The Dangers Of The Dust Bowl

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Between April and July 2010, approximately 4.1 million barrels of oil from the British Petroleum’s rig Deepwater Horizon leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking havoc on the environment and disrupting human life along the shore. The New York Times article “Where Gulf Spill Might Place on the Roll of Disasters” questions President Obama’s description of this tragedy as “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” Instead, it proposed contenders as devastating and varied as the Johnstown Flood of 1889, widespread deforestation, and the Lakeview Gusher, a larger oil spill, for the top spot on the list of infamous environmental calamities. One listed candidate is the catastrophic Dust Bowl of the 1930s, as described in John Steinbeck’s …show more content…
Though both disasters were among the most destructive in American history, the Dust Bowl created a larger disturbance in human and natural life and in the minds of those living through and around it and should provide stronger warnings for present and future Americans.
We weigh environmental catastrophes by damage to the lives of the affected people and environment, naturally attributing a greater significance to the effect on human life. In the case of the Dust Bowl, the plains land was deteriorating long before the situation was dire enough to force the farmers off their land. Worse, people knew how to prevent full-scale disaster but did not, due to myopic greed. When Tom returns to his former home in The Grapes of Wrath, he does not lament the devastation wrought on the land by his family’s hands and by that of their neighbors in the name of whichever wretched bank or company lays claim to it. Nor does even Muley, who is so unalterably attached to
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One problem that the Dust Bowl and the oil spill share is that of blame. As with all environmental catastrophes, attempts to assign blame proved futile and exhausting to those affected both by the Dust Bowl and the Gulf spill. Steinbeck examines this multiple times in The Grapes of Wrath.The now destitute farmers struggle to place blame for losing their livelihoods, the Californians blame the migrants for the sudden influx of poverty into their world, and too many cope with their situations by blaming themselves. In chapter five, Steinbeck depicts a tenant farmer being driven off his land. Desperate for a scapegoat, the farmer confronts the tractor driver, asking where the root lay, asking who he needed to shoot. The driver shifts blame away from himself, away from his boss, away from the president of the bank. There are not any men to be shot, only the banks, companies, and monsters that men build to destroy other men. In the same way, the oil spill is the fault not of any employee, any specific engineer or maintenance person, any real human, but of a company that has turned against men, its creators. We cannot execute or imprison British Petroleum like a criminal. Like all else to a company, penalties are simply a matter of profit and loss. People also seek to aid those affected by disaster, out of love, camaraderie, and,

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