Photos: Historic Adobe Museum, Ulysses, KS and Associated Press
“What kind of place is this where children couldn’t go outside? Where the air outside could kill you?” asks one of the many memorable characters in The Dust Bowl, the powerful two-part documentary by Ken Burns that is about the most devastating, man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history. Last at Mountainfilm in 2009 with his seminal series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Burns tells this remarkable story of American heartbreak and heroism that took place throughout the Great Plains during the mid-1930s after a severe drought, combined with agricultural mismanagement, created weather that sent “black blizzards” across the country. The wreckage of more than 100 million acres of land also instigated massive migration, displacing several hundred thousand people. After watching this film, one is left with this question: Given the current destruction of the land in much of the same area by resource extraction today, have we learned anything?