The Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl was a drought of the 1930’s and one of the worst environmental disasters across the globe. The disaster that took place in the 1930 saw up to three million people leave their Great Plain farms. Half a million people migrated to the other states and more specifically to the West.
The name Dust Bowl was given to the Great Plains areas devastated by the drought in America. It covered about 150,000 square mile area encompassing Texas panhandles and Oklahoma as well as neighboring sections of New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas. These regions were characterized with light soil, high winds and little rainfall. With the deadly and destructive combination, many people decided to migrate. By 1940’s, many people had fled and nearly 10 percent moved to California.
More about Dust Bowl of the 1930’s
Farmers and ranchers in the 19th and early 20th century were mainly driven by agricultural ethos of expansion. They had a sense of autonomy from the environment and they exploited land aggressively. Without knowing it, they set up the Great Plains for ecological disaster.
Many early settlers utilized land for livestock grazing until agricultural mechanization and inflated grain prices enticed farmers to plow up natural grass to plant wheat. This happened during World War I.
In response to the disaster, the federal government mobilized many New Deal companies, more specifically, Soil Conservation service created in 1935 to help promote rehabilitation of the farm. While working with the locals, the government instructed farmers to plant grass and trees to help anchor trees. The agencies also encouraged locals to plow and use terrace in contours patterns to hold rainwater. This would further allow farmland portions to lie fallow every year to help the soil to regenerate.
The government also purchased many acres of sub marginal land to keep it off production. By 1941, more land was rehabilitated but during World War II, people in the Great Plains area repeated earlier mistakes as they plowed up grassland to plant wheat following increase in their prices.
As a result, there was drought that threatened another disaster in 1950s. This promoted the Congress to subsidize farmers in restoring millions of wheat acres back to grassland. Dust Bowl also led to cultural response from different artists including John Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie and Dorothea Lange who lamented that the disaster was created by the American economic ethos. To the artists, Dust Bowl meant final destruction of old Jeffersonian ideal of agrarian peace or harmony with nature.
Timeline of the Dust bowl
Midwestern and southern plains are hit by severe drought following overgrazing and plowing up of grass
Dust storms increase to fourteen and to 38 in 1933
The country is desperate and in March, 1933, a four day bank holiday is declared by Franklin Roosevelt. Congress also comes with an Emergency Banking Act to help stabilize the banking industry.
In May 1933, more farmers flee to California San Joaquin Valley
Great Dust storms spread from Great Plains or Dust Bowl area. It affects 27 states severely making it the worst ever natural disaster to hit the United States of America.
125 policemen are sent to patrol the borders of Oregon and Arizona by Los Angeles Police Chief James E. Davis. The officers kept out undesirables and in the long run, America Civil Liberties Union sues the city.
President Roosevelt addresses the nation in his second inaugural ceremony stating that the nation is ill clad, ill-housed and ill nourished.
An extensive re plowing of the land into furrows commences. Locals plant more trees in shelter beds and they employ more conservation methods that result in reduction in the amount of soil blowing by 65 percent. Even so, the drought continued.
Rain comes in the fall finally bringing an end to the drought or Dust Bowl. For the next few years with the coming of the Second World War, the country is pulled out of the Depression of the 1930s. The plains once more regain their glory, golden with wheat.
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