Chang Final Draft Essay

Submitted By Chia-Rui-Chang
Words: 1146
Pages: 5

Chia-Rui Chang
Daniel Alquist
Writing 101
The cause of the Dust Bowl – the investigation of American mindset The Dust Bowl, an environmental disaster rooted from the correlation between human beings and lands, has caused calamitous effects on the lives of human beings. Beginning in the 1930’s, severe dust storm raged across North America’s prairies, damaging not only the economy of North America but also the ecology and agriculture, leading to the inevitable decline of the fertility of the land. While we might easily conclude that the cause of the Dust Bowl is the farmers’ indiscretion, since they narrowly viewed profits as the only goal, such simplification does not acknowledge the complexity behind the issue. To understand the Dust Bowl, we must consider the internal and external factors behind it, and it is the particular American mindset, developed through democratic political ideology, mechanization and capitalism, which directly lead to the cause of the Dust Bowl. To understand the particular American mindset, we should first see how democratic political ideology influenced the development of history. Democratic political ideology in American history is not only a crucial pillar to the political system but also the standard regarding how people should behave. “No single idea has been more deeply embedded in the American mind than this notion of a democratic society that must always have more of something to be secure and at peace with itself” (Worster, 2004: 80). Indeed, such a belief encouraged America to acquire as many lands as possible. For example, the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, which the American government spent 15 million dollars to purchase the land from France, concretely embodied the concept of expansionism. Nonetheless, it was this same belief that created the misconception of the relationship between land and humans’ behavior. In fact, the Homestead Act of 1862, which states “any person who settled on 160 acres of shortgrass, stayed there for five years, made ‘improvements’, and paid a filing fee became part of the landed gentry” (Worster, 2004: 82), rationalized the requisites of farming behavior and encouraged farmers to expand their lands. For instance, the population of the Dust Bowl doubled in less than a decade between 1862 and 1866 (Worster, 2004: 84). As population increased, the competition between farmers became fierce, and at the same time, farmers’ attitudes toward land changed. “Wherever man ‘has been aggressive’, he has made the land suitable for farming – “so that in reality there is no desert anywhere except by man’s permission or neglect”” (Worster, 2004: 81), said the town builder Charles Dana Wilber from Nebraska. It was obvious that land was no longer part of the nature, and as the concept of land expansion in democratic political ideals infiltrated the agriculture, humans viewed lands as personal property that make profits. Accordingly, it is justifiable to “exploit” the lands as the farming behavior exemplifies the democratic political ideals. Indeed, the transformation of the American mentality from the conquer of land to the possession of land also changed the techniques that the farmers used to treat it, and there is no denying that the most significant evidences of this transformation would be the advent of mechanization and capitalism in farming habit. Though mechanization was the by-product of industrialization that was prevalent in Europe and North America in 19th centuries, mechanization, the process in which machines replaced labors to operate, maximized the profits as total production increased abruptly and labor cost decreased. Having a highly homogenous landscape, the Dust Bowl turned out to be a perfect place for mechanization since farmers could efficiently and evenly plow, grow and harvest with the operation of the machines (Worster, 2004: 90). Regardless of the promising result that