First Season Recap Pt. 1: Can We Think Without Blinders?

Spencer and Laurie recap the first half of Season 1 of Dustbowl Diatribes, with a focus on our intention and purpose in introducing themes like taking advantage of “the spoils of Egypt,” and concepts like metabolic rifts and the abstract domination of capital, as well as interviews that helped us understand why it’s so hard to break away from that domination.

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Dustbowl Diatribes 7: Why Liberalism Fails

Launching from the last Dustbowl Diatribes podcast in which we interviewed Nik Gaffron about his experiences resisting fracking in Pennsylvania, Spencer and I talk to Nik about why such resistance almost always fails. Why do liberal strategies to getting something good accomplished meet with ruin? We first need to learn the answer to that question, and really have it sink in, before we can hope to accomplish any real change.

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Dustbowl Diatribes 6: What the Frack?

Our guest is Nik Gaffron talks to us about his personal experience fighting fracking on public lands in Pennsylvania. We learn a lot about the fracking process as well as the politics and economics, especially how it impacts people who live near a fracking operation. Why do public officials so easily consent to these large-scale industrial operations in or close to residential areas? Why is it so hard to fight fracking in an effort to protect not only public lands but private property and its value? What are the hidden costs financially and to our health?

Dustbowl Diatribes 5: Ecological/Political Futures ft. Bryant Macfarlane

Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson follow up with military historian and Maurin Academy partner Bryant Macfarlane to discuss 1. the most likely worst-case scenario regarding our environmental and political future, and 2. the most likely best-case scenario we hope will happen instead. Buckle your seatbelts.

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Dustbowl Diatribes 4: Talking Dustbowl Blues

History Ph.D. candidate Bryant Macfarlane joins Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson for a discussion of the conditions that made for the 1930’s Dustbowl and continue to operate today to deplete soil fertility and instigate climate change. Hannah Holleman’s book, Dustbowls of Empire is the subject of the first part of our conversation. Macfarlane later explains how Latin Common Law was practiced in the American Southwest prior to the Mexican-American War, and how practices that treated water as communal good rather than private property were eliminated by the advent of the English view of property. That began the era of accelerated metabolic rifts that led to the Dustbowl and our current dilemmas, such as ocean dead zones due to fertilizer runoff.

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Dustbowl Diatribes 3: Metabolic Rifts & Abstract Domination

Spencer Hess interviews Jakob Hanschu on the subject of metabolic rifts (what they are, and their implications for the environment we all depend upon for life) and the abstract domination of capital (the forces that largely control our lives but are not clearly perceived because they constitute our perceived reality). These are difficult concepts because of their abstract nature, but if we do not understand them adequately, we cannot see our way beyond the current system that is destroying our world.

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Dustbowl Diatribes 2: The Spoils of Egypt

Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson talk about the “Spoils of Egypt” concept from Christian theology, how it has operated in the past, and what is keeping people from using it now. In the past, Christian theologians have often “plundered” secular theology for its riches, taking what was useful and true in light of Christian revelation, and leaving what was not. Today, much philosophy is left un-plundered because it is perceived to be “evil” and untouchable. This is certainly true of critical theory and Marxism.

But while much of the positive claims of Marxism, such as atheism and materialism, can and should be left behind, the deposit of negative theory regarding the abstract and impersonal domination of capital and the market ought to be carried off as spoils, because in order to get anything done we must understand our world accurately.

As an example, the “Benedict Option” Christians understand that liberalism has changed their world and needs to be rejected, but their response of cloistering in manufacturing towns and trying to please the capitalist owners indicates they do not yet understand the effects of the impersonal domination of the capitalist system. There is no easy compromise with the globalized capitalist system that will allow us to withdraw to little communities in peace.


Exodus 12:35-36

Ellen Wood, The Origins of Agrarian Capitalism

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Milton Friedman, Free to Choose, PBS documentary

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Dustbowl Diatribes 1: For the Courage of Hopelessness

In this first episode of Dustbowl Diatribes, Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson explain why they chose “Dustbowl Diatribes” as the title of this podcast, why Spencer made the trailer the way he did, and introduce themselves. Along the way, they bring up some issues this podcast will get into — climate change and how we’re all unable to act effectively to cope with it, what Christian responsibility and response might look like, why we have such a hard time doing anything to fix our social and environmental problems despite such tremendous activity that we can dream of colonizing Mars or building space colonies.

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Introducing Dustbowl Diatribes

Spencer Hess and I (Laurie Johnson) are getting ready to launch our new podcast, Dustbowl Diatribes, with a discussion of the US Dustbowl in the 1930’s in all its ramifications. But this isn’t a history podcast. The dustbowl symbolizes a slow moving disaster–environmental, economic, spiritual, political–which is materializing even now. We will be getting at this topic at first through an examination of Hannah Holleman’s Dustbowls of Empire, 2018.

The Dustbowl isn’t just a strange episode in environmental history in the US in the 20th Century–it is an ongoing phenomenon and a sign of things to come. We are here to help you get ready.

If all goes well, our first episode will come out at the end of March or in early April!