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The three-year drought of the late 1980s (1987-1989) covered 36% of the United States at its peak. Compared to the Dust Bowl drought, which covered 70% during its worst year, this does not seem significant. However, the 1980s drought was not only the costliest in U.S. history, but also the most expensive natural disaster of any kind to affect the U.S. (Riebsame et al. 1991). Combining the losses in energy, water, ecosystems and agriculture, the total cost of the three-year drought was estimated at $39 billion. Drought-related losses in western Canada exceeded $1.8 billion dollars in 1988 alone.
The blowing dust that blasted the High Plains in the 1930s was attributed not only to dry weather, but to poor soil conservation techniques that were in use at the time. In March 1935 (several weeks before Black Sunday), one of President Roosevelt’s advisors, Hugh Hammond Bennett, testified before congress about the need for better soil conservation techniques. Ironically, dust from the Great Plains was transported all the way to the East Coast, blotting out the sun even in the Nation’s capital. Mr. Bennett only needed to point out the window to the evidence supporting his position, and say, “This, gentlemen, is what I’ve been talking about.” Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act before the end of the year.
Ha! Who would want to farm in North Africa today?
Sicily and Africa were considered the breadbaskets of the Roman Republic. Later on Egypt was considered the breadbasket of the Roman Empire.