The “Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story Of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl,” by Timothy Egan, is a fascinating book that details some of the misery of the Southern Plains through the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. The book provides a unique perspective on the daily struggles that people of that time faced.
Given that the Great Depression occurred about 80 years ago, the number of people left who truly experienced that period in time is quickly dwindling. But perhaps it also explains why we find ourselves in our current situation.
With the current economy on pretty rocky footing, this book may not be a great read for those who want to maintain a positive outlook, but it does put in perspective just how good things are right now. If you’re a conservative, the political discussions may be a bit maddening but, all in all, I’d highly recommend this book.
When one reads about the Dust Bowl period, it’s difficult to grasp the magnitude of the gigantic dust storms that turned daylight into night; they even reached the East Coast and ships hundreds of miles offshore on a couple of occasions. The pictures of the dust dunes nearly covering houses are shocking, as are the pictures taken of the dust storms that swept across the arid plains.
Perhaps more so than other hard times, the Dust Bowl period was striking because the weather patterns weren’t that atypical. In fact, recent times have been strikingly similar, but the results have been amazingly different. Better farming practices and a better understanding have kept the calamity of the Dust Bowl period from reoccurring.
Still, the experience also changed our national psyche in a way that permeates today's environmental movement. The Dust Bowl was created by man, and the solutions to it, at least in part, were due to man, as well.
The Dust Bowl experience when coupled with similar experiences that arose from the excesses of the industrial revolution do a lot to explain the mindset of today's environmental movement. Man created those problems, our actions helped to correct them, government was part of the solution, and capitalism (translated greed) was part of the cause.
In a nutshell, those views form the basis of today's environmental movement; the extremism has also evolved along these lines.