New Books Network

Hannah Holleman

Dust Bowls of Empire

Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of 'Green' Capitalism

Yale University Press 2018

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network December 17, 2018 Zeb Larson

None of the climate news that we’re getting is good right now, especially now that a number of governments are reversing or failing to...

None of the climate news that we’re getting is good right now, especially now that a number of governments are reversing or failing to meet commitments they made as part of the Paris Climate Accord. One of the challenges facing human societies and the planet is the issue of aridification. As freshwater is depleted and unsustainable agricultural practices place more stress on soil than can be supported, an increasing amount of land is being lost to erosion, a process that will only become worsen as the planet heats up in the coming decades. Despite plentiful information and awareness, most of the solutions that have been offered up have failed to meaningfully stop the damage being done to the planet.

In Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of “Green” Capitalism (Yale University Press, 2018), Hannah Holleman looks at the Dust Bowl as one of the first manmade global environmental catastrophes. She begins by noting its manmade dimensions and the underlying forces that helped to create it as well as similar catastrophes across the globe. The underlying forces of imperialism and white supremacy fed the seizure of land from indigenous populations everywhere. White policymakers were aware of the environmental damage that was being wrought, but were unwilling to revise their behavior in a way that would undermine property or profit, which shaped both the New Deal and contemporary responses to climate change such as the Paris Climate Accord. To avoid further catastrophe, people all over the world must seek more radical solutions.

“The Dust Bowl continues to haunt, inspire, and teach us — but as this book shows, we have missed its most profound and far-reaching implications. Unearthing a wealth of new sources, and pulling together disparate analytical threads, Holleman tells a story of global ecological crisis — then and now — rooted in global systems of domination and extraction. A tour de force of engaged scholarship from an exhilarating new voice.”—Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything


Zeb Larson is a PhD Candidate in History at The Ohio State University. His research is about the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.