The Worst Hard Time Essay

1882 WordsApr 3, 20118 Pages
One theory in Jared Diamond s Collapse is that soil degradation and erosion leads to insufficient agriculture and a society s demise. In Timothy Egan s The Worst Hard Time, he sets forth in specific and excruciating detail exactly what Diamond outlines in Collapse. Only Egan s book isn t theoretical. It isn t a survey of what s happened in other countries. It s about the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. It s about what happens, right here in the heart of America, when the land is misused, mistreated, and turns on those who depend on it. Centered in the panhandle of Oklahoma and extending south into the panhandle of Texas, north into half of Kansas and a quadrant of Colorado, the Dust Bowl despoiled 100 million acres. For thousands of years this…show more content…
As long as the weave of grass was stitched to the land, the prairie would flourish in dry years and wet. The grass could look brown and dead, but beneath the surface, the roots held the soil in place; it was alive and dormant. The short grass, buffalo and blue grama, had evolved as the perfect fit for the sandy loam of the arid zone. It could hold moisture a foot or more below ground level even during summer droughts, when hot winds robbed the surface of all water-bearing life. In turn, the grass nurtured pin-tailed grouse, prairie chickens, cranes, jackrabbits, snakes, and other creatures that got their water from foraging on the native turf.Through the driest years, the web of life held. When a farmer tore out the sod and then walked away, leaving the land naked, however, that barren patch posed a threat to neighbors. It could not revert to grass, because the roots were gone. It was empty, dead, and transient. By the fall of 1930, the first dust storm rolled out of Kansas, through Oklahoma, and into the panhandle ofTexas. . . . [I]t rolled, like a mobile hill of crud, and it was black. When it tumbled through, it carried static electricity, enough to short out a car. And it hurt, like a swipe of coarse-grained sandpaper on the face. Yet the 1931 harvest was the largest ever, more than 250 million bushels, with 33 million acres plowed up in the southern plains, and the

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