Archive for February, 2010

Leopold’s Land Ethic- Influencing New Deal?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2010 by Sarah

Check out this site on Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, just for some background.

Political vs. bioregional boundaries

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2010 by Sarah

visualizing one kind of boundary


a very different way of perceiving the land- bioregionally

Break from Dust Bowl…Back to Apocalypse!

Posted in Popular Culture, Post-Apocalypse, Religious Roots, Rhetoric on February 25, 2010 by juneaudale

So i feel it is now a moot point to be enrolled in this class. What’s the point in discussing the history, rhetoric, ideas and theories of a subject that is already apparently upon us? Good luck and God speed!

Stories, race, and the Dust Bowl

Posted in Climate Change, Popular Culture, Rhetoric on February 25, 2010 by briannichols

                The Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s plays an important and complicated role in the way Americans talk about the history of poverty and public policy in their country. For almost seventy years the story of white families from Oklahoma and neighboring states making their way to California in the midst of the Great Depression has been kept alive by journalists and filmmakers, college teachers and museum curators, songwriters and novelists, and of course historians. Although it was but one episode out of many struggles with poverty during the 1930s, the Dust Bowl migration became something of synecdoche, the single most common image that later generations would use to memorialize the hardships of that decade. The continuing fascination with the Dust Bowl saga also has something to do with the way race and poverty have interacted over the generations since the 1930s. Here is one of the last great stories depicting white Americans as victims of severe poverty and social prejudice. It is a story that many Americans have needed to tell, for many different reasons.

“The Dust Bowl Migration” Poverty Stories, Race Stories by James N. Gregory

In considering how stories shape our understanding of Eco-collapse as social Crisis, Timothy Egan’s non-fiction novel, The Worst Hard Time shows how past environmental problems has been a result of government and corporate forces working together to exploit race and landscape.  From the beginning of the novel, Egan tells his readers that the panhandle region consisting of the corner states of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska had once been occupied by native tribes. He explains that Bison had given native tribes such as the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache “everything they needed: clothes, shelter, tools, and of course of protein source.”  He continues to explain, how they would also “supplement their diets with wild plums, grapes, and currents growing in spring-fed creases of the flatland, and antelope, sage grouse, wild turkeys, and prairie chickens.” Furthermore, he highlights how native cultures have survived in a desert landscape even in times of dramatic climate change. He then explains that the native’s sustainable relationship with landscape was then destroyed with the coming of “Anglo hunters who killed the bison by the millions.”

 Egan informs his readers that the government and corporate business relations had used advertising and free train rides to pursued poverty stricken Europeans to settle and farm the panhandle region.  Advertising took the form of fictional stories as they suggested that the panhandle region was an ideal location to start a farm. As farmers began using new technology, such as, the tractor replacing horse-drawn plows vast amount of grasses were being ripped up in short amounts of times. As farmers destroyed the roots of grasses that had held the sod into place, a grassland ecosystem which had supported both the Bison and Indian for centuries had been destroyed. In this manner, government and corporate forces had promoted the eraser of former inhabitants while also creating the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl.     

                 Egan’s story, then, is different from the ones which James N. Gregory describes as “the last great stories depicting white Americans as victims of severe poverty and social prejudice.” Gregory’s argues that story tellers such as John Steinbeck and musicians such as Woody Guthrie have romanticized the ecological disaster of the Dust Bowl and its ensuing social crisis creating stories focused on people white in color while ignoring people of other races. Egan, rather, explains how government and corporate advertising for the settlement of Indian lands had encouraged Euro-Americans (escaping the poverty of Europe) to have racists attitudes towards no-whites.

What Have “WE” Learned?

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security, Natural Disasters, Popular Culture, Rhetoric, Risk & Fear, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by Taylor Manuel

The Dust Bowl era, and the suggestions which the coined term perpetuate, has become a forgotten blemish in the annals of American history. The effects of which began with the undertaken challenge to farm on a land with little forethought on the climate of the region and its compatibility with producing non-native plants. It goes back even further however, to the very ideal that America was founded on, to the notion of America as the new Eden, plush and plentiful in resources available for appropriation.

This ideal allowed for the acquisition of wealth in every meaning of the word, it is the foundation of our cultural identity and monetary economy. Since the depression and the failed agriculture of the Midwest, the government was determined to “re-build” to place into effect numerous federal programs as a safety net both for banks, corporations, farming industry, and lastly individuals. FDR’s alphabetic remedies, in an attempt to both stimulate the economy and safeguard it from another failure have had long lasting effects on the system in which our Capitalist economy operates today. And, arguably would not be standing on the “crutches” it is without his action.

