Global Warming and the Dust Bowl

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Oil Rig
Anadarko Basin, Oklahoma.
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Maybe there really is nothing new under the sun, Big Lizards has an interesting link to an article about global warming, 55 million years ago...at the North Pole:

New research has found that a scant 55 million years ago, the North Pole quickly developed a climate much like Florida today:

The new analysis confirms that the Arctic Ocean warmed remarkably 55 million years ago, which is when many scientists say the extraordinary planetwide warm-up called the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum must have been caused by an enormous outburst of heat-trapping, or greenhouse, gases like methane and carbon dioxide. But no one has found a clear cause for the gas discharge. Almost all climate experts agree that the present-day gas buildup is predominantly a result of emissions from smokestacks, tailpipes and burning forests.


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I think this planet is a lot tougher than some folks give her credit for. What is more I think she has her own way of doing things, oblivious to us.

I have often wondered what the reaction would be today to the Dust Bowl my family went through in Oklahoma. No rain...for a long long time. Sand everywhere, dead cattle everywhere and hungry people everywhere. This was the 1930's, just 25 years or so after Oklahoma became a state. My mother was a little girl and would remember all her life the family leaving the Bend in Konowa, Oklahoma and setting out for the migrant camps of sunny California with nothing but a few dollars, some canned food, the old truck, Papa's banjo and Grandma's Bible.

When I was a little girl we were not allowed to wear pants to school, it had to be skirts or dresses. But that same hot wind blew fierce sometimes and so my mother would let me wear jeans under my petticoats. I can remember waiting for the school bus with my skirts whipping up around my head, a bandana tied across my face to keep the blowing red sand and dirt out of my nose and mouth. We kids would hold hands to make sure the wind did not blow us over. Sand storms that blotted out the sun like some biblical curse were rare, but once experienced they were unforgetable.

In the winter there were no sand storms but because of the nuclear testing in the states to west of us we were told to never eat the snow. This was a disappointment because snow was such a treat in Oklahoma. We only got about 3 inches a year and we would get out in it as quick as we could so that we could make a dwarf snow man before it all melted away.

This was decades after the Dust Bowl.

Today much of Oklahoma is green and with the fear of the once abandoned and hungry the state has tried to make sure it will never blow away again. There are more man made lakes and reservoirs in that state today than the Indians and cowboys could have imagined. But man can only do so much. If the hot wind blows again and the rain stops for long enough it can turn back into no man's land.

And the old timers know it. Global warming maybe just as inevitable.

36 comments:

Buddy Larsen said...

Terrye Steinbeck is right as rain.
\;-)

Rick Ballard said...

I hope it's tough. From my vantage point on a very thin crust floating over a molten core while being warmed by the rays of an uncontrolled nuclear reaction, toughness is a definite plus.

Skookumchuk said...

If the hot wind blows again and the rain stops for long enough it can turn back into no man's land.

Yup. Whatever it dishes out, we can take. And all the Steinbeckian refugees can end up on Cannery Row, enjoying a beer milkshake, just like Doc.

I've prepared them several times. Anchor Steam Beer with Dreyer's French Vanilla seems to turn out best.

terrye said...

rick:

Now you got me worried.

skook:

My mom said the California kids were mean to them, they called them prune pickers.

My grandmother made them sleep outside the first night they got there so that she could spend a day and a half scrubbing down the shack with lye.

She was scared to death of who might have been there before them.

Buddy Larsen said...

Holman Jenkins on Al Gore's new film (featuring urs truly in 'comments'). I was trying to point out that, as the Green Movement's politicization of all it touches has turned many, many erstwile conservationists away from any interest in environmental issues, an Al Gore can intensify that very transaction, and hurt his own purported cause far more than he can ever help it. He needed to've stuck to hard science, without the agitprop, and with a mention of the other side of the science. As is, now even if we as a nation *should* take draconian measures, we won't, because Al Gore says to.

Skookumchuk said...

Terrye:

Man, what a story. Not just prune pickers. Lots of Okies went to Bakersfield, which was quite the oil patch at the time. Also to Signal Hill and Long Beach, which at once time were covered with rigs.

