Paper Title

[2.3] Dust and Denial: The Dust Bowl and the Seeds of Climate Denialism

Location

AE 263

Start Date

January 2020

End Date

January 2020

Disciplines

History | Philosophy | Political Science

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

The 1930s Dust Bowls were not the first man-made ecological catastrophe; however, they were one of the first crises in which government officials and other keen observers recognized that America’s capitalist ethos, which prioritizes limitless growth and the exploitation of natural resources, exacerbated the underlying causes of soil erosion to the point of disaster. Despite recognizing the problem as cultural, government reports recommended structural and technological solution, while cultural representations of the Dust Bowls reinforced the socio-economic narratives that precipitated the Dust Bowls. The scale and symbolic power of the dust storms set a precedence for responding to and evaluating future ecological crises. The initial reluctance to challenge destructive and unsustainable cultural practices in the wake of the Dust Bowls set an institutional and cultural precedent that has mutated into a spectrum of modern climate denialism that either rejects responsibility for climate change altogether, or denies the necessity of systemic changes to address industrial capitalism’s wholesale destruction of the planet.

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Jan 17th, 2:30 PM Jan 17th, 3:45 PM

[2.3] Dust and Denial: The Dust Bowl and the Seeds of Climate Denialism

AE 263

The 1930s Dust Bowls were not the first man-made ecological catastrophe; however, they were one of the first crises in which government officials and other keen observers recognized that America’s capitalist ethos, which prioritizes limitless growth and the exploitation of natural resources, exacerbated the underlying causes of soil erosion to the point of disaster. Despite recognizing the problem as cultural, government reports recommended structural and technological solution, while cultural representations of the Dust Bowls reinforced the socio-economic narratives that precipitated the Dust Bowls. The scale and symbolic power of the dust storms set a precedence for responding to and evaluating future ecological crises. The initial reluctance to challenge destructive and unsustainable cultural practices in the wake of the Dust Bowls set an institutional and cultural precedent that has mutated into a spectrum of modern climate denialism that either rejects responsibility for climate change altogether, or denies the necessity of systemic changes to address industrial capitalism’s wholesale destruction of the planet.