The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty (lesson plan)

Objectives

  • Explore a historic example of US agro-ecological system collapse.
  • Consider appropriate prevention measures to protect from similar future events.

Required Readings

  • McLeman, R. A., Dupre, J., Ford, L. B., Ford, J., Gajewski, K., & Marchildon, G. (2014). What we learned from the Dust Bowl: lessons in science, policy, and adaptationPopulation and Environment35(4), 417-440.
  • History Brief: The Dust Bowl (2013) 

Associated Assignments

  • LQ2: The Great Dustbowl & Anticipating Uncertainty (drop a note below if interested)
  • DP2: The Great Dustbowl & Anticipating Uncertainty
dust_bowl_-_dallas2c_south_dakota_1936
Buried machinery in barn lot in DallasSouth DakotaUnited States during the Dust Bowl, an agricultural, ecological, and economic disaster in the Great Plains region of North America in 1936, USDA.

Online Lesson

Read the McLeman et al. (2014) article reviewing the published literature on The Great Dust Bowl to draw lessons for future climate uncertainty. Then watch the History Brief (2013) video about The Great Dust Bowl.

Watch the lesson slideshow video Wk10L2: The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 1. As you watch, consider the adaptations plants and animals native to North America’s Great Plains possess. How do these species contribute to this temperate grassland ecosystem? Additional videos are linked below if you wish to follow up more on Great Plains native species, but is not required.

The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 1 

Additional videos highlighting native plants and animals of the Great Plains:

Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma 

Discover America’s heartland, the Great Plains 

Watch the video Understanding Social-Ecological Systems (2017) from the Stockholm Resilience Center to learn more about elements of a social-ecological system (SES) and how these different entities work together to create a functioning SES.

Understanding Social-Ecological Systems

Then watch the videos Plains Indian Tribes (2014) and The Return of Wild Bison to the American West (2017; sorry for the car commercial). The second video is filmed on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. As you watch, think about the following questions:

Plains Indian Tribes – University of Wyoming Extension 

The Return of Wild Bison to the American West 

  • How can we describe the relationship between Native Peoples and native plants and animals of the Great Plains?
  • Why are bison so important to the ecological system? Human communities?

Extra Info: Every part of the bison was used by Native Peoples.

Watch the lesson slideshow video Wk10L2: The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 2.

The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 2

Watch the video How African Americans Settled the West (2016). As you watch, consider the following questions:

  • Which group/s took advantage of the “free” land offered by the US government under the 1862 Homestead Act?
  • Why was this opportunity so important for these different groups?
  • What group/s was/were left out of this opportunity to own land?

How African Americans Settled the West – NPS 

Watch the lesson slideshow video Wk10L2: The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 3.

The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 3 

Watch the lesson slideshow video Wk10L2: The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 4. As you watch and listen, think about how the impacts of each action taken by humans in this SES compounded into direct and indirect effects during the Dirty 30s.

The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 4 

Watch the video FDR & the Dust Bowl (2018). While this video sums up much of what we have already discussed, it also describes how President Roosevelt’s administration and the US Government responded to the largest manmade environmental disaster our country has ever experienced. Consider the following as you watch:

  • What actions did FDR and the US Government take specifically (programs, laws, etc.) to mitigate the Dust Bowl’s impacts? Prevent future similar events?
  • Given that the Dust Bowl happened at the same time as the Great Depression (1929-1939), how did these environmental actions also support economic mitigation?

FDR & the Dust Bowl 

Watch the lesson slideshow video Wk10L2: The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 5. In consideration with the previous video, think about the effectiveness of government/policy interventions from the perspective of federal and/or local level responses.

The Great Dust Bowl & Anticipating Uncertainty Part 5

Respond to the following question on the discussion boards.

The Great Dust Bowl has had long-lasting effects on American culture, economics, society, and the Great Plains landscape. In the McLeman (2014) reading for today, the authors claim that this event “still has much to teach us about preparing for and responding to the acute socio-environmental challenges that will continue to arise in our present era of anthropogenic climate change, food and water scarcity, and global economic uncertainty” (435). Given what you have learned in the readings and lesson today, how is the Dust bowl a useful historical research analog to understanding the physical effects and societal responses to climate change? Provide an example of each in your response.

Video

Stinging Dust & Forgotten Lives 

Oakies in the Dust Bowl – PBS The Great Dust Bowl documentary 

Additional Materials

  • Rosenzweig, C and D Hillel (1993) The Dust Bowl of the 1930s: analog of greenhouse effect in the Great Plains? Journal of Environmental Quality 22: 9-22.
  • Cook, BI, RL Miller and R Seager (2009) Amplification of the North American “Dust Bowl” drought through human-induced land degredationPNAS 106(13): 4997-5001.
  • Hornbeck, R (2012) The enduring impact of the American Dust Bowl: short and long run adjustments to environmental catastropheAmerican Economic Review 102(4): 1477-1507.
  • PBS (2013) Mass exodus from the Plains. WGBH Educational Foundation.
  • James, K (2016) From the ground upComstock’s Magazine, 1/12/16.
  • Holleman, H. (2017). De-naturalizing ecological disaster: colonialism, racism and the global Dust Bowl of the 1930sThe Journal of Peasant Studies44(1), 234-260.
  • Timeline: Surviving the Dust Bowl, 1931-1939, PBS American Experience

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