False facts that actually changed the world

We thought the more we farmed the more it would rain, so we caused the Dust Bowl

You’ve seen the pictures of the American Midwest at the turn of the 20th century, and there’s a lot of dry, dusty land there. There’s a weird reason that happened, and it started at the end of the Civil War as people started moving to the Midwest and settling down to a new life.

Wired explains that, between 1865 and 1875, people started believing that more farming would bring more rains. “The rain follows the plow” became the mantra of the Great Plains, and it was spread by everyone from journalists and scientists to politicians and railway barons who stood to make a fortune off of people heading west. Even the Smithsonian Institution produced publications on how planting trees and building railroads would make the rains come.

Not only did the promise of bountiful lands drive settlement in the Midwest, but it also created the devastating Dust Bowl and dirt storms of the 1930s. According to the University of Illinois, it was when farmers kept farming through drought conditions that they stripped away ground cover and turned the Midwest into the exact opposite of a rainy, farm-friendly paradise.