Man Has Changed Nature

Having never lived through the Depression or the dust bowl (1988 baby!), I have no previous experience with the historical topic. At first, the book was not that interesting (sorry). Timothy Egan starts the story by giving the reader an over-view of the setting. This was a little difficult to follow until there was enough information to give the reader a good understanding of what was going on. After Egan gave us a good idea of what was happening and what was going on, it was a lot easier to follow the story of all the individual character sets. After the first couple of horrid dust storms, Egan presents a character, Big Hugh Bennett, who is a scientist that studies ‘dirt’. One of the most striking quotes from the book is on page 135, “He knew in his heart that something profound had occurred, that man had changed nature”. I have to wonder: have we changed nature so much, that now unlike the prairie we cannot just re-plant grass, that what has happened cannot be un-done? Egan states that Bennett told people earlier, but they didn’t listen – then what he predicted actually happened. Hindsight is always 20-20, but in a few years are we going to look back and say, ‘gee, should have listened to that guy’. Do people really learn from their mistakes?

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One Response to “Man Has Changed Nature”

  1. Taylor Manuel Says:

    As for the uninteresting aspect of this historical journalism, I can understand, however I must admit that it struck a certain cord within myself that is unmatched with any other historical tragedy. Largely, do to the nature of human ethics, we tend to place more value on what is meaningful to our own lives, family, and roots.

    I knew that the Dust Bowl era had a lasting effect on my own family history, and upon beginning the book, I decided to find out more about how it related to my own family. I asked my mother what she knew about my grandparents and the information she shared only justified the chills that still run down my spine at the thought of that era. My grandfather (from my father’s side) grew up in Missouri during the depression where his father was a farmer, they were among the exodus west in search of escape and opportunity. My grandmother (from my mother’s side) similarly migrated from Montana during the same era. Both of my great grandparents (the men) were jobless for most of their lives, working odd jobs here and there, but rarely keeping them on account of alcoholism and lack of work. It is eerie to think I am a product of that generation, among those who fled for better opportunity, if I had been among the families that stayed what would my life be like today. That era in American history, the most recent tragedy of the last century, has affected America in more ways then we realize.

    Egan’s book and his determination to get the accounts of those who lived it before they vanish into the dust that plagued them, sheds much light on the event. The people of that generation don’t want to remeber it, it haunts them, just like the woman in the story who attempts to burn her husbands diary. My grandfather never mentioned the depression yet his attitude conveyed the qualities that were only produced by such a generation ( humility, manners, and saving every piece of junk around as if it was gold). The stories he shared revealed a gap in that haunted history. He shared of his childhood, stealing watermelons, and shooting rabbits, and some of his experiences in WWII but never the exodus, or tough life that he faced once arriving in California.

    Thanks for your post, and I can understand how it is difficult to relate to a period of history that we seemingly have little connection to. I just wanted to share my own opinion and fascination with it. Thank you.

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