Highways and trucks rendered the shortline railroad obsolete. When timber was plentiful and the coal mines flourished, a railroad ran a spur out to their location. But as the logging and mining operations became smaller in size at the outset of a new section, laying a new track was not a viable option. Rubber tires on dirt and gravel roads made more sense.
Industries moved leaving the human settlements behind. With a decimated income from labor, the towns dried up leaving only the most vulnerable people behind. Children left their families to follow work wherever it could be found.
"My own children will go, as soon as they grow, for there is nothing here now to hold them." North county Blues. Bob Dylan.
Today some American towns rely heavily on the Social Security checks, public assistance, and the pensions of aging residents. There is no industry there to create local wealth from commerce. All the money that does come into the town is spent externally in distant places. The grocery store is located 20 miles or more away and is operated by a national chain that sells items processed far away. All the money spent there leaves the community not to return. Gasoline and heating fuel is the same. A foreign supplier, international price speculators, regional distributors take away all the money spent on energy. Telecomm companies suck away another share. Doctors and pharmacies take more away from the community. While all these enterprises are essential to the people who live in the community, they do nothing for the sustainability of the community. As far as each of these enterprises is concerned, a person equals one person, no matter where he lives. He will eat as much, drink as much, heat his home as much and need the same pharmaceuticals. The place that the people consider home is not important to the businesses.
Human settlements must possess a reason to exist. Old reason may disappear and not have a replacement. Those settlements will eventually disappear. If a new reason to exist is found and cultivated then survival of the settlement may be maintained.
With all due respect to the hopes and desires of the people who remain, the mere desire to remain in their accustomed homes is not a reason to exist. If they have the capital to sustain their place, they can fund the continuation of that place. No one else will care nor be willing to pay for it.
In 1989, Actress Kim Basinger put up $20 Million to buy the town of Braselton, GA. Her own financial status went sour and she sold her interest in the town to a developer in 1993. See Wikipedia: Braselton, GA, for details. The idea was to make a tourist destination and the town should flourish. It didn't. The developer still has not made a viable destination 20 years later.
There were the Main Streets grants in the 1990s that were supposed to revitalize small towns and economically depressed areas. The money was given to repave main street business strips, do sidewalk and streetscape improvements. The thought was that a capital investment in the infrastructure would make the place attractive again. They were wrong. If the main street had no reason to exist, the money failed to create one. Decay once again consumed the business district. Some towns did prosper as the result of the grant capital, but the landscape is littered with its failures.
Other blog posts that are related in a Series
Community, Reasons to Exist, The Making of Place This is the introductory section
reason-to-exist Every town, village city and region originally had a reason to exist.
todays-reasons-to-exist Every community needs a a reason today for its continued existance. Otherwise it will wither and die.
factors-that-are-missingThe economic system we use today removes critical factors tat allow a community to stay vital.
a-shared-historyThe people of a community need a sared history to stay cohesive as a community.
sustainable-community all of the essential factors must remain present for a community to continue its existance.
sustainable-infrastructure We built a lot of roads, bridges, wires and pipes. Now they have all gotten old and fragile.
sustainable-unemployment As manufacturing and the services industries ccontinue to evolve, human labor and attentjon is diminised. We need to devise a society where most people do not labor for their living.
sustainable-consumerism A balance between product durability and its replacement neds to be reached in order for an equilibrium to be reached.
sustainable-populations The human population cannot continue on its present trajectory without a terrible price to pay in the coming decades and century.
suburban-sprawl Sprawl is only possible when tere is ample buildable land and ample resources available to service thiose locations.
complete-streets Our transportation ways are not just for the automobile. People must walk, bike, and use other modes of transport on tose public rights of way.
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