By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Sustainability and the role of smaller cities

Friend of Media Nation Catherine Tumber, with whom I worked at the Boston Phoenix, recently published an important essay in the Boston Review on how revitalizing smaller cities — think New Bedford, Lowell, Lawrence, Holyoke — could help lead to a more sustainable future. She writes:

When it comes to the urban-rural divide, small-to-intermediate-size cities may offer the best of both worlds. For all the rural romanticism of the ’70s-era homesteading movement — or for that matter, the vaunted folksiness of “small-town values,” — urban life has its allure. Smaller cities are large enough to offer the diversity, anonymity, and vibrancy of urban culture, as well as levels of density that offer efficiencies of scale. They are also small enough to maintain proximity to sustainable food production and renewable energy resources.

Well worth reading in full.

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  1. Chris Rich di a study a year or so ago on the role of these ‘gateway cities’ as the study defined them.I envision two possible roles they will have in a sustainable economy.1. Become small hubs for value added food products in tandem with renewed intensive permaculture farming. Did you know the yield on an acre of edible pod peas equals 10 to 15 thousand dollars gross at current prices? Asparagus beds make an early season cash crop in beds for 15 years. The seaweed, ascophyllum nodosum is a superb soil supplement and livestock feed and it is abundant along the mid tide area.Most of these secondary cities aren’t choked by burbs and still have a working rail grid.2. The abundance of old buildings still extent in many of them are well suited for light manufacturing operations pegged to green tech, photovoltaic, wind, hyrdokinetic and so on. I made a clearinghouse for all this at

  2. mediaseth

    Thanks for posting this. I have a link to your blog from mine, and one directly to the essay. We’re trying to re-invent the urban and post-industrial parts of Lynn. Tomorrow, there’s a public hearing on Lynn’s Waterfront Redevelopment Plan, 5pm at City Hall, which is a possibility now that high tension wires are going to be moved to the other side of the Lynnway.

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