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Dust Bowl, USA by Brad Lookingbill - Book Report/Review Example

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Book Review: Dust Bowl, USA: Depression America and the Ecological Imagination, 1929-1941 by Brad Lookingbill During the 1930s, the American Midwest region witnessed one of its most acute agricultural droughts in the history of the nation. But this tragic event does not get as much attention as it deserves in history textbooks…
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Dust Bowl, USA by Brad Lookingbill

Download file to see previous pages... Hence the main purpose of Brad Lookingbill is to fill a perceived deficiency in scholarship pertaining to this event. Lookingbill does a satisfactory job of covering the basis causes and the most prominent consequences of the event. As for the causes, Lookingbill identifies expansive and exploitative farming techniques and strategies as a major cause. In particular, it is the technology of mass-production, innovations in irrigation and unprecedented conservation programs that gradually led to the drought situation. The impact of the drought was such that vast areas in the Midwest were converted into deserts, irredeemably deeming them unfit for crop cultivation and human habitation. The pioneers and frontiers people who established settlements in the climatically and geographically challenging prairies of the American Midwest did so out of desperation and avarice. The author claims that if the early settlers had studied the feasibility of agricultural production, the quality of soil, the suitability of crops to the climate, the historical patterns of rainfall, etc, the tragedy could have been avoided. The policies of the federal government, especially agricultural policies concerning this region betrayed a lack of experience and an absence of foresight. Superstition was rife when the Dust Bowl phenomenon took place. Lookingbill treats the superstitions surrounding the event in detail and demystifies some of them. One popular perception at the time was that the drought was brought about by divine curse. Right wing politicians, amply aided by the clergy, propagated the view that the drought was the symbol of a fallen civilization. The citizens were criticized (quite unjustly) for their immoral acts that invoked the wrath of God. Lookingbill treats proponents of such rumors and falsities with deserved contempt. One of the insights offered by Lookingbill is how the adversity of the great drought and desertification was used as material for art. Based on the themes of drought, economic despair, mass migrations, etc several important novels, paintings, country songs were produced. John Steinbeck’s great novel The Grapes of Wrath is a classic example that treated the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl at great length. Likewise, country music of the time reflected the pathos of the rural Midwest of the 1930s. To Lookingbill’s credit he does survey and refer novels, plays, periodicals, newspapers, government releases, personal and official correspondences relating to the period and offers a coherent analysis. Much as the subject matter is about a public policy and civil planning failure, Lookingbill does not forget to highlight the heroic aspect. For example, though the Dust Bowl wreaked havoc to the lives and livelihoods to a sizeable population, there are those who survived it through their ingenuity and industry. The book pays due homage to examples of brave people who came through the crisis stronger than before. This is evidence of the book’s patriotic and nationalist strand, although the book doesn’t expressly promote a particular political ideology. In conclusion, the book has several merits and only a few demerits. The simple and clear prose makes it accessible to even readers of moderate language proficiency. More than being merely a straight forward presentation of facts, the book excels in showcasing an informed discourse on the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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