All posts tagged: agricultural history

Hippo: It’s What’s For Dinner

While the global food news often tells of meat shortages in China and India, as middle class demand for meat increases in these extremely populated countries, the United States faced its own meat crisis in the early twentieth century—and believe it or not, hippopotamus ranching emerged as a proposed solution. This is the remarkable story told in American Hippopotamus (2013) by Jon Mooallem, a product of significant archival research, which you can purchase at Atavist or on Kindle for your own reading pleasure. Mooallem’s account orients itself around 1910, when a combination of increasing immigrant populations, growing cities, and overgrazed rangeland caused meat prices to soar, as producers struggled to keep up with domestic meat demands. Christened “the Meat Question” in the newspapers, Louisiana Congressman Robert Broussard proposed importing hippopotamuses from Africa and settling them in the bayous of Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana to assuage America’s carnivorous ills, as well as to tackle the invasive water hyacinth plants, which clog southern waterways and impact fish populations to this day. The bulk of the American Hippopotamus narrative presents dueling biographies of the …

The Dust Bowl Isn’t Over -OR- How the iPhone Could Save American Agriculture

Many Americans view the Dust Bowl of the 1930s as merely a historical event, a long ago environmental and agricultural trauma that, along with the Great Depression, stains our collective history, but will never occur again. Such a point of view, however, is not only revisionist, but highly inaccurate. The determinants of the Dust Bowl are not isolated to the 1930s, nor are its effects secluded to the American plains. In Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (1979), Donald Worster posits that a combination of factors not only caused the Dust Bowl, but continue to derail agriculture worldwide: American values run amuck, capitalism ruling without restraint, farming taken over by business, and unstable agricultural policy hastily enacted. Worster argues that the Dust Bowl, as well as subsequent agricultural issues, are rooted in American values and unrestrained capitalism. Fueled by the sprit of Manifest Destiny, the desire for endless opportunity, and the promise of plenty, farmers during the Dust Bowl era exploited the land to the fullest extent possible, employing every available technology to ensure …