Dr Abe V Rotor
Time Life Photographs (Enhanced with Adobe Photoshop)
Among the photographs sent to me by Time-Life are telltale evidences of Nature's angry response to man's abuses of the environment. Improper and over farming in pursuit of immediate economic gains resulted to a phenomenon - the great Dust Bowl that blanketed over much of central United States from the Dakotas, down to Colorado where these photos were taken.
The landscape, once rich agricultural lands and grasslands suddenly began transforming into a desert which science calls desertification. The Dust Bowl gave man his greatest lesson never to abuse nature again. Rehabilitation was a gargantuan task led by the government that took place for many years with agriculture taking a new path from the conventional and unilateral approach, into one that combines agriculture and ecology (agro-ecological farming) which is today the key to sustainable productivity.
What greater wrath than one induced by man,
the skin of the earth ripped off;
its skeleton bare and staring out of its tomb,
dusts stirred into a deadly roof.
Fear - but what is fear in Armageddon,
when all around, no more?
pain - what is pain of the flesh and mind,
when it has reached the core?
Lost - whereto, there's no sight of home,
once home under the sun;
death - destiny at the inevitable end,
waiting, ‘til it’s gone.
Eerie, it's all cemetery; woe to a rich country
when the world is lost and gone
so with venerable man.
In light of climate change and all it portends, LIFE.com looks back, through the lens of the great Margaret Bourke-White, at a period when — as LIFE phrased it in a May 1954 issue — there was a “Dusty Plague Upon the Land.”
The delicate, lethal powder spread in a brown mist across the prairie horizon. Across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, the darkening swirls of loosened topsoil chewed their way across the plains, destroying or damaging 16 million acres of land. Man fought back with such techniques as chiseling …. driving a plow six inches into the soil to turn up clots of dirt which might help hold the precious land from the vicious winds. Against the dusty tide these feeble efforts came too little and too late. Two decades after the nation’s worst drought year in history, 1934, the southern plains were again officially labeled by the U.S. government with two familiar words — ”Dust Bowl.”