The Guardian view on climate and Covid: time to make different choices | Editorial

Despite some fine words about the environmental crisis, ministers are pushing ahead with a trade bill that threatens to damage the planet

The dust storms that devastated the US prairie during the Great Depression were the worst ecological disaster in American history. They were also, partly, manmade. Decades of farming in the Great Plains had rid the topsoil of its native grass, leaving nothing to prevent fields crumbling to dust when drought struck in 1931. Across the Dust Bowl in midwest America, millions of acres of farmland were swept away in brown blizzards. Forced off the land, hungry families headed west in search of new jobs and lives. The dust blew so far east that it settled on the White House lawn.

Almost 90 years ago the US president’s response was not to lie about the scale of disaster or blame others. Instead, Franklin D Roosevelt launched one of his New Deal’s signature relief programmes: the Civilian Conservation Corps. Its mission was to put unemployed Americans to work. More than 3 million people planted 3bn trees, built shelter belts across the Great Plains to reduce the risk of dust storms, and created 700 state parks. FDR’s legacy survives, but his policy is venerated more in name than in deed.

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