“Nowhere” is Really “Somewhere”
[imgbelt img=collins1.jpg]I dream that rural people gain power in developing their potential and self-sufficiency.
[imgcontainer ] [img:collins1.jpg] [source]Timothy CollinsAutumn scene from “Somewhere” in McDonough County, Illinois
“They’re going to build it, and it’s out in the middle of nowhere!”
When you’ve awakened from a dream where you’re explaining why rural areas and communities are important, you can tell your life’s work is on your mind. This is especially true if rural places are your passion and some of your city friends wonder why you’ve chosen to live out there “in the middle of nowhere.”
Here’s the dream: I am trying to explain to an urban-oriented economic developer why working with a village of, say, 300 residents is not a waste of resources. (The dream actually mirrored a conversation at a party the night before. Can you see any unresolved issues here?)
Certainly the U.S. has a long history of small towns rising, falling, and enduring. This cycle can be problematic because it is so wasteful. But it is fact, the result of natural resource depletion, changing agriculture, and seemingly constant migration of people throughout our country’s history.
The rising and falling and enduring of rural areas is based on chance, location, natural resources, leadership, and a host of other factors. Places can and do die, but the real issue is whether the residents who decide to stay behind should have a voice in choosing to survive.
In all too many cases, places die because of a decision made by someone else who lives somewhere else. In the big picture, political, economic, and cultural patterns reinforce an urbanizing geography of sprawl, what some people call “uneven development,” that is occurring the world over. This is the larger sweep of events whose forces typically combine, conglomerate, and obliterate small places and disperse people into places that are larger and centralized. These processes inexorably create urban “somewheres” out of rural “nowheres” all in the name of economies of scale.
Continuing patterns of rural geographic discrimination target people who are a distinct minority with limited voice and resources, especially in the financial and political arena. After all, they live out in the middle of nowhere, far from where the action is. So why should they matter?
We are a nation (and an urbanizing world) facing a connected and incredibly complex series of ecological, political, economic, and cultural crises that may well threaten our existence on the planet. We desperately need to do things differently, because so many people are suffering from hunger, poverty, and lack of access to education, health care, and other social services, as well as good jobs. Healthy communities with high quality of life supplement our rights to have basic needs fulfilled individually and as part of our human and natural commonwealth.
[imgcontainer ] [img:collins2.jpg] [source]Timothy CollinsEarly morning fog in McDonough County, Illinois.