A Fragile Environment


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The video “The Plow that Broke the Plains” places a clear emphasis on the human role in the Great Plains disaster. Nate rightly suggests that there are both natural and manmade elements to this disaster. The narrator repeats phrases such as “high winds and sun” throughout the film, clearly suggesting that the editors and directors of the film believed that the fragility of the Great Plains made the Dust Bowl disaster predictable.  In this way, the makers of the film implied that man essentially set himself up for disaster by settling on a dry land with “little rain” and “high winds and sun.” When put that way, it doesn’t seem that surprising that the plains dried out.

This argument relates back to one our previous class discussions about settling in places that are prone to natural disaster, such as San Francisco. When people choose to settle in fragile or unstable locations, and then in this case change their environment, are they setting themselves up for disaster?

The makers of this film seem to believe that that is the case. They trace the narrative of capitalism in relation to the Great Plains. Demand for wheat increased significantly with World War I, taking a great toll on the Great Plains. Newspaper titles flashed across the screen reiterate the human role in the Dust Bowl Disaster, as the war was clearly a result of mankind.

Film provided a new method of propaganda that had the unique ability to utilize visual imagery as well as sound to convey meaning. The newspaper titles, narration, as well as music all serve to echo the argument of this film.