Dust Bowl: Donald Worster The 1930s are a decade marked by devastation; the nation was in an economic crisis, millions of people were going hungry, and jobless. America was going through some dark times. But if you were living in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas (or any of those surrounding states) you had bigger things on your mind than being denied the money in your bank account. From 1935-1939 Winds and dust storms had left a good portion of our country desolate; however our author takes a slightly different, though no less valid, opinion on the matter.
In his book Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s Donald Worster blames mans inappropriate interference with nature that allowed these massive storms of dust that happen. “My argument, however, is that there was a in fact a close link between the Dust Bowl and the Depression — that the same society produced them both, and for similar reasons. Both events revealed fundamental weaknesses in the traditional culture of America, the one in ecological terms, the other in economic.
Both offered a reason, and an opportunity, for substantial reform of that culture…Capitalism, it is my contention, has been decisive in this nation’s use of nature. ” (Worster pg 5). The 1920s were a time of prosperity for most Americans, but most farmers didn’t prosper. The price of farm produce fell below 40% and many farmers were struggling to keep their land, so as an alternative they moved. “During the 1920s there had been a net migration of 6 million people, most of them young or black, from farm and small village cities…and in 1932 the flow was actually reversed, as urban unemployment peaked.
(Worster pg 47). As a consequence of the depression, there were more people on farms than had ever been in the nation’s history; more people were affected by the Dust Bowl than otherwise would have been. So what caused the Dust Bowl? The textbook answer is a combination of dry soil and massive winds, but like I’ve stated previously our author wouldn’t totally agree with that. “The Old World ways of working the earth, however are disappearing…All over the world agriculture has been undergoing a more radical set of changes than it has at any time since its invention some 8000 years ago. (Worster pg 231). He wasn’t just referring to old farming practices; he meant how people use to appreciate the earth and all of the things she gave. He meant when farming was a reputable job and when what came from the earth was sacrosanct. Drought had caused the soil to become dry and loose by early 1930. This occurs mostly because the area most hurt by the Dust Bowl had once been grassland, in the early 1900s they had been converted into wheat lands because that was more lucrative. …and the dust storms of the following decade revealed, a self-destructive culture, cutting away the ground from under people’s feet. ” (Worster pg 44). In decades previous to that there had been a technology boom as far as farm equipment went. “…some observer blame the dust storm of the 1930s of the misuse of this single implement. ” (Worster pg 91). Western farmers had used plows to kill the grass. Greed and this disruption of nature is what Worster sees as the primary cause of the Dust Bowl.
We used the earth as a form of capitalism; worked it to make money for us and gave nothing back. (Similar to what caused the Great Depression. ) He felt that as a nation we had deceived ourselves so we would feel vindicated for our actions, thereby alleviating any responsibility to fix what we broke. The Great Depression was in an economic crisis. Even today the Great Depression is the worst and longest period of high unemployment in modern times.
Millions of Americans were left jobless and had to depend on government charity, then massive dust storms hit and further devastate our nation. (All of this occurring from a series of preventable events). This book was not meant to point a finger of blame, but intended to be seen as a warning that if we didn’t take responsibility for the most pivotal aspect of the dust bowl (the human one) then we would be forced to repeat it in one form or another.
Work Cited Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The southern Plains in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.