[Source: Joel Kotkin, reprinted in Arizona Republic] — As the financial crisis takes down Wall Street, the regular folks on Main Street are biting their nails, watching the toxic tsunami head their way. But for all our nightmares of drowning in a sea of bad mortgages, foreclosed homes, and shrunken retirement plans, the truth is that the effects of this meltdown won’t be all bad in the long run. In one regard, it could offer our society a net positive: Forced into belt-tightening, Americans are likely to strengthen our family and community ties and to center our lives more closely on the places where we live.
This trend toward what I call “the new localism” has been underway for some years, driven by changing demographics, new technologies, and rising energy prices. But the economic downturn will probably accelerate it as individuals and corporations look not to the global stage but closer to home, concentrating and congregating on the Main Streets where we choose to live -– in the suburbs, in urban neighborhoods, or in small towns.
In his 1972 bestseller, “A Nation of Strangers,” social critic Vance Packard depicted the United States as “a society coming apart at the seams.” He was only one in a long cavalcade of futurists who have envisioned an America of ever-increasing “spatial mobility” that would give rise to weaker families, childlessness, and anonymous communities. Packard and others may not have been far off for their time: In 1970, nearly 20% of Americans changed their place of residence every year. But by 2004, that figure had dropped to 14%, the lowest level since 1950. Americans born today are actually more likely to reside near their place of birth than those who lived in the 19th century. Part of this is due to our aging population, because older people are far less likely to move than those under 30. But more limited economic options may intensify this phenomenon while bringing a host of social, economic, and environmental benefits in their wake. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
To a crowd of 150 — including Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs — Donovan Rypkema, Principal of Place Economics and well-known speaker on preservation issues, addressed “The Role of Preservation in Sustainable Development” at a National Preservation Month event on May 6 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix.
Rypkema corrected the popular notion that green buildings and sustainable development are synonyms — they are not. He was complimentary of Phoenix, especially commending four organizations and people that “get it” — as in understanding how preservation adds to the vitality of any community and makes economic (and sustainable) good sense.
This event was sponsored by the Capitol Mall Association in Phoenix with support from the Arizona Preservation Foundation, Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, Arizona Department of Commerce Main Street Program, and City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office.