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The Dust Bowl: The Worst Manmade Ecological Disaster

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 In the early 1900s, the grasslands of the southern US plains were rapidly plowed up and turned into wheat fields.

The ramifications of this wheat boom can still be felt today, as wheat (along with corn and soybeans) remains one of the most common crops grown in the US. In fact, wheat, along with corn and rice, make up 60 percent of human caloric intake -- a dietary shift that is contributing to the rising rates of insulin resistance and its related chronic degenerative diseases now plaguing many developed countries.

These "amber waves of grain" had another unforeseen effect as well, an almost "other worldly" manmade disaster known as The Dust Bowl, which is chronicled in the PBS film.

The Worst Manmade Ecological Disaster in American History

In the early 1900s, farmers swarmed the southern Plains to take advantage of cheap land offers, even though the area - with its high winds, hot summers and frequent droughts - was not well suited for agriculture. During World War I, in particular, wheat was a sought-after commodity. With wheat prices soaring, and promises from land developers that "rain follows the plow," farmers quickly turned millions of acres of grasslands into wheat fields, paving the way for what would be one of the worst manmade disasters ever recorded.

As History reported:

" When the drought and Great Depression hit in the early 1930s, the wheat market collapsed. Once the oceans of wheat, which replaced the sea of prairie grass that anchored the topsoil into place, dried up, the land was defenseless against the winds that buffeted the Plains."

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