We have many places in America where the new highway by-passed small towns that then went into serious decline. They did not grow, people (particularly the young) moved away, businesses closed and the town effectively died. New highways are a metaphor for new peoples on the move whom we never thought much about. China is the most spectacular example of a rising power, partially because of its huge population. It is curious. China tried to by-pass the future filled with too many Chinese and limited the number of children a husband and wife could produce. It never worked out for the population of this country is filled with imaginative, hardworking and productive people. There are still some backwaters in China where you can find characters that appear in old National Geographic’s. But, China is a the new nation steaming down a road of its own making and pushing other countries such as the good old U.S. of A. aside while it uses its power to grab for more.
Let me do something rash. I am going to make oil the new highway although it is riding high and has been around for a long, long time. It has by-passed most of America for it is found underground – huge rivers of it at one time. It is a fossil fuel and is not replaceable but has caused many towns to grow smaller, or disappear since oil fuels the highways that dictate where traffic will go.
What bothers me the most is that these small towns – most of America is composed of small towns – are passive and allow “progress” to pass them by. In other words, oil has proved to be their enemy and the not friend they thought it to be. Our transportation system seems to be dieing at the same time it roars along highways that keep on being built. What is needed is another look at small town America that once was emblematic of what America was all about. Slower pace, people knew each other and doors were not locked. The schools were just fine, thank you, and were community centers where everyone flocked to see what the teachers and kids put together.
Perhaps the new oil and highways are the hand held computer type telephone connections that bridge distances and bring families together even while driving down those highways. Even so, what we need is a constant source of energy while at the same time those devoted to oil are willing to destroy our diminishing wilderness and wild life and roil up the seas with off-shore drilling. I don’t know how we miss seeing that sun up in the sky that pours down all the energy we will ever need. Sending up a shuttle into space has not created new highways.