ABSTRACT

The study of climate change has deep roots in the history of North American ecology. At the time of the Wall Street crash and the Depression of the 1930s, America .s Great Plains were struck by the Dust Bowl, a phenomenon of catastrophic soil erosion that resulted from the combined effects of intensive farming practices and a particularly harsh drought. Contemporaneously, the ecologist Frederic Clements proposed a theory of plant succession that itself took the history of the Great Plains as its model, and drew on the notion of climatic cycles. This theory became established as the model for ecological expertise in the politics of conservation adopted by the Roosevelt administration. In this paper, I will show how climatology became inscribed in plant ecology not only for epistemological reasons, but also due to an ideology that promoted the ecologist as an expert in the optimization of resources, in an illustration of the tripartite relationship between ecology, politics, and climate change.

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