The Dust Bowl An Economic and Environmental American Tragedy
Interrupted Ecosystem • Land before interruption • a sea of grass 2-4 feet tall • little rainfall (20” per year) - up to 10 years of drought.
The Ecosystem Before Tragedy • Bison grazed which attracted prairie dogs to short grasses to easily see predators. • PD’s then build burrows near bison. • Bison clean themselves in the loose dirt of the burrows. • This creates holes which collect rainfall.
Soil Erosion • Even in this ideal environment, little rain causes a shortage of grass, bison overgraze, prairie fires occur due to the heat, wind persists spreading both dust and fire.
Moved west in masses during a wet cycle and continued to plow during a 10 year period of drought. • Burned off stubble after harvest subjecting loose soil to wind erosion. • Soil in the air created static electricity which destroyed any small amount of growth ………………………………. • ERA NICKNAME WAS THE “DIRTY THIRTIES”
Consequences • Dust Pneumonia • Dust in food • Cars wouldn’t start (static electricity) • All unable to make a living • Forced to move -- mostly to the West where there were rumors of farm employment. • Dust killed animals
On the move • They traveled the MOTHER ROAD (rt.66) to California. • Dust Bowlers received fliers requesting farm workers.
Problems of the Journey • Hygiene = no clean water • No Money = had to work odd jobs to afford gas to get from to town to town • Had to cross the desert with all possessions
Trouble for “Okies” • Teachers and school children ridiculed Okie kids • Many Okie kids went to school barefooted
The US government set up camps in California to accommodate the new arrivals • School teachers and students teased “okie” children • Many kids wore old flour or potato sacks
New Deal solutions to problems • Restoration of pastures (rotational grazing-plant grass) • Leave stubble After plowing to hold down soil • Plow in furrows opposite wind direction to prevent wind erosion • Plow ACROSS a hill to prevent water erosion • Strip cropping with hay or sorghum to prevent erosion • Plant trees alongside fields to stop wind erosion • PAID FARMERS NOT TO PLANT=HIGHER PRICES!