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Lessons from the US: Australia's Response to Wind Erosion (1935-1945)

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During the decade of the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, several Australian regions suffered from severe drought and accelerated wind erosion. Dust storms and sand drift triggered fears about Australia's degrading soils which were fuelled by the news of the infamous US Dust Bowl. Despite a strong sense of crisis among contemporaries, research on the Australian erosion years is scarce. Using a diversity of sources such as newspapers, journal articles or parliamentary debates, the paper focuses on the international context of Australia's erosion crisis. Similarities in the settler histories between the United States and Australia encouraged a multilayered transfer of soil conservation ideas between both countries. In the domain of policies, Australians emulated Roosevelt's New Deal conservation programme in regard to the emphasis on education and voluntary cooperation, while attempts to create a federal programme along the US lines failed due to Australia's constitutional status. With respect to the US large-scale regional planning projects as a remedy against wind erosion, Australians mainly discarded the idea of planting extensive wind breaks along the lines of the US Shelterbelt Project, but readily borrowed ideas from the dam building and hydroelectricity schemes of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
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Keywords: Australia; United States of America; agriculture; experts; soil conservation; transfer; wind erosion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2015

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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