Daniel Worster's Dust Bowl Review

Essay by hydr019University, Bachelor's April 2005

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The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a massive and incessant "storm" which altered the way of life for the Depression ravaged citizens of America. The people awoke every morning hoping and praying for rain, while outside on their farms and in many urban areas, the conditions only worsened. Donald Worster's Dust Bowl, The Southern Plains in the 1930s, is an intricately detailed account of this storm which produced black blizzards and carried dust and sand from the Southern Plains, near the panhandle of Oklahoma, to cities such as Atlanta and New York. Donald Worster argues that the same society responsible for the Great Depression, was also responsible for the Dust Bowl. Worster says, "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." (5)

Worster further lays out three problems with capitalistic America in correlation with nature and economics: 1) Nature must be seen as capital, 2) Man has a right, even an obligation, to use this capital for constant self-advancement, and 3) The social order should permit and encourage this continual increase of personal wealth.

(6) These ideologies were implanted in the heads of the capitalist American farmer. In order to make a larger profit, expose the land and resources of an area which was subject to natural disaster. The author states, "the American Dust Bowl of the thirties suggests that a capitalist-based society has a greater resource hunger than others, greater eagerness to take risks, and less capacity for restraint." (7) The people of the area had obtained this hunger and were willing to dispose of the Southern Plains.

Donald Worster furthers his argument by detailing and analyzing two separate counties, Cimarron County, Oklahoma...