The Dust Bowl / Population Growth

Feature #1: The Dust Bowl (start time 6:53)

Dust Bowl, courtesy Creative Commons

As bad as the drought has been recently in Colorado and other states, it pales in comparison to the nearly 10-year-long drought of the 1930s. Its unrelenting and gargantuan dust storms inspired the name “The Dust Bowl.” In southeast Colorado and other Great Plains states, children died of dust pneumonia. Thousands of cattle died or were slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. It came to be called “the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history.” On November 18th and 19th PBS will air a four-hour documentary called The Dust Bowl. It was directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by author Dayton Duncan. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran talks with Duncan about the film and the lessons learned –or not learned — from The Dust Bowl.

Feature #2: Zero Population (start time 15:58)  John Seager, CEO of the nonprofit Population Connection, discusses with How On Earth co-host Ted Burnham about the organization’s efforts to help American citizens and politicians understand the environmental and other implications of the ever-expanding global human population. John will speak this Friday at the CU campus in Boulder. His presentation is titled, “Soaring Past 7 Billion: Population Challenges for a Crowded World.”

Hosts: Ted Burnham and Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen

Listen to the show:


4 thoughts on “The Dust Bowl / Population Growth”

  1. Great show. Thank you for dealing with population–I think it is the most important driver of environmental health.

    John Seager’s comment that we are adding a new Colorado every 3 weeks was very thought provoking. 5 million people live in Colorado. If all of the world’s population growth was concentrated in Colorado, we would have another Colorado in a little over 3 weeks!

    Would we be ready for another Colorado full of people within 3 weeks? It is overwhelming to think of all of the extra food, water, housing, roads, schools, hospitals and jobs that we would have to create within 3 weeks. And then again in the next 3 weeks and the next 3 weeks. We would have to prepare for the equivalent of 16 new Colorado’s full of people in one year.

    This would be an impossible task for us in the developed world. However, this same task is mainly falling upon the developing world which is certainly not prepared for it. Already, over half of the people in the world are living on less than $2 USD per day. They are struggling to survive with their current numbers, much less with the over 80 million more that will be added this next year.

    Thanks again for covering this important subject.

    1. Dear Jo Lynne,

      Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments and for listening to How On Earth. Because of the sheer number of us, compared to the Earth’s carrying capacity, population growth issues are incredibly serious. The concept of waste as formulated by the late RC Dunnell is a very interesting and powerful theoretical tool for understanding how natural selection may favor certain behaviors that control population. May I recommend this paper:


      Jim Pullen
      Executive Producer
      How On Earth

      1. The paper to look at is titled, “Using evolutionary archaeology and evolutionary ecology to explain cultural elaboration: the case of middle Ohio Valley Woodland Period ceremonial subsistence.”

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