The Dust Bowl as biggest man-made enviro disaster in US


Ken Burns' latest documentary debuted on PBS on Sunday night. "The Dust Bowl" begins near Boise City, Oklahoma and unfolds the ecological travesty that grew out of plowing the grasslands of the Great Plains to grow wheat — exacerbated by the economic collapse of the 1930s' Great Depression. The historic migration of refugees to California, with its lasting impact on Los Angeles, begins in Monday's second part.

The film uses many of the images shot by photographers for the New Deal's Resettlment Administration, called by photographer Edward Steichen "the most remarkable human documents ever rendered in pictures."


Watch The Dust Bowl Preview on PBS. See more from The Dust Bowl.

Local historical observation: the story of wheat plows disturbing ancient grassland, leading to erosive dust storms, widespread livestock die-offs and organized jackrabbit slaughters, played out on a smaller scale in the San Fernando Valley of the 1870s, 80s and 90s. You could look it up.

Top photo: Migrants in a pea pickers camp in Nipomo, California in 1936, by Dorothea Lange. Look closely at the face of the mother in the tent at the far right. You have seen her before. The Library of Congress

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