This is a bit of a rant wondering why the Rust Belt cities are crumbling away, it is about our environment although not in the way that some may think of it. Where we live is our human environment. The problems associated with urban sprawl also affect the natural environment, the further you have to travel to reach your work place, the greater your impact on the environment. Urban sprawl at this time of economic crisis is causing more to look at the societal environment we have created over the past 100 years.
Cities like Cleveland and Detroit appear to have entered the terminal stage of their decline, a self-reinforcing cycle of population loss, crime, blight, and white flight that sends cities into a torpor from which they do not recover. Detroit is resorting to turning off the streetlights in an attempt to auto-amputate the most thinly populated parts of the city – a not-so-subtle way of doing what eminent domain and rampant decay cannot, namely to force the few remaining residents out of neighborhoods that are 75% vacant or more. Detroit gets the most attention but certainly it is not alone. This is a problem everywhere, particularly in the large, older cities of the Midwest and Northeast but also in the logging and mining towns of the West, the depopulated rural South, and points in between. Yet we find it most compelling to watch the big, once-magnificent cities crumble.
Maybe if our cities had more history or a more prominent place in our cultural fabric we would fight for them rather than treating them like a soiled disposable diaper. Or maybe we don't care about them for the usual reasons that we use to identify who the government and our society should and should not fight to protect. When we redefine the city as places for the Negroes, the unwashed poor, the immigrants with their barbarian tongues, "union thugs", and meddling liberals, it does not take a very thorough understanding of American politics and society to recognize why we are letting them rot, and in some cases fighting to accelerate the process, rather than fighting to save them.