The vastness and isolation of the American West forged a dependence on scarce natural resources—especially water, forests, fish, and minerals. The small towns clustered near these assets were often self-sufficient and culturally distinct. By 1941, mass media, as well as improved transportation and infrastructure, propelled these sequestered settlements into the mass society era. Today, the internet is shaping another revolution, and it promises both obstacles and opportunity. Some formerly prosperous communities struggle to survive, while others attempt to cope with unprecedented growth.
Seeking to understand the impact of a global society on western small towns, the author, Director of the Western Rural Development Center at Utah State University, conducted strategic planning roundtables in thirteen states. The gatherings brought three major concerns to the surface: sustaining natural resources, creating vibrant rural economies, and enhancing educational and employment prospects. Rethinking Rural summarizes characteristics of the isolation, mass society, and global society eras, provides an overview of western environmental history, explores the significant challenges identified during the forum discussions. More importantly, it offers guidance to community leaders, policy makers, and scholars seeking ways to address poverty, increasing inequality, and shifting demographics, as well as resource management and conservation issues.
Photographs / index / 224 pages (2014)