I had a career choice between transportation and the awl bidness, and there are times when I think the awl bidness would have been a better choice. I love the smell of cat crackers, by the way, just so you know. And the sight of refineries at night. And yet I'm on some Sierra Club mailing list and I can't figure out why.

terrye said...

buddy:

When did Al Gore lose his mind? Was he always strange.

I wondered about the way he stalked Bush at the debates.That was strange.

Now he just seems beyond all reason.

After awhile people just don't listen anymore. Except for the Kos Kids. He is their number one pick for '08.

Barry Dauphin said...

Terrye,

I'm pretty sure that the Oklahoma dustbowl was caused by Bush :>)

Buddy Larsen said...

Barry--yeh, they called 'em "tumbleweeds" and them Bushes were EVERYwhere.

Terrye--he has never had the same face, since the Fight For Florida.

Skookumchuk said...

Criminey. We've got enough clean coal to last for centuries. We've can follow the exmple of France and India and build breeder reactors like mad. We have the potential to have power coming out of our ears. And with it, we can transform the landscape however we want.

That's my Schumpeterian rant for the day.

Buddy Larsen said...

Stalking GWB at those debates--you can thank Rousseau, as interpreted by DC poliwizardess Naomi Wolfe, who was coaching Mr. Gore on how she thought a regular guy would act, if she knew one.

chuck said...

When did Al Gore lose his mind? Was he always strange.

The man is mad from thwarted ambition. The presidency was his by right and it slipped away. Poor fella, now he has to join the revolution to recover his birthright. Sometimes I think we should put the heads of the losers up on spikes around the White House as in the days of yore. It would mute the political nonsense considerably.

terrye said...

skook:

My Daddy always said that bad smell from the ground was the smell of money.

And you are correct it ia awl. Once when I was talking to my brother I slipped and said OIL, I actually gave it three syallables.

He said My God Sissy you sound like a Yankee.

I never made that mistake again.

terrye said...

chuck:

Well if the silly bastard had not managed to lose his own damned state it would not have mattered what happened in Florida.

What Tennessee pol was it who said to the people of his state after they failed to elect him: As for my fellow Tennesseans, they can go straight to hell.

I think that was how Gore felt.

terrye said...

barry:

No doubt Bush got in his way back machine and made the rain stop.

No drought for oil. No drought for oil.

I mean think about it, who benefited? All those poor farmers and ranchers lost their land and who got it? hummmm????

After awhile it all makes sense.

Buddy Larsen said...

That's why so many ancient tribes buried or burned all the dead king's stuff along with him. the tribe couldn't break up fighting over it, for one, but also there would be less prior incentive to assassinate him for his property. Yes, to "tempt" is a biblically bad thing to do, and the ancients knew well what "tantalize" meant.

Buddy Larsen said...

--referring to the heads on a spike--

Barry Dauphin said...

Hey, Buddy. Somebody ought to write a book about that.

Skookumchuk said...

terrye:

Your Daddy was right.

terrye said...

Skook:

Always.

Buddy Larsen said...

Barry--as soon as I can remember where I put the map that leads to the place I wrote down my Pay Pal password, I be gwan buy me a copy. Sounds fascinating.

The once-past Pope had a thing about the nature & ubiquity of modern advertising--he knew how it fit into commerce, but he was sad how it affected people who could never have the goods. The stock answer, of course, is that folks should think in multi-generational terms, and if you can't have the stuff in the ads, try to raise the kids so that *they* can.

But then so much else in life mitigates against the 'long view', that we're expecting a lot, of the poor, to feel un-tantalized.

Those who take a socialist message from all that, do have the point that their system is less tantalizing, as everyone is equally poor and without hope of change. Feh. I want to be a tree.

Buddy Larsen said...

Jeeziz, Barry--$70--what a way to illustrate your thesis!
\;-D

Rick Ballard said...

"Feh. I want to be a tree."

I'druther be a Bush - with Gore grinning from a pole on the left side of the driveway and Kerry on the right.

Terrye - Did you know that 'prune picker' refers to inhabitants of Santa Clara Valley who lived there before the '30's? I don't know how the term became applied to the Oakies (maybe as they picked their way down 101 to Salinas?) but it wasn't a pejorative in the Central Valley.

Barry Dauphin said...

