Oct 202016
 

The-Worst-Hard-Time-by-Timothy-Egan1-356x535This recounting of America’s dust bowl is a vivid, filthy painting of an American environmental disaster brought about by greed, hubris, and ignorance.  After demolishing the Comanche and the bison, an American government anxious to “settle” the West gave away its prairie in huge chunks.  Plows sliced prairie grasses from their deep roots creating caskets of bare soil over buried sod.  Homesteader wheat, mining untapped soil nutrients and decomposing grasses, produce unimaginably profitable and prolific yields.  When the Great Depression struck in 1929, jobless masses in East Coast cities could not afford to pay for food and wheat piled up in the Great Plains.  In terrible need of income farmers expanded production, exacerbating the problem.  Then one of the periodic droughts that has always cycled through the Great Plains struck the year following the crash of the stock market and stretched nearly a decade.  Crops died.  Then trees and streams, horses and cattle all withered.  Great roiling winds picked up tons and tons of soil hurling black blizzards of sand and grit across the plains and finally people, their lungs so full of dust they could not draw sufficient oxygen, they, too, started to die and with them the farms and towns of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas that should never have exchanged perennial grasses, bison, antelope, snakes, and hares for wheat, corn, and cotton.  The soil of the Great Plains was eventually tied down by the Soil Conservation Service and new plants grown on water mined from the Ogallala Aquifer, which shortly will run dry.

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