So, What Next?

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In his book review entitled, Dusty Volumes: Environmental Disaster and Economic Collapse in the 1930s, Koppes evaluates two pieces written on the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Koppes clearly comes down in favor of the piece written by David Worster, agreeing wholeheartedly with Worster’s thesis identifying capitalism as the great cause of the Dust Bowl. According to Koppes, Worster contends that three maxims that are cultivated by capitalism invariably led to the 1930s disaster. The first is that nature must be seen as capital, the second is that man has a right, or even an obligation to use that capital for self-advancement, and third that social order should both permit and encourage this insatiable pursuit of wealth. Worster then goes on to say that it is this capitalist model that produced the consumption of land and disregard for future environmental repercussions that caused the Dust Bowl.

Price, in his post, finds that Koppes’ argument on behalf of Worster is lacking. He contends that Koppes does not have enough evidence, in the form of actual policy records to make this claim; however, I would have to disagree. Worster’s claim does not hinge on the presence of official policy records that would indicate the presence of capitalist interference, nor does it matter that the farmers were born into a capitalist economy, the problem that Worster is trying to identify is one of culture. The three maxims outlined above are essentially a set of core beliefs or values that are cultivated in a capitalist economy. Worster is arguing that the capitalist system is the perfect petri dish for growing these toxic values which contribute to the reckless consumption of natural resources. While it is possible to draw parallels to policy with respect to this analysis, a cultural study of American values and the way that they manifest themselves would be the most relevant method for seeing Worster’s thesis come to life.

Worster’s research has important implications. As the world comes to recognize more and more environmental problems exacerbated by reckless consumption of natural resources, the more we will search for solutions. However, the solution requires sacrifices we are unwilling to make. It requires that we see the world not as a tool for our advancement above all else, meaning we must essentially change our mental framework. The real question then becomes: is that even possible?