However, what are those effects of  the depression and jointly the Dust Bowl today? Is it safe to say we recovered? That we managed to safeguard not only our economy but the success of the agricultural (nowadays) industry? Or have we but prolonged the future “Black Monday” and the future “Dust Bowl”?  Interesting questions, and ones which I do not have the knowledge or understanding to answer, and arguably I don’t know if anyone could. Hindsight is 20/20, but the present is never the past, and at what point is the past no longer a part of the present? Today government management, or “support” of the agricultural system helps to monitor the economic and environmental intricacies of American agriculture. Implementing, “farm price support” which provides subsidies to corporate farms which are already producing an oversupply of crops.

We don’t practice bio-regionalism in which we only grow and appropriate from resources that are native, and sustainable to particular regions and ecosystems. For example, if we were to practice bio-regionalism here in Alaska we would not eat fruit (besides naturally grown berries). This is a very abbreviated definition. In full practice, bio-regionalism would take into account watershed boundaries as well as soil and terrain boundaries.

Instead, what has occurred in the history of American agriculture, and capitalism is the anthropocentric view that in altering landscape and resources we can appropriate whatever we want. Using technology we can alter entire ecosystems to our liking, and essentially grow (non-native) crops on unsuitable land.  The solution to the “natural disaster” of the Dust Bowl, was water, and to this day it is what sustains agriculture which otherwise would be impossible. The effects of which are beginning to be revealed, but have yet to fully “flower”. The Ogallala Aquifer for example, was eventually tapped with advanced technology and has irrigated the Dust Bowl region, and much of the nations agricultural regions ever since. What happens when it runs out? California’s San Joaquin, Owens and San Fernando Valleys are yet other examples. Aquafornia

With water projects beginning on the same time-line as those that faced the Dust Bowl, FDR’s programs helped  construct California’s water supply infrastructure. An endeavor that was deeply buried in bribery and monopolization, and popularized in the Hollywood film, Chinatown in 1974. California is said to be “the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet”.

So where does this leave us? According to the government we overcame the challenges that “confronted US” in American agriculture of the 1930’s, but have we really learned a lesson? Much of our economy relies on the corn, and wheat grown in the Midwest, and the fruit, vegetables and dairy  produced in California, but how long can we maintain this “Eden”? Today, we are faced with similar economic struggles as those of the 1920’s and 30’s. Only today, our producers are no longer family farmers but corporate entities, who have the money and political power to postpone and perpetuate practices that are neither sustainable to the environment nor possible in the long term.

As a suggestion to the problems that we continue to face, one need not look far. Organic, farming has become a popularized and sought out resource, bringing agriculture back to smaller companies, but in the shadow of larger corporation. Green has become the new Black, but prices are high and availability low, increasingly so in the face of growing economic burden. I encourage you to look at this piece regarding organic farming in Nevada, yet another region not well supported for agriculture. Patagonia’s FB note on Organic Farming in Nevada.

What has changed and what have we learned from the Dust Bowl Era? I hope this spawns some interesting topics of discussion.

Black Sunday Environment

Posted in Environmental Security, Natural Disasters with tags , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by jessicabarranco

The Great Plains, the Panhandle, the Dust Bowl, a label for another environmental problem that is a natural part of Manifest Destiny, the American Dream.  Historically, the United States embraces progress, capitalism, and a disregard for anything that comes in the way of these goals.  The American way of life includes a land free for the taking, stripped from its native biotic species, and completely transformed to the riches of society.   To progress in society, one cannot simply allow nature to run free and wild; nature is to be dominated by any means possible, so that it can bear the valuable fruits of hard work and mastery of the elements at large.  The untouched land is a commodity that needs to be brought down by the horns, beaten to submission, and controlled by the will of Man.  But in reality, is the land not a live part of the biotic system?

The historical account of the environmental degradation and government mistakes in The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, illustrates the good intentions of the U.S. government to spread progress to every inch of American soil.  The government hoaxed people into believing that the Great Plains were fertile for commercial farming, encouraged people to maximize profits through technology, and no matter what happens, it is the duty of the people to master the land.

