Synopses & Reviews
In Plowed Under
, Andrew P. Duffin traces the transformation of the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho from land thought unusable and unproductive to a wealth-generating agricultural paradise, weighing the consequences of what this progress has wrought. During the twentieth century, the Palouse became synonymous with wheat, and the landscape was irrevocably altered. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, native vegetation is almost nonexistent, stream water is so dirty that it is often unfit for even livestock, and 94 percent of all land has been converted to agriculture.
Commercial agriculture also created a less noticeable ecological change: soil erosion. While common to industrial agriculture nationwide, topsoil loss evoked different political and social reactions in the Palouse. Farmers all over the nation take pride in their freedom and independence, but in the Palouse, Duffin shows, this mentality - a remnant of an older agrarian past - has been taken to the extreme and is partly responsible for erosion problems that are among the worst in the nation.
In the hope of charting a better, more sustainable future, Duffin argues for a candid look at the land, its people, their decisions, and the repercussions of those decisions. As he notes, the debate is not over whether to use the land, but over what that use will look like and its social and ecological results.
"The Palouse country is incredibly beautiful. How the precious soil of this region has been used and much abused offers insight into the politics of conservation, not just on a state or regional level but on a national level as well." - Carlos Schwantes, University of Missouri-St. Louis
"Duffin convincingly illuminates the economic, political, and cultural forces driving Palouse farmers down a destructive path even when the evidence clearly indicated that a course change was needed. His story offers lessons for every significant environmental challenge we face, from soil erosion all the way to global warming. If we wish to achieve the vaunted goal of sustainability we must understand the complex forces that drive unsustainable behavior." -Paul Hirt, Arizona State University
"If our goal is to imagine where food will come from for the grandchildren of our grandchildren, then the paradoxical mix of private rights and public subsidies that have supported erosive soil practices on Palouse farms seems especially instructive. For just this reason, Plowed Under deserves to be read even by those who have never visited the curious hill country lying north of the Snake River in eastern Washington and western Idaho."-from the Foreword by William Cronon
Andrew P. Duffin is assistant professor of history at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
Duffin traces the transformation fo the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho from land though unusable and unproductive to a wealth-generating industrial agricultural paradise, weighing the consequenses of what this progress has wrought. During the 20th century, the Palouse became synonymous with wheat, and the landscape was irrevocably altered with soil erosion problems among the worst in the nation. Andrew P. Duffin is adjunct professor of history at Washington State University, Pullman.