Dust Bowl Summary

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Donald Worster is an environmental historian and his book Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s helped to define the environmental history movement as it was the first environmental history book published. He breaks the stereotype of how the Dust Bowl was viewed by writing it from an environmental standpoint instead of writing a social history by focusing solely on the people and their experiences. How it helped to define the environmental history movement is that it opened up this avenue for others to write about environmental issues. He is also an anti-capitalist and this book combines his interest in the environment with the effect that capitalism has on the environment. Worster’s book focuses on the relationship between the environment…show more content…
His argument is that the farmers in the Southern Plains are more concerned with turning a profit than the land or what they are doing to it. According to Worster, these farmers only view the land as only having commercial value. By only seeing the land as having monetary value, the farmers of the Southern Plains continued to exploit the land and its resources. This over farming is a result of a capitalist need to cultivate the earth in order to achieve a maximum profit. Worster hints that capitalism is the root of all the problems during the Dust Bowl and is often mentioned throughout the book. For example, he frequently mentions the differences between suitcase farming and lifestyle farming and how they are affected by capitalism. Suitcase farmers are those who only farm for profit whereas lifestyle farming, the farmers care about the…show more content…
This over farming diminished the nutrients in the ground and removed all of the grass and sod holding the dirt in place which resulted in it creating the giant dust storms. Storms like this have happened in the past but not to the same degree. He mentions how the climate in the Southern Plains is problematic as there is little rain and every so many years there are big storms that tear throughout the area. The difference between the storms that occurred before the Dust Bowl, is that there was grass and sod keeping the soil in place instead of just bare earth with shallow roots for anything that managed to cover the earth. Worster claims capitalism and the farming practices are responsible for this as the farmers strive to make a profit without caring about the state of the land is in. As long as they can earn money, the farmers will continue in these practices. Worster spends several chapters focusing on the different solutions to the Dust Bowl and how those solutions were utilized only when the farmers were being paid through President Roosevelt’s New Deal. However, once the quality of the land started to improve or it rained the farmers abandoned the practices in favor of more profit. He focuses on the solutions proposed by the conservationists, ecologists, and agronomists. He even mentions how these solutions and conservation practices are still relevant to today but are not

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