Last Updated 10 Aug 2020

The Dust Bowl – Blasting Through History

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The Dust Bowl ravaged the southern and middle states of America during the 1930s. This event created so much strife in the United States and continues to impact society today.
The Dust Bowl was known for the enormous dust clouds in the sky that lasted for a decade. “Black blizzards” would completely block out the sun and stop daily life for many rural families. High wind speeds blew sand and dirt all the way to New York City and impacted the lives of everyone in the United States. The Dust Bowl didn’t get its name until Black Sunday (April 14, 1935), when the amount of debris in the air reached an unprecedented amount that made history.

The causes of the Dust Bowl were the increased population in the Great Plains, the increased demand for crops, and the dry climate. The Homestead Act of 1862 attracted citizens to the West to farm the land. People had been moving there for almost seventy years and disturbing the soil. Inexpert farmers also used inefficient methods of cultivating and plowing so the top soil was removed more quickly.

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When the 1930s arrived, the economic status of the United States started to decline and the demand for crops rose. Farmers plowed more land and removed even more topsoil to grow more products and create a better income. In addition, the 1930s brought a drier climate to the West and high winds that swept all of the topsoil into dust clouds. All of these events together gave life to the Dust Bowl.

The Dust Bowl itself had a huge impact upon the American population and culture. Many people were affected by the soil clouds and remember what it was like to see the sun go dark. For example, Herman Goertzen, a farmer that lived in Nebraska during the 1930s, remembered in an interview that the chickens thought it was night and roosted early because of the dust that obscured the sun. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck also gave light to the experiences of farmers in the Dust Bowl and artists such as Alexander Hogue put the horrible 1930 horizons on display with his paintings.

This event is important to me because the Dust Bowl impacted my family. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived during this time and lost a great deal of crops and money because of the large sand clouds. They could have died from “dust pneumonia” and I would not have been born. The Dust Bowl affected the history of agriculture in the US and all over the world. The method of cultivation that many farmers utilized in the 1930s stripped the topsoil off of the surface, so engineers have developed other ways of plowing and caring for crops.

If the Dust Bowl never happened, then technological improvements to agriculture wouldn’t have been made and the soil conservation legislation wouldn’t have been passed in Congress. Hugh Bennett warned the US government that soil conservation should be a priority, but Congress didn’t approve Bennett’s ideas until the Dust Bowl. I was not responsible for this event because I was not alive during the Dust Bowl so I could not have farmed during this time period to contribute to the removal of topsoil. This event affects my personal choices because I didn’t realize how important it is for agriculture engineers to have as many resources as possible.

Now I have more respect for the work that they do to improve the way that crops are planted and harvested. This event affects the social responsibility of myself and others because the Dust Bowl teaches people to be grateful for the economic and social standing that we have today. Many people suffered from the havoc and confusion of the economic downfall for which the Dust Bowl was partly responsible.

With modern agricultural improvements, we don’t have to worry about another Dust Bowl taking place. It might lull some people into a false sense of security, but in reality, people should be thankful for researchers and scientists that dedicate much of their time to making our daily lives Dust Bowl-free. The Dust Bowl experience opened the eyes and minds of many people and continues to influence American culture today.

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