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Small, Gritty, and Green

Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America's Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World

Catherine Tumber
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Small, Gritty, and Green
    Book Description:

    America's once-vibrant small-to-midsize cities -- Syracuse, Worcester, Akron, Flint, Rockford, and others -- increasingly resemble urban wastelands. Gutted by deindustrialization, outsourcing, and middle-class flight, disproportionately devastated by metro freeway systems that laid waste to the urban fabric and displaced the working poor, small industrial cities seem to be part of America's past, not its future. And yet, Catherine Tumber argues in this provocative book, America's gritty Rust Belt cities could play a central role in a greener, low-carbon, relocalized future.As we wean ourselves from fossil fuels and realize the environmental costs of suburban sprawl, we will see that small cities offer many assets for sustainable living not shared by their big city or small town counterparts, including population density and nearby, fertile farmland available for new environmentally friendly uses.Tumber traveled to twenty-five cities in the Northeast and Midwest -- from Buffalo to Peoria to Detroit to Rochester -- interviewing planners, city officials, and activists, and weaving their stories into this exploration of small-scale urbanism. Smaller cities can be a critical part of a sustainable future and a productive green economy.Small, Gritty, and Greenwill help us develop the moral and political imagination we need to realize this.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30270-8
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Beloved Communities, Benighted Times
    (pp. xv-xxxvi)

    Growing up in a small upstate New York farming village, I regularly took bus trips with my mom and little sister into “the city”: Syracuse. Like most other non-urban white middle-class families in the early 1960s, we had one car, which my dad drove to work. So we would buy our tickets at the village pharmacy, board the bus, and barrel though miles of farmsteads and sparsely developed land until we reached the short stretch of highway into town. A half-hour after departing we would disembark in Syracuse’s vibrant downtown, all glittering lights and vertical planes, filled with haberdashers and...

  5. 1 Against “Shapeless Giantism”
    (pp. 1-22)

    Self-described “environmental Nazi” Julie Backenkeller is preoccupied with an issue New Yorkers don’t have to think much about: whether to put dead deer in the city landfill.¹ In 2002, the dreaded chronic wasting disease that had been imperiling deer herds in the western states for several decades hit Wisconsin hard. The only way to control the always fatal neurological ailment is to kill the afflicted creatures, but there’s a hitch: the disease is spread through the ingestion of prions, rogue proteins that are responsible for such disorders as the better-known mad cow disease. The best way to destroy prions is...

  6. 2 Megadreams and Small City Realities: Trafficking in Transportation Planning
    (pp. 23-36)

    “Washington sent money to Baghdad to builditselectric grid,” Hunter Morrison says to me emphatically across a conference table in his Youngstown State University (YSU) office. “That’s money that could have gone to smaller industrial cities to restoretheirinfrastructure.”¹ I’m at the tail end of a weeklong fall 2009 trip to Ohio while recovering from swine flu, but Hunter holds my steady attention. I had already spent two days in Youngstown, learning about the status of the city’s path-breaking comprehensive land use plan, Youngstown 2010, designed to reshape the shrinking city for a more productive, sustainable post-steel-industry future...

  7. 3 “It Takes the Whole Region to Make the City”: Agriculture on the Urban Fringe and Beyond
    (pp. 37-64)

    We are a long way from Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin now. It’s April 2009, and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design is hosting a three-day conference, Ecological Urbanism: Alternative and Sustainable Cities of the Future. This interdisciplinary gathering of faculty, students, and urban practitioners from across the globe marked a turning point for the school. Until now, its identity had been inseparable from the renowned Spanish architect José Luis Sert, who served as dean from 1953 to 1969. Sert, who was mentored by Le Corbusier and later served as president of the Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne, was a European...

  8. 4 Framing Urban Farming
    (pp. 65-88)

    In her wry 2009 memoirFarm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella Carpenter lends a touch of cultural history to today’s agricultural turn. Novella was born in the 1970s to an earnest hippie couple who tried their hands at country living and organic farming. They split up when Novella was only four years old. She attributes the demise of her parents’ marriage to rural isolation and loneliness. Learning a lesson from all this, Novella and her auto mechanic boyfriend, Bill, set up their farm—which consists mainly of meat animals and bees—on a forsaken piece of land...

  9. 5 Making Good: Renewables and the Revival of Smaller Industrial Cities
    (pp. 89-118)

    Driving on the back roads of Illinois from Peoria to Rockford one gray November afternoon in 2009, I got a little lost. It’s easy to grow disoriented when you’re surrounded on all sides by mile upon mile of cornfields. (It’s not unlike getting lost in unfamiliar suburban tract neighborhoods.) But I had also been distracted by the rise of windmills over the distant horizon—enormous things reaching more than three hundred feet into the sky. Eventually I spent ten minutes driving through the forest of tall white posts, their blades gently sweeping the sky, before seeing them recede in my...

  10. 6 Roots of Knowledge: Local Economics, Urban Scale, and Schooling for Civic Renewal
    (pp. 119-140)

    “They care more about what’s going on in Nicaragua than in Springfield just thirty miles down the road,” Bob Forrant tells me in a deep grizzled voice over the phone. “Not that there’s anything wrong with studying Nicaragua, but still …” The former machinist-turned-academic-historian is talking about his graduate studies alma mater and former employer, the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His 2009 book,Metal Fatigue,explores the historical anatomy of the metalworking trades in the lower Connecticut River Valley, from its earliest Revolutionary War days making munitions for the Springfield Armory to the closure of the area’s last large machine...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 141-174)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 175-194)
  13. Index
    (pp. 195-212)
  14. Series List
    (pp. 213-216)