Tuesday, September 6, 2011

U. S. Ghost Towns

We had been talking about Canada’s rural areas becoming ghost towns.  Well we are having the same problem in the United States. We don’t want to leave Canadian or Mexican ghost towns feeling lonely.
This new round of discussions was started by the news that the town of Scenic, South Dakota was up for sale.  As Forbes Magazine put it:
Clare O’Connor, Forbes, 27 July 2011
For less than the price of a one bedroom apartment in much of Manhattan, you can buy a whole town in South Dakota. The catch: it’s right on the edge of the remote Badlands, 50 miles from the nearest town of any size. The population is 9.
The totality of Scentic, South Dakota
Granted that the few pictures you pick up of the town make it look an awful lot like a town that was turned into a tourist attraction, and that there are still a few people living there.  But it does look like the type of place where you could get into a ghostly poker game (video).
United States rural population has decreased to just 16% percent of total population, a 20% decrease (.04/.20) since just 2000.  Cities, particularly smaller metro areas in Arizona, California, and Texas all grew 11% overall during this time frame.   The suburbs (considered urban)  now making up 51% of the population.  These increases in overall urban numbers occurred even with the big declines in some of the large cities in the old industrial Midwest and Northeast.
Daily Mail Reporter, 28 July 2011 (hat tip: Leibowitz Society)
Vast swathes of the U.S. countryside are emptying and communities becoming ghost towns...
'Some of the most isolated rural areas face a major uphill battle, with a broad area of the country emptying out,' said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau, a research group in Washington, D.C.
'Many rural areas can't attract workers because there aren't any jobs, and businesses won't relocate there because there aren't enough qualified workers. So they are caught in a downward spiral.'
Areas like the Great Plains in the central U.S. and Appalachia in the East, along with parts of the South and Texas, could face the most significant population declines, demographers say.  These places suffered some of the biggest losses over the past decade as young adults left and the people who stayed got older, moving past childbearing years.
Rural towns are scrambling to attract new residents and stave off heavy funding cuts from financially strapped federal and state governments.
As we discussed earlier with the Argentinean ghost towns that collapsed during their economic crises, the threat of losing connective services threatens to put them finally over the edge (same source):
Delta Air Lines recently announced it would end flight service to 24 small airports, several of them in the Great Plains, and the U.S.
The U.S. Postal Service is mulling plans to close thousands of branches in mostly rural areas of the country.
The loss of essential services makes the idea of some form of homestead farming that much more difficult.  Granted a completely self-sustaining homestead does not in theory need services: but they do need to pay taxes.  Modern service methods are generally less time consuming, and sometime less expensive as well.  Important considerations when you need to earn enough money to pay your taxes.
Of course in the case of the Mexican rural ghost town, you are looking at more of an apocalypse-in-progress type situation, rather than a demographic-financial one.


PioneerPreppy said...

I imagine it will get worse as gas prices increase as well. We will see.

russell1200 said...

Global warming issues aside, the price of gasoline going up is not going to help anyone.

I would be inclined to agree with you, but if you listen to Kunstler, he seems to think that peak oil will bring back a return to small town rural America circa the late 19th century.

I guess it is a matter of how much the price goes up and what adjustment we make. Obviously the de-industrialization of agriculture would put more people back in the countryside. But to my mind they would be as likely to be in work camps (circa the way we treat migrant workers now) than in quant little villages (circa Upstate New York 1890).

The obvious loser to high gas prices would be suburbia. Particularly the farther out reaches of suburbia. One item of note, is that around here, when they do run bus services or other massive transit methods out to the suburbs, they tend to anchor it on the small towns that are now bedroom communities.

PioneerPreppy said...

I can see both sides of that answer I guess. Depending on the area it could go either way I guess but I had suburbia in mind when I commented this morning.

Like out in the desert Southwest any small towns there are almost certainly recent hubs serving suburbia and not the remnants of a dying small town any longer. However in agricultural area it may actually cause small farming communities to once again grow.

Anonymous said...

Someone could set it up as a massive paintball war zone... gotta put together a business plan and find the right kind of bankster to fund that.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer- As a matter of terminology, the suburbs where they plop a few businesses in the middle of them, don't get referred to as towns around here. Probably because we have enough of the original market-mill based towns that they get associated with the closest one of that type.

The confusion reminds me of when someone from out west asked me once if our Lake was a real lake or a reservoir. I had no clue what he meant. All our lakes in the Carolinas are reservoirs. NC and SC each have one "real" lake, and neither is particulary impossong.

So now that I see what you meant, we seem to be in agreement on suburbia.

You might get small town reviving. But they werre built during a time of economic growth. The platation-gang style of farm has been just as common as the small rural homestead farm in history. I don't know which (or either) would be the more likely to return. The progessive movement came out of the U.S. Farms because the small farms were always fighting the big business monopolies who were trying to keep their supply costs down. I do not know how that all plays otu today.


LOL- The Feds can lend the money to the Wall Street bankers wives: provided they don't have to pay any of it back.