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The Dust Bowl: Lessons from the Greatest U.S. Environmental Disaster

• December 17, 2010 • 5:32 PM

NASA research scientist Benjamin Cook explains how the Dust Bowl years of the American Midwest were not entirely a “natural disaster” and how lessons learned then prevented a sequel.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930’s was one of the major reasons that the Great Depression inflicted such an incredible toll of misery in the United States. All across the Midwest, a brutal seven-year drought caused farms to literally dry up and blow away.

Giant wind storms blew hundreds of millions of tons of soil across the country, devastating farms and creating millions of refugees in their wake. The conventional wisdom has been that the drought was a natural disaster, but new evidence by Dr. Benjamin Cook shows that the drought’s unprecedented severity was a result of widespread poor planting practices by farmers. Dr. Cook discusses the manmade causes of the Dust Bowl and the manmade solutions that made devastating dust storms a thing of the past in the United States.

To hear Curiouser & Curiouser host Jai Ranganathan interview Dr. Cook, click on the podcast player above.

Music for Curiouser and Curiouser is provided by Jamie Miller and by David Matheson.

Jai Ranganathan
Dr. Jai Ranganathan is a biologist and his research focuses on questions of species conservation. He can be reached at jai.ranganathan at gmail.com.

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