them as much. You guys know the drill.
Sources and Useful Links

One thought on “Desertification in the American Southwest

  1. In the first paragraph, do you mean that the prevention of “desertification cannot happen without human intervention.”? You have confused me. “Our” landscape should be defined – do you mean the southwest, the US or the whole earth? Good description of the dustbowl, but remember to explain what the “abuse” of the land actually was. WHo was “them” in the sentence “The environment seemed to be falling apart around them?” You jump to “our” and do not give the reader where “here” is and who “our” refers to. Remember that your audience may be close ( me and your classmates) but could also be far away. USe more evidence and facts within the body of your writing to prove your case.

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