Suburban Land Conversion in the United States: An Economic and Governmental Process

By Marion Clawson | Go to book overview

4
THE NATURE OF THE URBAN IMPACT ON THE RURAL COUNTRYSIDE
Since the primary focus of this book is upon the land conversion process at the expanding suburban fringe of the city, it seems desirable to take a brief overall look at the nature of the urban impact upon the rural countryside. Such impact may be general or indirect, on one hand, or more direct but geographically more limited, on the other. The former is all-pervasive, at least in the United States, while the latter is limited to certain areas of land. Admittedly, direct impact shades into indirect, but considerable differences characterize their purer or simpler forms.A very large city or metropolitan area, such as New York, is virtually worldwide in its economic and social impact. Few regions of the world are wholly immune or oblivious to its influence, and certainly no area in the United States is unaffected by this one large urban concentration, much less by urban centers in general or in total. The Navajo herdsman, the Kentucky hill dweller, the Ozark small farmer, and every other citizen of the United States, however far from cities he may live, is affected in many important though indirect ways by the cities of the United States.In consideration of the effects of the city on American life today, one should distinguish between those which are due to the city as a form of land use or of life, and those which are due solely to the numbers of people involved.1 For instance, one could conceive of the entire population of the United States so evenly spread that each square mile had exactly the same number of persons, yet the total demand for food might be unaffected thereby. On the other hand, the city has special manifestations, particularly in terms of information, ideas, and communications, which would be greatly different if the same total population were thinly spread over much larger areas. The real policy issues concerning the future may turn on the degree of population concentration rather than on such matters as uniform distribution.Throughout history, and in the United States today, cities (large cities in particular) have exerted important indirect effects upon rural areas. Among them have been and are these:
1. The city is a market for the food, fiber, wood products, and other output of
____________________
1
The literature on the city is voluminous. A few publications that are particularly related to land use are listed at the end of the chapter.

-47-

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