Locusts--did they shape our gov't policy?


nbruce writes "There's a review of a fascinating book Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier at Books & Culture. The reviewer commented:

Perhaps what most weighed upon my mind as I read Lockwood's book was his diagnosis of religious responses to the locust plagues. On the American frontier, farmers who faced the oncoming cloud of ruin were forced to ask for aid. At first, they asked the church, and the church responded with prayers. But when it came time to ask for more than prayer, the church shut its doors. As Lockwood states, "Offering up prayers was one thing—giving up wages was quite another."

In the end, the destitute turned to the federal government for their subsistence, eventually raising a series of fundamental political questions that would set precedents for agricultural policy, natural disaster, and federal relief into the present time. Today, we wait for the government to pronounce a "natural disaster"—where "natural" means precisely that.

The reviewer's enthusiasm fades near the end of the book where he thinks the author gets a bit flighty. I haven't read the book, but wondered if it had been 1975 instead of 1875 that locusts devastated the U.S., would the environmental movement have tried to save them?"

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