American Plenty

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  • In this program, Simon Schama explores how American optimism about the infinite possibilities of its land and resources is in danger of coming to a grinding halt. Nowhere is this more evident than in the West, which is now in the grip of a nine-year drought. The Hoover Dam, built to provide irrigation for farming and for the new city of Las Vegas, now no longer supplies enough water for both. In 1980 Ronald Reagan's positivity about American plenty defeated Jimmy Carter's campaign for self-restraint, but in the 2008 presidential election, neither candidate can ignore the challenges facing America as it enters an era of limits.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on January 16, 2013.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Closed-captioned.


  • Running out of Infinity (2:29) -- Colorado River Shortage (2:22) -- America's Westward Expansion (2:14) -- Oregon Trail (2:45) -- Investment in the West (1:17) -- Exploring the Colorado River (1:58) -- Humbled by the Grand Canyon (3:03) -- Powell, Wyoming (1:50) -- Mining the West (1:22) -- A New Source of Wealth (1:25) -- Conquering Arid America (2:46) -- Constructing Hoover Dam (2:50) -- A Man Made Disaster (2:58) -- Oklahoma Dust Bowl (2:38) -- Okies Migrate West (3:26) -- Greening the Desert (1:43) -- Age of Mass Consumption (2:02) -- Debate over American Plenty (2:57) -- Facing Limited Resources in America (3:25) -- Friction over Water Rights (2:38) -- Tapping into American Resourcefulness (1:29) -- Credits: American Plenty: The American Future (0:39)
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