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The Dust Bowl by Ken Burns (2012)The Dust Bowl by Ken Burns (2012)

           This four-hour (2 discs) mini-series by the master of Americana, Ken Burns, documents the worst ecological disaster in American history. From about 1930 to 1940, a decade-long drought plus bad farming practices caused the Dust Bowl. When wheat prices rose, farmers planted more wheat, then when the Depression hit and prices plummeted, they planted still more wheat to recoup their losses. Then came the apocalyptic dust storms, captured by Burns in both still photos and movies from those days. Houses were buried. Livestock died or were deliberately killed. Plagues of grasshoppers and rabbits made things worse. Respiratory illnesses killed many. People on the east coast wiped dust off their cars. Large numbers moved to California (cf. Steinbeck), while others stuck it out. Massive government intervention, eventual rain, and new farming practices finally ended the disaster. Burns documents the Dust Bowl by letting elderly Americans who were young children back then share their vivid memories. This is oral history at its best.

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