I watched a program the other day about the Black Blizzard. They called the dust storms that enveloped the high plains area of the United States in the nineteen-thirties that, even at the time. People died. It wasn’t a quick death either, like the deaths from tornados or hurricanes. It was a slow strangulation and starvation. They couldn’t grow food. They couldn’t even breathe the air; the dust was everywhere.
It was a ten-year disaster. Scientists at the time figured out the cause. It was the methods used in farming the land. Nature turned on the farmer with a viciousness defying description. The ground didn’t hold the moisture the way it should, so the rains couldn’t gather strength. The ground dried more and the wind picked it up and blew it as far away as Washington DC on the east coast of the United State. That’s what got Congress moving. They finally sent relief when and only when they got a taste of the problem. The scientists working on the problem from the get-go said that the farming techniques had to change. That’s what they did. They changed their methods Farmers don’t fight the land anymore. They plow along the contours of the land, now instead of trying to make everything flat and uniform. Nature is not uniform.
So can it happen again? Sure, it’s happening now in China, or at least it was while they were making that documentary. Can it happen in the US again? Probably, but I don’t think it will be that bad. We will still experience draughts. They are natural phenomena. How severe they will be is unknown. Nevertheless, they will come. The dust bowl years prove that humans can affect their climate.
Could we adapt to a dramatic change in our circumstances? I ask that question in The Accidental Colony. In the book, the scientists brought everything they thought they would need to the planet they wanted to spend ten years studying. Circumstances at home stranded them and forced them to attempt to adapt. In the book, they were willing to adapt. You must be willing to adapt.
Survival of the strongest is an incorrect quotation. It is actually survival of the fittest and by fittest, they mean the most-average individuals have the best chance at survival. Overall, if something happened to the earth, the people best able to survive would be the ones who were generalists. In the United States, we are a nation of specialists. That’s where the danger to us lies. We have the strength to take from those who have the wit to get what they need. How long that strength would last, I have no idea.
Great strength does not always mean you are the fittest. The dinosaurs had great strength and they survived a very long time. Then something happened and they were gone. There is a lot of speculation about whether humans could survive an asteroid strike on the Earth. I don’t know. We are specialists now. The more generalists among us might live and prosper. The bigger question here is whether we could adapt quickly enough to the change in our circumstances. Survivalists would survive for a time, but they would have to learn to change with the changes and work with the environment to do that. I wonder how many would be willing or able to do that. Some of them are true generalists and would likely be able to survive. Others are fundamentalists and might not be open to adaptation. Those people would survive for a while, but fail in the end. The people, who could do a bit of everything, would do best. They would be the fittest. They would survive.