Driving through the Imperial Valley of Southern California, I’m struck by the ways the landscape is in many ways analogous to the farmlands of Nebraska I grew up with. However, instead of rows of corn and soybeans, strawberries, kale, and heads of lettuce form a carpet varying shades of green–interrupted by the bleak and exposed earth of empty fields.

The intense agricultural uses of the Imperial Valley, coupled with dust from the slowly receding Salton Sea to the north, have led to some of the worst air quality in the country.