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Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
In Dust Bowl, Donald Worster argues that aggressive exploitation has wreaked havoc on the environmental balance in the southern plains throughout the twentieth century. He examines the Great Depression's "Dust Bowl Days" to chart the corrupting influence of capitalist socio-economic policies on the degraded Midwestern landscape. The Great Plains is examined at both regional and local levels to demonstrate the combination of ecology, land use, economics, national and regional planning, community dynamics, and cultural influences that produced the devastating dust storms of the 1930s and 1950s. Worster argues that the logic of maximum productivity and desire to replicate the material landscape of the industrial east prevented farmers from adopting soil conservation measures that might have spared their farms and families. He contends that the same exploitative agricultural system is also ultimately to blame for the massive "Okie" and exoduster migrations of the 1930s, and that the federal response was ineffective because it failed to enforce comprehensive soil conservation programs to replenish and preserve the land. Instead, immediate subsidies and temporary emergency measures were offered until productivity returned and farmers could use new agronomic farming methods to double their cash crop output. By the end of the 1940s, he argues, the agronomic mentality of solving problems through technique had created a renewed operational recklessness and strong anticonservatism in the Midwest. Since the late 1940s, ongoing cycles of drought and dust have plagued not only the American Plains, but semiarid lands around the globe. Worster concludes that solutions lie in the reconciliation of agricultural production with socio-economic responsibility. [L. Kennedy]