By Edgar Treiguts, CNN
(CNN) - The northeastern U.S. continues to deal with the destructive aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a storm some say was goosed by man-made effects on the environment. Decades ago, there was another event that prompted similar questions.
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was one of the worst man-made ecological disasters in U.S. history. Its combination of drought, wind and ill-advised farming practices set the table to create vicious dust storms over nearly a decade's time. The fiercest occurred over a region that included the Oklahoma panhandle and four other surrounding states. Homesteaders who lived through the storms called them "black blizzards," or "tornadoes on their sides."
[2:23] "Looking back on it, I think it carried with it a feeling of being unreal but almost being...evil."
The dust storms rolled over open land killing people and livestock. Sand dunes buried farm equipment and derailed trains. And the storms gutted the financial futures of families.
A new Ken Burns film airing on PBS explores the Dust Bowl – the factors that created it, and lessons that can be learned from the event.
The film's writer and producer, Dayton Duncan, says it's a story not only about Mother Nature, but about human nature. A great boom in wheat prices and land prices fueled a desire to get rich without regard to future consequences.
[3:43] "Once we start feeling that way, whether it's about real estate prices or Mother Nature, we're setting ourselves up for a crisis."
Duncan says it's a lesson to take from history for our current times: we cannot conform nature to fit our desires.
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