Dust Bowl Impact on the Southern Plains

Subject: Science
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1082
Topics: Agriculture

Beginning in the 1930s, the Dust Bowl was a period coupled with severe dust storms that influenced communities from various states including but not limited to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Notably, the major causes of the conditions were poor agricultural practices and severe drought, which saw lots of topsoil being swept away in windstorms. Until the 1930s, agricultural practices such as wheat and cotton production within the above states were quite successful. However, the Dust Bowl sent a lot of hardship, which affected both city folks and farm workers in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Among the most affected by the Dust Bowl were the residence of the three states, land of the Great Plains and farmers. Multiple similarities and differences are notable in the impacts of the Dust Bowl in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas states.

The impact of Dust Bowl brought both social and economic ripples across the three states. For instance, common to all the three states was the migration of people from these states heading west including California in search for jobs and better living conditions (Steinbeck, 1939). More often than not, the migration of these people led to a population influx in their new regions of settlement. For this reason, conflict broke between the indigenous communities and the newcomers over the few jobs. Besides, given the high levels of unemployment and poverty, migrants from the three states added to local relief efforts often overburdening health and relief agencies. Other than the struggle for jobs, the newcomers were more ethnocentric with the perception that their culture and ethnicity was more superior to the communities in their new areas of settlement. Given their ethnocentric nature, the “Oakies” as the newcomers were commonly known, created a long-lasting animosity between them and the indigenous communities (Worster, 2004). Also, the population pressure in these regions created pressure on the available few health care facilities. Therefore, these communities were subjected to poor health conditions and services leading to loss of life. Among the main health problems during this time experienced in all the three states were difficulty in breathing, chest pain, cough and high fever. 

The Dust Bowl also sent devastating ecological impacts to the communities. Although the temperatures rose in all the three states, the temperatures in Texas were extremely higher. Based on such, the water levels in the Texas water bodies dropped lower as compared to those in both Kansas and Oklahoma states. The high temperatures made life more difficult for Texas residents along with their livestock. Many livestock died as result of the starvation and high temperatures. 

Another detrimental impact of the Dust Bowl was food insecurity. According to Steinbeck (1939), the Dust Bowl holds a long history for its devastation effect on the agriculture and the overall life of communities across the three states. As people were fighting with the harsh conditions brought by the Dust Bowl, they had little time to settle on crop production and livestock rearing, thus leading food insecurity. Common to all the three states, the Dust Bowl brought food insecurity as it was coupled with long periods of droughts to the disadvantage of agriculture. Besides, the top fertile soil was also carried away from the farmlands thus diminishing any chances of food production (Worster, 2004). As such, families were forced to survive on government relief food such as beans, milk, and cornbread. 

Also, the farming communities had to rely on government support and assistance for survival. Other than providing relief food, the government formulated various policies to prevent the occurrence of another Dust Bowl within the Southern Plains. Such policies included no-till policies, conservation seed planting or drilling (Worster, 2004). Moreover, the introduction of irrigation technology, better farming methods including the growing of cover crops by the government saw these states recover from the devastating aftermath of the Dust Bowl (Hansen & Libecap, 2004).

Although the consequences of the Dust Bowl were almost similar in all the three states, there appears to be a difference in the cause of the conditions. In his book, Worster (2004) argues that the Dust Bowl was mostly because of a chain of events driven by the basic capitalistic community’s need for both consumption and expansion. Such was coupled with indefinable breath as private business, property, profit maximization and laissez-faire pursuit for bourgeoisie free enterprise, self-interest, and open market. On the other hand, Roman (1974) contends that Dust Bowl in Texas was primarily caused by poor agricultural practices and severe drought. 

In addition to the destruction of property, the Dust Bowl led to the loss of livestock and high poverty levels in all the three states. Worster (2004) observed that the strong wind carried way the dry topsoil that had nothing to pin it down. Similar to all the three states is that the Dust Bowl blocked the skies, leading to darkness even during the day. The dust invaded homes suffocating livestock, blocking various parts of farm machinery all of which sent hardship to the communities living in these three states. Consequently, the communities were forced to give up their livestock, sell them to the government at lower prices to avoid bankruptcy. Common to all the three states, the Dust Bowl brought about high levels of poverty to the communities. Similar to Kansas and Oklahoma, the prices of the crops, wheat, and cotton reduced dramatically in Texas. Therefore, the farmers could not afford to purchase and meet their basic needs and requirements (Roman, 1974). 

Despite its negative impacts, the Dust Bowl came with positive impacts for the communities in all the above three states. Such include the positive impact on the American art including but not limited to literature, music, and photography. Dust Bowl came as the darkest moment of the life in the Southern Plains during the 20th century. According to Worster (2004), the Dust Bowl was coupled with poverty, famine, and drought. Besides, the storm came with elements of darkness and destruction, which administrated chaos across communities in the plains. More often than not, the storm was known as the “black blizzard” because of the detrimental effects it impacted on the communities living in states mentioned above (Roman, 1974). Although the Dust Bowl impact caused loss of life and property as well as ruining the spirit of the people, it united communities. In particular, it taught communities to stay positive during hard times alongside how to reflect and learn from their mistakes.

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  1. Hansen, Z. K., & Libecap, G. D. (2004). Small farms, externalities, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Journal of Political Economy, 112(3), 665-694.
  2. Roman, H. R. (1974). Disastrous Depression of the 1930’s, the Portal to Texas History, 14 Jan 1974. Web. 28 March 2017. Retrievedfrom:https://texashistory.unt.edu/search/?q=Texas+farmers+in+the+1930s&t=fulltext&sort=
  3. Steinbeck, J. (1939). The grapes of wrath (1939). na.
  4. Worster, D. (2004). Dust bowl: the southern plains in the 1930s. Oxford University Press.
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