Saturday, February 18, 2012

“Lange, in 1939, recorded a great American exodus from farm to city. Not long after that, the cities too were hemorrhaging population, and American society now is feeling the effects that are far-reaching, equally dramatic, and just as damaging to society and individuals: the white flight from the city, the post-World War II planting of suburbia on former farmlands. Today there are fewer farms and farmers. As farmers retire, often they are not succeeded by the younger generation. Subdivisions are cropping up way out in the countryside, one or two hours’ commute from new residents’ jobs. Many small towns are now in trouble; main street businesses are losing ground to chain stores outside downtown, like Walmart, Kmart, and Home Depot. In the arid West, such national trends are complicated by conflicts over water rights and use, between farmers and nonfarmers, farm and city, city and city. These are familiar stories, but it is one thing to know about them, another to visit hundreds of places, one after another, to experience the consequences firsthand, and to appreciate the scope of change. The nation is being remade on a vast scale.”

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