Saturday, April 03, 2010

U.S. cities establish plague-like record in population loss

A pandemic of destruction has struck a “nation within a nation -- the entire Great Lakes Nation,” says Hunter Morrison, director of Youngstown State University’s Office of Planning and Partnership.

Dozens of American cities in that area – places like Cleveland, Youngstown, Detroit, Warren, and Buffalo -- have lost half of their populations over the course of one generation. This is the first time that so many cities have lost so many people in such a short time since the Plague struck Europe in 1348, according to Morrison’s study of the health of global cities over the century.

America is more interested in building Baghdad and Kabul than it is in assuring the vitality of its own cities, writes Richard A. McCormick in a Manufacturing & Technology News article on Morrison’s study.

Morrison, former director of the Cleveland City planning department for 20 years, looked for trends worldwide in which a large number of cities have fallen into disrepair, including:

-- Great Britain, when deindustrialization struck places like Newcastle, Glasgow, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Belfast.

-- Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, leading to expectations that millions of people would abandon dilapidated Eastern European cities.
None of these areas experienced the U.S passivity toward devastation in the U.S. Midwest, McCormack writes. “Other countries understood how vital it was for their cities to remain healthy. They committed themselves and the resources required to keep their old cities vibrant. No such attitude prevailed in the United States.”

What needs to be done to turn the situation around?

“A way to address a problem is to recognize that you have one," says Morrison. "It's not Cleveland's problem or Elyria's problem. It's not saving Cleveland. It's the way we operate as a nation -- a nation of places. What has been brought to the table is that deindustrialization is something that is good because it is cleaner. But it is nothing of the sort. It is a diminution of wealth creation.

“If deindustrialization was such a good thing, then why is China industrializing? The reason you do manufacturing is to create wealth by adding value. It's real simple. We've gone away from that."

In another article in the same issue, a California industrialist worries that it may not be long before Silicon Valley resembles the once-thriving area of the Shenango River Valley in deindustrialized western Pennsylvania.

American failure to deal with the obsolescence of its major inner cities creates many cruelties. One is to blame the unhappy results on the blacks and other minorities left behind.

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