The hard reality of human suffering and pain during the Dust Bowl is not only associated with people who lived in the United States. For one, refugees faced humiliation when they migrated to California. Instead of being greeted with open arms by their fellow citizens, they were met with hostility and armed guards at the border. Ken Burns tells the story in his recent documentary on PBS of man's desire to compete and confront nature, only to face the hard reality of being defeated and disillusioned. His vivid portrayal of families afflicted by widespread famine and disease in the Southern Plains is forgotten by some of us as if it was never part of U.S history. Moreover, many overlook the absence of President Franklin Roosevelt's leadership to push for Federal assistance program, which resulted in more starvation and death.
This man-made disaster has left an indelible mark on the memories of even the children who survived the dust bowl and will move them to tears when telling others of the nightmare they and their families had to endured. They remembered the time when everyone had to search every nook and cranny in their homes just to find a dime to buy a loaf of bread to feed the entire family.
We want it now -- and if it makes money now it's a good idea. But if the things we're doing are going to mess up the future it wasn't a good idea. Don't deal on the moment. Take the long-term look at things. It's important that we do the right thing by the soil and the climate. History, is of value only if you learn from it.
Seven decades later:
The worst U.S. drought in more than half a century has weakened the safety net for the 50 million Americans who struggle to get enough to eat, and the nation's food banks are rising the alarm as the holiday season gets into full swing.
The recent heat wave has not only made 2012 the hottest year in the more than 117 years of records, but according to a NASA report, nine of the warmest years occurred since the year 2000.
Contrary to popular belief, we now practice smart soil conservation and better farming methods. Or, that is what Agricultural Industrial giant Monsanto would like for us to believe. However, they are not letting out their dirty little secret that GMO corn is not only a non-native plant for this region, it also demands much more water than wheat. Corn is a very "thirsty crop that requires over 20 inches of irrigation water in many parts of the [High] Plains." While much is said of its nutritional health hazards, very little is reported on the impact it has on our agricultural farmland. Furthermore, high consumption of water coupled with repeated drought, has surpass the ability of the Ogallala Aquifer, in the Mid-West to naturally recharge.
That's the crisis facing farmers who rely on the Ogallala Aquifer, which once contained enough water to cover the entire continental U.S. roughly half-a-meter deep. Once pumped dry, the Ogallala would take at least 6,000 years to refill.
The Ogallala Aquifer was formed over 20 million years ago. Most of the water has been held within the aquifer for millions of years, but now it appears technological modern man will drain and pollute it in less than one hundred.
It would seem that the convergence of nine out of the 10 consecutive warmest years, and once again poor soil conservation practices, (by harvesting non-native species such as GMO corn and cotton) would lead to the depletion of our underground water reservoir (some reports estimate in 25 years). This would be the perfect storm for another replay of the Dust Bowl.
Even if we improve our Industrial farming techniques, logic dictates that a prolonged drought will demand even more water usage, thereby depleting the aquifer at an even faster rate and setting the stage for another repeat of the Dust Bowl scenario, as had happened during the Great Depression.
Sadly, our generation has become complacent and relies heavily on the belief that science and technology will be the panacea for the seeds of man's destruction and will also enable us to confront any challenge we may face in the future. Ironically, it is because of the advancement of science on the development of electric power, and now because of DNA technology in its development of Genetically Engineer crops that are causing the Ogallala aquifer to run dry.