The Plow That Broke the Plains

This is a remarkable short documentary made in 1936 about the devastating effects of single-crop farming on the Great Plains of America, once home to millions of buffalo and later of cattle.

The farmers came in and took to growing wheat on the Plains, fencing off the land and displacing the cattle. Then with the outbreak of WWI there was a sudden market surge for wheat to feed the Europeans at war, and thousands more poured in.

For a while the Plains, and the people on them, prospered, until the greatest drought in American history turned a once-fertile area into a dust-bowl, as the shallow land dried up.

While the film is an ecological classic demonstrating the terrible effects that thoughtless man can have on his environment, it takes no notice of the fact that the indigenous peoples (dismissed in the opening titles) had managed this land productively for thousands of years.

The film was made by Pare Lorentz for the U.S. Resettlement Administration who were seeing to people who had moved off the Plains and out West. The music is by the great American composer Virgil Thomson.

 

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The Plow That Broke the Plains

 

The Plow That Broke the Plains

 

The Plow That Broke the Plains

 

The Plow That Broke the Plains

 

The Plow That Broke the Plains

 

The Plow That Broke the Plains

 

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