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The Dust Bowl

John McMillian

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By John McMillan
Commissioner, Department of Agriculture and Industries

In the 1930s, an ecological disaster of epic proportions swept the American Midwest and threatened to destroy the nation’s bread basket. The Dust Bowl, as it became known, turned prairies into deserts and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that for many seemed to herald the end of the world. The story of this national calamity is captured in famed filmmaker Ken Burns’ newest documentary, THE DUST BOWL, premiering Sunday, Nov. 18 and Monday, Nov.19 at 7:00 p.m. on Alabama Public Television.

Although the storms of the Dust Bowl did not reach Alabama, the measures taken to prevent future tragedies had a major impact on Alabama agriculture.  That’s why people throughout the state should tune in to see the two-night, four-hour film.

According to Dr. Carol Knight, president of the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts (AACD), “THE DUST BOWL will show us the damage caused by the lack of conservation practices and encourage our society to make conservation of our natural resources a priority.”  The AACD is made up of supervisors from the 67 soil and water conservation districts in Alabama that assist farmers and landowners throughout the state.

THE DUST BOWL is also an example of great storytelling. Twenty-six survivors of those hard times provide gripping accounts of giant dust storms that blackened the sky, destroyed crops, tore apart homes and killed people and livestock. Many lost parents and siblings as a result of the storms or from the lung infections caused by breathing in too much dust. Against enormous odds, their families found ways to survive and hold on to their land.

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