No one could have expected a worldwide pandemic to be how we start the new decade, yet here we are. Luckily here in Texas we have lots of space to spread out and safely distance ourselves. Also, with summer right around the corner, there is hope that human activity in warmer weather will help prevent the spread. It is known that high temperatures can help slow and stop viruses in their tracks. In this sense, the blistering heat rays of the Texas sun offer a glimmer of light in the dark.
There are yet even more current issues facing our state. Various cities in Texas have pursued climate action plans, but such efforts at the state level have been virtually nonexistent as climate change remains a politically divisive issue. Many of Texas’ oil and gas industries are routinely violating environmental laws by dumping excess chemicals and human waste into its rivers and bays, often without consequence.
The Environmental Protection Agency has reduced the how strictly these companies have to follow safety guidelines and regulations.
In a statement from EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, “…the EPA recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements.”
This allows for unsolicited, illegal dumping of toxic waste into Texas’ bodies of water, including our rivers and lakes.
On a similar note, several recent studies have found that dozens of public utilities in Texas supply tens of thousands of people with drinking water that contains illegal levels of radiation and lead. For those who live in urban areas, risk is not very high, but rural Texans are not quite as fortunate.
“The EPA’s decision to stop enforcing key provisions of our environmental law puts Texans’ air, water and health at the mercy of polluters,” Catherine Fraser, Clean Air Associate for Environment Texas, said in a statement.
“This is particularly true in the context of oil and gas industry operations,” Fraser said, adding that “…industrial facilities released over 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution, in violation of their Clean Air Act permits in the past few years.
These issues may seem out of our control, but there has never been a better time to get informed and get involved. It’s as easy as starting with your own community. Contacting local officials and making your voice heard at the polls is a great first step in creating lasting change for our lone star state.
The majority of climate scientists agree that humans are causing climate change through increased emissions of carbon dioxide. Texas is a very large state, and while it may seem hard to manage, being aware of and taking action against pollution and climate change is a necessary task.
We all know how brutal the summers are here, but temperatures are only going to increase. Research shows the number of 100-degree days has more than doubled over the past 40 years and could nearly double again by 2036. Because of this, Texans should expect more wildfires and urban flooding, and increased impact from hurricanes in the coming decades.
Plastic waste is notably one of the largest issues we face today. Billions of tons of plastic have been made over the past decades, and much of it is becoming trash and litter. Texas is not free of blame in this sense. The three cities with the highest amount of pollution are Amarillo, Waco and Laredo. These cities combined total up to over 1.5 million pounds of waste.
With ever polarizing weather conditions, extreme rainfall has become more frequent. As a result, there will be a significant increase in urban flooding. The state has gotten drier as well, that increased dryness will increase risk of wildfires. Some good news however, is the fact that river flooding is not expected to worsen since increased temperatures will lead to more absorbent soil.
With all of these issues facing our state, it may seem like a looming cloud of despair is heading our way. There is still hope, but only if Texans join together and take action now.
There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, including scaling back car use. Try cycling, carpooling, walking or using public transportation. You can even shop online to reduce the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere.
We can also reduce food and product waste by planning ahead what to buy at the store and keeping track of what you throw away. Donate to food kitchens, take home leftovers and buy things with minimal to no packaging. Shopping at your local farmers market or picking up gardening would be extremely beneficial to mother earth.
It might not seem like you’re doing much, but over time, all these changes add up to a really positive impact on the environment. No effort is too little, so pick up a new habit and help our state, and our planet thrive.