The wheat came in just as the government had predicted – a record, in excess of 250 million bushels nationwide.  The greatest agricultural accomplishment in the history of tilling the land, some called it.  The tractors had done what no hailstorm, no blizzard, no tornado, no drought, no epic siege of frost, no prairie fire, nothing in the natural history of the southern plains had ever done.  They had removed the native prairie grass, a web of perennial species evolved over twenty thousand years or more, so completely that by the end of 1931 it was a different land – thirty-three million acres stripped bare in the southern plains.  (Egan 101)

Technological advances separate people from the source of nature, and provides an advantage, a catalyst to the end goal.  Why do we need technology to achieve record output of the things nature provides?   Frederick Buell explains Hypermodernization in From Apocalypse to Way of Life, that modern development dominates nature, distances people from appreciation and experience of nature, reduces biodiversity, and dismantles nature’s barriers to human intervention, in which nature becomes products and property of individuals (Buell 153).  Using this model for the agricultural push to dominate the Great Plains, the only reasonable outcome was collapse.

The government projected technology and access to the farmers in the Great Plains, which impacted nature with stronger force.  They neglected to replenish the land and over-worked every inch until it was limp and useless.  “Farmers had taken their machines to the fields and produced the biggest wheat crops in history, transforming the great grasslands into a vast medium for turning out a global commodity.  And then they ditched it” (Egan 112).  What’s the next step?  The government needed people to accommodate to nature, and endure the storms of uplifted sand, dust pneumonia, and arid land, so that “…when new technologies seek social acceptance and adoption by promising to repair the excesses and damage wrought by the old” (Buell 161).  People are easily swayed to follow the government, when they have been so easily duped and are left “growling” on land that can no longer sustain itself, land that was never used sustainably.  So what does the government do?  It muddies its hands in nature yet again… and behold… plague!

Nature was out of whack.  In place of buffalo grass, prairie chickens, and mourning doves were black blizzards, black widows, cutworms, rabbits, and not this – a frenzied sky of grasshoppers.  They had come out of the dry Rocky Mountains, the government men said, locusts that laid eggs in the flatlands and multiplied during dry years without predators.  A wet year would usually produce a fungus that killed many of them.  Birds that used to populate the High Plains year round or descend on its stubble during the migrating season had disappeared.  Same with rattlesnakes.  A farmer used to fill a bucket in the spring with all the rattlers he shot on his half-section.  But no more.  For five years, people had rarely seen a rattler.  Snakes and birds ate grasshoppers.  When they were taken out of the prairie life cycle, the hoppers metastasized.  That much, people could see; it was obvious.  The early ecologists in Bennett’s soil service were only beginning to examine how much life had frayed below the surface, among the small world of insects and microorganisms.  (Egan 285)

So to whom or what do we owe the success of the Dust Bowl?  If the environment could talk, would it say something like, ‘I told ya so’?  or would it just snigger and wait for people to continue digging their own graves?  Nature has its carrying capacity, and it doesn’t discriminate against the plains or Washington’s highest seat.  When pressed to the limit, whose mouth will be fouled?  Maybe next time it won’t just be dust.

California Drought

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security, Natural Disasters on February 24, 2010 by rudweiser

California is one of the nations leading agriculture states, generating a gross amount of 36.6 billion dollars in their agriculture industry in 2007. California is also enduring one of the worst droughts in America today as it enters it’s worst prolonged drought since 1921. Although shortage of rainfall is the main culprit, an underlying problem that many people don’t realize is that the problem is them. Water supplies cannot keep up with our rapidly expanding population.

Droughts in America 2009

California has always been a dry state and never relied on rainfall for their crops. Instead, they turn to the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east for water. Obtaining this water greatly depends on the amount of snowfall during the winter season. Lately, warming temperatures have caused snowpacks too soon, preventing the collection in reservoirs. Farmers depend on that water to be collected in the reservoirs to water their crops, without it, the crops will fail as there is very limited rainfall. While farmers continue to sap water from the Sierra Nevadas, very little water is flowing to the ocean, which is responsible for commercial fishing to not have a season the past two years. Conservation efforts have turned pumps off to farms and allowed water to flow to the ocean. This has caused for many farmers in California to become unemployed because there isn’t a sufficient amount of water to go around, one of the major causes of California’s financial crisis. Water is becoming increasingly limited as populations continue to soar. The hard fact to swallow is that there are far too many people in the world to continue producing vast amounts of crops with water becoming scarce. Do we continue to exhaust our resources by trying to maintain current agricultural output? Or, do we somehow find an equilibrium to satisfy economic as well as environmental needs? We must find an answer soon or suffer the consequences of repeating our history.