Capitalism In The Dust Bowl

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The Dust Bowl: A Perfect Storm of Drought, Capitalism, and Poor Planning One of the worst man-made ecological disasters in American history is known as the “Dust Bowl.” It was caused by a capitalist economy, commercial farming, poor land use, and atmospheric conditions that literally created a climate for disaster in the country’s Great Plains region. The free market economy of the U.S. has historically placed economic importance and fiscal growth above environmental conservation. During the late 1800s, America’s industrial appetite for consuming raw materials was raging. It took innovative production methods like the factory line and steam-powered machinery to satisfy America’s corporate gluttony. New advances in science and technology, along…show more content…
Under this model, private or corporate businesses can use any means necessary to make a profit, even if the means are detrimental to the environment or the national economy. Nature was used as capital within these bounds of economic ambiguity for commodities in the Great Plains, which ultimately resulted in many dust storms that terrorized millions of people (Worster 20). The laissez-faire capitalist economy of America encouraged farmers to plow massive portions of the Plains in order to maximize profits (Worster 21) During the late nineteenth century, farmers experienced considerable financial losses due to over-production and competition from an emerging global market (Montgomery 87). The ideology behind capitalism focuses on consistently accumulating more wealth by using natural resources in an unsustainable way (Worster 20). The Dust Bowl can be seen as a natural penalty for commercial farming’s disregard of the ecosystem. At the time, agrarian communities of the Midwest were obviously not aware of the repercussions that years of over-production and…show more content…
The region has mostly flat grasslands and rolling hills within the landscape. Vigorous farming practices decimated the Midwest's native grasses that protected the soil from erosion with its ruggedness (Worster 123). In 1880, ranchers were backed by foreign capital and motivated to over-stock there land with cattle at an unsustainable rate, which with the help of a harsh winter in 1886, led to a massive reduction in the area’s buffalo grass (Worster 141). For the last decade of the 19th century, arid conditions troubled the Plains region and a new farming method that promoted drought resistant crops called “Dry Farming” became so popular that the federal government passed the Enlarged Homestead Act in 1909 which granted each settler 320 acres in order to promote the new farming method (Worster 148). Slowly, the prairie and its grasslands were becoming a desert wasteland, and this did not stop the agricultural ambitions of the farmers pushing full steam ahead. A diary entry reflecting the conditions of the Plains written by a young woman living in the Plains named Anne Marie Low states, “The meadows have no grass except in former slough holes, and that has to be raked and stacked as soon as cut or it blows away in these hot winds.” The onset of World War I drove the demand for wheat upwards both in and out of America, causing bushel prices to gain significant value and also

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