The Dust Bowls of America- Revisited?

  The Dust Bowls of America- Revisited?

 by Susan Nielsen

I live in one of the poorest counties in the United States. I reside in a private gated community 17 miles away from the towns, so I am not personally “touched” by the obvious poverty; in fact I choose to drive north to do my shopping rather than drive south and be reminded.

Once a thriving agricultural community providing 1/3 of our Nations crops, Imperial Valley will soon resemble Americas “dirty thirty’s” dust bowls, with no water and one of the highest unemployment rates in the US.

To paint the picture think of desolation and crumbling towns,  tumbleweeds gathering in empty parking lots, with broken windows and looted buildings, streets with huge pot holes, with illegals asking for handouts on many corners.

First they took the valleys water to save a fish, a 2 inch delta smelt to be exact, that supposedly is on the  endangered species list- which of course trumps human needs-now they will take more water due to the dwindling of Lake Mead…

And is this a real problem?

McCarthy says California's water crisis is man-made, blames environmentalists

The Coming Water Crisis in America




A little History of  the Dust Bowls

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s lasted about a decade. Its primary area of impact was on the southern Plains. The northern Plains were not so badly effected, but nonetheless, the drought, windblown dust and agricultural decline were no strangers to the north. In fact the agricultural devastation helped to lengthen the Depression whose effects were felt worldwide. The movement of people on the Plains was also profound.

As John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath: "And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kidsdust3.gif (44737 bytes) are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land." 


As we look at the history of the dust bowls- I can see it coming to this already desolate area. The already extremely high unemployment will rise not only due to the water shortage which will also make for a decline in crops but also due to the closure of the Valleys  Meat Packing plant. There are 1300 more jobs on the line. Did I forget to mention that the Valley also relies heavily on it’s cattle industry?

Closure devastating: All aspects of Valley ag industry will feel impact

National Beef announced Friday it would shutter its Brawley plant on April 4, citing a declining supply of feed cattle available for the facility. For Imperial County, where unemployment remains stubbornly high, the loss of these jobs will be devastating, and where cattle earns nearly half a billion dollars a year, the effect will be monumental.

The drought has already caused dust storms.

Imperial Valley Water Shortage: Tough Choices Ahead

Now, around 90 percent of the vegetables that Americans eat in the winter are grown around here. Lettuce, potatoes, sweet corn, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, as well as alfalfa and other forage crops.

Here is one personal story…

BRAWLEY – “After having worked for 20 years in the fields, Bertha Cabrera is not thrilled at the prospect of having to return. But with the pending closure of the National Beef plant just months away, Cabrera said she may have no other choice.

The Brawley resident, along with about 1,300 of her co-workers, had just received notice Friday that the plant is scheduled to close April. The news came as a complete surprise to the workforce.

“It’s like when a doctor tells you that you only have so much left to live,” she said. “We’re all stressed out.”

An employee of the plant for the past seven years, Cabrera is also the primary breadwinner for her household, which includes two grandchildren.

“This work has allowed me to support my family,” she said in Spanish. “This place gave us an opportunity at a good life.”

So this once flourishing County will fall by the way side. El Centro and Brawley will die a slow and painful death. They will become “rest stops” on the north side of Highway 8.

And where do those residents go? They have little or nothing to begin with; they were Americas Farm Workers doing back breaking work for our kitchen tables.

But I guess this is progress,  I think it is called eminent domain, the highest and best use of dry sun parched land -- this dry land is much better suited to growing  Solar plants, windmill farms  and Geo-Thermal plants- which all employ only a few people. I checked- yes they are all “growing”  in this area- instead of crops.

When I read the environmental impact report for the recreational area known as the Salton Sea-  which has a false bad rep- the water is classified A1 recreational- This 26 mile long man-made lake is also drying up too. It stretches from Imperial to Riverside County.  However, that report does not allow for human life along this corridor. As it is zoned transient /wilderness. The view from my home is that of a dying sea, once a flourishing recreational area- now becoming another Owens lake, a dry bed of silt dust that will eventually become a health hazard.

So you see this area is filled with problems and is doomed to become post-apocalyptic sooner than most and the access to the south is open with uncontrolled borders allowing for more immigrants every day. From San Diego to Yuma they pour in….

Sure, Lady Liberty and The New Colossus are beautiful but beauty often fades and I don’t believe we can afford these promises anymore…

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 

With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


I am sorry but for America to survive we must look for the places where logical cuts can be made -keeping people in mind. We cannot afford the people we have now- we cannot keep our door open.

No water!- No Jobs- No Amnesty!


Is my County the example of what is happening across America?

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Comment by Patricia Gillenwater on February 6, 2014 at 11:05pm

Suzie, Nice write-up of a very sad situation. I posted on another discussion that I Democrat in the House ask the head of CBO if paying relocation costs for people to move to other locations would help the economy so we may have that spewing from the mouths of Dem's soon.

We spent just over 6 years traveling about the country. It always saddened me to see abandon plants, rusting silos now empty. When I lived in Iowa so many small towns once vibrant decaying. My southern West Virginia home rotting -- people who once worked in the coal mines reduced to hollow shells. Poverty more epidemic. Crime and drug use a severe problem.

Yes water is a precious resource. The recent spillage of chemicals in WV is a warning. Gee they had not inspected that chem plant for some 26 years.

Saw that Oroville Dam is only at 39%. Hetch Hetchy level dwindling, this supplies the San Francisco Bay Area.

My partner spent the last number of months taking local water management and resource classes here in Prescott, AZ. We could be in a desperate situation by 2025 unless rain is not forth coming. Aquifers  are low. One wild river is now reduced to a 6 mile stretch with only a small amount running.

No America does not need more immigrants at this time.

Comment by linda13 on February 6, 2014 at 5:18pm
Wow, so very sad. I'm sorry. I know how much you love it there. It's heartbreaking.

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