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Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains In The 1930s

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  332 ratings  ·  25 reviews
In the mid 1930s, North America's Great Plains faced one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in world history. Donald Worster's classic chronicle of the devastating years between 1929 and 1939 tells the story of the Dust Bowl in ecological as well as human terms.
Now, twenty-five years after his book helped to define the new field of environmental history, Worste
Published September 30th 1982 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Donald Worster explains how the Dust Bowl--occurring at the same time as the economic Great Depression--was not just an environmental coincidence, but a process linked to economic determinants. As Americans--farmers/producers and consumers alike--viewed nature as capital, felt entitled to exploit nature without boundaries, and encouraged a social order that left personal wealth pursuits unchecked, the American capitalistic system devastated the grassland ecology of the Great Plains (Kansas, Okla ...more
Richard K
Donald Worster is a history professor at the University of Kansas who returns to his Kansas roots to write this intellectual examination of the Dust Bowl. While he presents the hardship of those living on the plains, the message tat you can not miss is that capitalism caused the Dirty Thirties. Farmers caught up in the mass production of automobiles, trucks, tractors, combines, etc. turned too much land and created a major problem with wind driven soil erosion. Worster emphasizes that the desire ...more
Jeff Crosby
Bancroft Prize award-winner Donald Worster's "Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s" is a rich, nuanced and robustly academic examination of the worst human-caused ecological disaster of the 20th Century - the so-called Dust Bowl during the "dirty 30s."

Unlike a number of other appraisals of the Dust Bowl I've read since the airing of Ken Burns' PBS film on the subject two years ago, Worster (who was interviewed extensively in that film) has a provocative and somewhat controversial hypothes
In this year of extreme weather, when a mysterious "blocking event" in the gulf stream has been linked not just to greenhouse gases but to the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan and the 800+ wildfires in Russia, anyone genuinely interested in probing the meaning of climate change adaptation, and in grasping the inevitably destructive logic of our economic growth ideal should read this vivid, eloquently-argued environmental history.

Worster argues that there was a link between the Dust Bowl and th
David Bates
In his 1979 work Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s Donald Worster examined the causes and consequences of too extensive farming on the Great Plains. As drought settled into the plains in the early thirties, soil exposed for farming dried out. Small but frequent dust storms in 1932 and 1933 gave way to the great disturbances kicked off on May 9th of 1934 when hundreds of millions of tons of dirt from the northern plains states swirled up into the jet stream. Dubuque and Madison were coa ...more
In this acclaimed environmental history, Donald Worster convincingly argues that the Dust Bowl was a product of human action centered around the ideology of capitalism, and not simply an environmental catastrophe produced by drought. His argument is convincing as he uses historical material to show that farmers conceptualized their relationship of the land solely by the amount of capital they could take from it, and only adopted conservation methods as a means to bolster their profits, not becau ...more
Jerry Peace
"But the experiences of overproduction and dust storms were sufficiently traumatic to produce a revised maxim for business farming in the decade: do not interfere with us when we are making money, but rescue us when we are going bankrupt." Sound familiar?
I also read Timothy Egan's book, The Worst Hard Time, another fantastic book about the Dust Bowl and the human impact - environmental & economical. Timothy Egan's book reads like a great novel, from a journalists point of view. I thought this book may be more of the same but it wasn't. Worster's approach is more...academic? philosophical? Reading the two books gives rounded knowledge of how the Dust Bowl came to be. Why did they only teach the inconsequential details in school? Who knew this ...more
This book won a Bancroft, and for good reason--it offers a complex analysis of the economic, cultural, and ecological factors that contributed to one of the country's worst natural disasters while remaining an enjoyable, readable history. By far the best environmental history book I've read, Worster weaves enough social history into the narrative to illustrate the complicated relationship Americans have had with their land. He takes a critical yet understanding view of the plainsmen and places t ...more
Sean Rosenthal
I haven't read it in a few years, but I remember that this book was horrendously economically illiterate. Also, it says that the New Deal was not all that radical or antithetical to freedom because it was less radical than Germany, and the offhanded way the author makes the statement conceals that he is talking about Nazi Germany. I hardly believe that the New Deal was just merely because it was not as unjust as Nazi Germany, and I have never read anywhere else such a poorly conceived defense of ...more
Linda Moran
Am convinced I READ the most boring book in the world.
With the Dust Bowl it's easy to think "drag, bad weather. For years." and then write it off. Who knew it was people, the economy, and about 738 other factors converging at the same exact time to create such a violent shit (dust?) storm. An amazing book. About dust.
Although I'm not convinced capitalism caused the Dust Bowl. I think it is interesting to look at it from this frame. Although it was a natural disaster, the human disaster was amplified by the (capitalistic?) mindset and policy of the time.
A solid environmental and social history of the Dust Bowl. Worster correlates the caustic economic and environmental effects of 1920's capitalism with the dust bowl. The Dust Bowl was part of a misshapen American dream.
In this award winning work of environmental and agricultural history, Worster argues that American ideologies, "unrestrained" capitalism in particular, caused the Dust Bowl of the "dirty thirties."
The descriptions of how much dust was in the air at this time is downright mind boggling... I learned a lot more about the financial aspect of the depression era so this was an interesting read.
Tattered Cover Book Store
This book was recomended by author Dan Flores as part of the Rocky Mountain Land Library's "A Reading List For the President Elect: A Western Primer for the Next Administration."
Read this book for a history course my freshman year in college. Personally, thought the book was dry and involved too many statistics that no importance or value to the subject.
fascinating look at the depression years but from a different perspective. definately worth taking a look at if you are a history buff.
Decent, but not the most balanced book. Great info on the dust bowl, but his comparisons to other events is not that well done.
Cassandra Ray
Solid and well supported in arguments. Kept my interest even though the subject is dry (pun intended).
Emily Rose
An in-depth look at the events of the 1930s (but an occasionally dry read, pun intended).
A reminder of our interrelationship with our environment...and our responsibility!
A must read for any environmentalist!
Very basics-oriented; quick read.
LS marked it as to-read
Feb 27, 2015
Axel marked it as to-read
Feb 26, 2015
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