Buddy,

I know, I know--the publisher didn't ask my opinion about the price (kind of like City Hall).

Yes, I'd rather be free too--there are no utopias here on earth anyway. It's just better than we understand the dilemmas unrestrained liberty can tempt us to, though we are ultimately responsible for ourselves IMHO. Forewarned is forearmed.

I am working on a post for YARGB about global warming and tantalization, as the theme of suggesting that material successes and greed will bring down the gods in the form of destructive weather is an old one, including from Plato. He suggested that Atlantis (which is etymologically and mythically linked to Tantalus) was destroyed because the gods were displeased with the wanton and profligate ways of its citizens. Plato took this position even though he did not believe in the gods but thought that nature was controlled by impersonal forces.

Buddy Larsen said...

Plato reverses the common norm of the day, that the impersonal forces appear as gods, and said no, that the gods appear as impersonal forces. Ha--love that stuff. I think a lot of people are Platonist in that respect.

loner said...

Another oil rig (middle picture) for Terrye with the guess (it's been awhile since I've been in there) that it's gone now. The Marsh is about a half mile to the northeast from where I'm sitting an its existence is a fluke of timing. We're in the midst of bitter local elections centering on the pace with which residential housing projects are being approved.

I still from time to time depart the northbound 405 at the Manchester—La Cienega exit and travel north on the freeway-standards section of La Cienega through Baldwin Hills where it doesn't seem that as yet that much of the oil extraction equipment has been removed. Often while I'm doing this I wonder whether it would have made much difference had the movers and shakers pushed the 170 south from the 101 up through Laurel Canyon and down what is the Boulevard. I most often conclude that it couldn't have hurt.

The local refinery sends us a pretty brochure these days to keep us up to date on what they're doing to keep things environmentally friendly. This generally involves limiting the burnoffs as much as possible. Perverse as it is, I love the burnoffs—nothing like twin open flames over an oil refinery to focus the mind.

Buddy Larsen said...

From the great Nat'l Archives photo site, some pictures that come to mind with the Dust Bowl. I especially like the second down--haunting, and not so long ago.

Skookumchuk said...

Barry:

. . . suggesting that material successes and greed will bring down the gods . . .

I have often pondered this, without any real conclusion. Certainly we see this sentiment (or religious yearning) throughout Western history in one form or another. We are seeing another bout at the moment. I look forward to your post.

Skookumchuk said...

Buddy, Terrye:

Check this out.

Skookumchuk said...

Loner:

Just before Halloween, do they still paint a pumpkin face on the old orange Union 76 refinery tank at the south end of the freeway coming in to San Pedro?

Buddy Larsen said...

wow. great site, skook. really good.

loner said...

Skook—

Though I last noticed it in 2001, I found a 2003 picture (scroll down) and I've happened upon no talk radio outrage so I think it's safe to assume they're still doing it.

truepeers said...

There's some scientist in Canada I was reading about a while ago who has come to the conclusion that the twentieth-century was a historically unusual wet-spell on the North American prairies; he says dust bowl is the norm and it will come again, sad to say.

terrye said...

rick:

No I did not know that. My mother was born in 1930, so she was very young when they went to California. I am sure her memory was not all that accurate about somethings. She no doubt heard the phrase prune pickers and assumed that they were talking about the people working the fields. When we talk about our memories as children we get a lot of confusing stuff in there, she might have misunderstood, who knows? But for all her life she felt that the locals out there looked down on the people from Oklahoma and called them names, among those names were prune pickers.

Knucklehead said...

Buddy,

The picture you mention is, indeed, haunting. The last two on the page are potentially ominous. It is perhaps some flaw in my character but the the "Machida family" picture is more troubling to me than the "Migratory mother" photo.

Al Gore wants us to fear the impending arrival of conditions similar to what led to photos such as the Migratory Mother. Others among us would recreat the Machida Family situation. Oddly enough, as much as I fear demented demagogues such as Gore I fear the Roundup Gang even more. We've survived the likes of Al Gore before. I'm not sure we'd survive two orders of magnitude greater roundup than the Machida Family suffered.

Buddy Larsen said...

Knuck, I agree. The both issues are in terrible need of common sense and perspective.