Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The LA Times reports that as the East Coast licks its wounds from superstorm Sandy, beginning on Sunday on PBS, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in US history in "The Dust Bowl," a story that has modern-day relevance. The conditions for catastrophe, centered in the Oklahoma panhandle and neighboring parts of Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado, were laid down in the conversion of a flat, windy, dry land, "almost wholly unfit for cultivation" in one early estimate, into a sea of wheat. A number of wet years, plus the encouragement of the federal government, land speculators and bogus science, made all seem well for a while. But then the rain stopped, and the soil, already weakened by mechanical farming techniques — often for absentee "suitcase farmers" with no emotional attachment to the land — turned to dirt. "We lived in a brown world." says Dorothy Kleffman, of Guymon, Oklahoma, one of two dozen Dust Bowl survivors Burns has interviewed. The film has special relevance to present-day arguments about our effect on the natural world and the place of government in regulating these interactions. "People who are ignorant and people who think only in terms of the moment scoff at our efforts and say: 'Oh, let the next generation take care of itself—if people out in the dry parts of the country cannot live there let them move out and hand the land back to the Indians.'" said President Roosevelt in a 1938 speech in Amarillo, Texas. That the scoffing goes on, led by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, makes this bit of history feel urgent."
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