The infamous Dust Bowl of the 1930s was one of the most horrific and devastating environmental crises to hit twentieth century North America. The Dust Bowl was a period of unyielding dust storms which inevitably caused major agricultural, ecological and irreversible damage to the American and Canadian prairie lands. The Dust Bowl lasted from 1930 to 1936, in some areas the drought lasted until 1940. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was mostly a man-made disaster.
Some critical factors that played a role in the cause of the dust bowl are: decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, agricultural advances, the great depression, and deep plowing which destroyed the grasses which ultimately damaged the soil and dried it up. The Federal Government had an extensive role during the Dust Bowl which ultimately aided in creating the dust bowl, exacerbating and lastly aiding victims of this crisis.
The Federal government did not see the underlying and future problems of deep plowing the Great Plains which consisted of 100 million acres on the other hand the Government did a excellent job in addressing the crisis and aiding the hundreds of thousands Americans who were vastly affected by this environmental crisis. There are many factors that contributed and aided to the cause of the Dust Bowl. These factors consisted of poor plowing techniques, The Great Depression, the outbreak of World War 1, agricultural failure and the collapse of the rural economy.
A major contributor to the droughts and poor condition of the land was due to the outbreak of WWI. While the war was going on Washington thought wheat would win the war. Furthermore with record high prices for wheat millions of acres of grassland were now being plowed at a rapid pace and the race to turn every inch of Southern Plains into profit began. The current president at the time Herbert Hoover quotes “Americans are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of the land.
” With the increase of wheat and cotton it seemed as if the economy was turning around although this would soon prove to be untrue. “The tractors rolled on, the grass yanked up, a million acres a year, turned and pulverized; in just 5 years, 1925 to 1930, another 5. 2 million acres of native sod went under the plow in the southern plains” (Egan, 58). It is clear to see that the federal government had sincere intensions of improving the state of the economy although it is also obvious that the government aided to the creation of the Dust Bowl.
With the price for wheat and cotton skyrocketing thousands of farmers migrated towards the southern plains in hopes to get a piece of the fortune. Now there were even more farmers plowing the southern plains, farmers now wanted to plow as much wheat and cotton as possible to make profit before the next farmer could. Thus ultimately led to poor plowing techniques and aided to the destruction of the soil which vastly contributed to the Dust Bowl.
It may seem that the government was not doing a satisfactory job in rectifying this environmental crisis but in actuality the government was implementing many new programs to aid the victims of the Dust Bowl. With the severe droughts and damaged soil agricultural failure was taking place. Farmers were losing money and were on the brink of foreclosure. “Later that year, the government men offered contracts to wheat farmers if they agreed not to plant the next year. In the end many farmers were not going to plant anyway, what was the use with no water?
So the idea that they could get money by agreeing to grow nothing was not a hard sell. More than twelve hundred wheat farmers in No Man’s land signed up for contracts and in turn got $642,637, an average of $498 a farmer” (Egan, 158). The government was giving subsidies to the farmers who were in need. The government played in enormous role in aiding and rectifying the Dust Bowl crisis. The combination of the Great Depression and the magnitude of the droughts of the 1930s led to unprecedented government relief efforts. Congressional actions in 1934 alone added up to $525 million for relief expenditures.
President Roosevelt implemented some of the first long term, proactive programs that were aimed to reduce future vulnerability to drought. The federal government played a pivotal role in encouraging soil conservation and thus ending the Dust Bowl. A major turning point occurred in 1937 when the inauguration of soil conservation districts was implemented. These districts had the power and jurisdiction to force farmers to comply with recommended erosion control practices. Farmers also entered into contracts with the federal Soil Conservation Service (SCS) to encourage the reduction of soil erosion.
The Dust Bowl has many similarities as well as differences with other historical ecological disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. Some of these similarities consisted of the magnitude of the disaster. For the Dust Bowl the dust and high winds caused dust pneumonia which caused many deaths among the victims. In Hurricane Katrina the magnitude of the hurricane and water level also caused many deaths. Another similarity is that in the 1930s hundreds of thousands of Americans fled the Dust Bowl to seek shelter which was consistent with Hurricane Katrina.
A difference that was obvious between these two disasters is that while the government did step in and try to do something about the Dust Bowl, the U. S. Government seemed to ignore Hurricane Katrina’s severity and seem to ignore the loss of New Orleans. The city’s poverty stricken sections still sit ravaged and unbelievably during the event military and police were killing innocent people. The city was in total chaos and the government in my opinion made the situation worse. In conclusion it is important to learn about these ecological disasters and see how U.S.
Government steps in and how efficiently they do their job. The usefulness of comparisons like the Dust Bowl and Hurricane Katrina are invaluable. Society can learn so much from the past. It is useful to see what mistakes we have made in the past and rectify them so these mistakes will not happen in the future. Lastly it is useful to compare these two disasters because U. S. Government can note their short comings and lack of compassion that occurred during Hurricane Katrina and make sure that never happens again.