Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why have we created cities we do not care about?

The prevalence of suburban ghost towns dotting the nation is skyrocketing. This is due to various reasons, however, much of this trend is due to our tendency to continue to build and develop outward -- in sites which are situated on virgin land. This movement toward decentralization has had various impacts for the sustainability of a city's life span and has resulted in city abandonment all throughout the nation and beyond. I believe our haste to leave these deteriorating cities behind is rooted in our inability to maintain the basic vitality of these communities. Similar to how the threat of the atomic bomb contributed to the dispersal of urban centers in post World War America, failing infrastructure and lack of investment in major cities and towns has further fueled this dispersal to areas which are deemed more promising today.
Growing up in Chicago, I have very personal ties to the neighborhoods which I have spent the majority of my life. However, the city extends beyond these particular places which are closest to me and it is important to acknowledge that much of the deterioration of the city is actually happening in neighborhoods which are unfamiliar to me. Raised in a fairly affluent middle-class neighborhood on the city's Northwest side, the everyday experiences of those residing on the city's crumbling South and West sides are foreign to me. Regardless of community affiliation, I believe it is extremely crucial to save Chicago from becoming a ghost town, to save us from experiencing a situation similar to what Detroit has found itself in after it's manufacturing economy declined. With the decline of a city comes great social consequences which spill over into surrounding areas and cannot be easily remedied. Massive displacement of those most vulnerable (poor, working class, minority communities) presents a larger social misfortune as they have no where to turn to elsewhere. As these people are forced out of the city and into low-income areas of surrounding towns and suburbs, there begins a downward cycle of middle-class flight to more prosperous areas, causing businesses to invest elsewhere, eventually contributing to the inability of the city to sustain itself. Therefore, urban sustainability not only concerns environmental factors that we may be prone to focus our efforts on, but arguably more importantly, urban sustainability concerns the vitality of the city center itself and its ability to pass it's culture, history, and prosperity onto next generations. 

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