Reverse Urbanisation

Posted by Flux on 

9 June 2011

What’s trending now?

Reverse urbanisation.

Lately I have noticed young families, mostly white middleclass professionals, choosing to move out of urban areas and to small towns. But when I started to focus my attention on the trend, I discovered a small stream has started to form, flowing from the cities and winding its way back to the countryside. And not just white middleclass professionals, it seems to be happening far wider than I first suspected.

Why it’s important?

This small trend is noteworthy, since it flays open our ‘so called’ better urban lifestyle, and exposes it’s underbelly and will cause a readjustment in how we think about corporate culture, community and values.

What’s the butterfly effect?

We will have to re-engineer our societies as they spread out across the countryside, from providing high speed internet access to small towns, to increasing basic services. It will require a complete shift in thinking for corporates and governments, that will need to do ‘little large’.

Why does a person have to be in an office building in a city centre to be able to attend a meeting? Why have office buildings at all? What does the small subsistence farmer need? What kind of implements and tools are required for small farms? Should look back into teaching people to use animal labour as seen in an article in NY Times May 2011 entitled, ‘On small farms, hoof power returns’

The pioneers

Two main groups are sparking this trend, young middleclass families and the urban poor

For the young families the reasons vary, but the one thing they all have in common is that it is voluntary. A readjustment of values and a desire for a lifestyle that fits within community is what driving these families to move.

In ‘The Promise of Paradox ‘, 1980, Parker J. Palmer writes:

‘We fear community because we think we will lose ourselves in it, finding our selfhood overpowered by the identity of the group. We pit individuality and community against one another, and of course we choose the former… How did we manage to forget that the self is a moving intersection of many other selves, formed by all the lives that interact and enrich our own? The larger and richer one’s community, the larger and richer the content of the self. Paradoxically, community and individuality go hand in hand: an affluent suburb with many lifestyle options but little community breeds less individuality than a provincial village with few choices but a rich community life.’

30 years later, with the onslaught of the information age, social media dislodging our sense of self and replacing it with an unreachable idealised image, this is more true than ever. The image we portray on our Facebook page is nothing short of a super ego, not our true individual selves (Freud would be proud). But when person relocates to a provincial town or rural area, they would find less options but be forced in a sense into real face to face relationships and community, so creating a deeper sense of self.

‘Firstly it was to raise our kids here, and that Frank would be able to start his own practice here’ Celeste, age 34, Phalaborwa.

‘In the countryside we can teach our kids what community is, we wave too everyone we drive past, we greet people in the shops, start conversations with passersby and so on’ Kobus, age 36 Stilbaai

At the other end the urban poor are slowly leaving cities and returning to farmlands and fishing shores. They have realised the promise of work and wealth turned out to be nothing but an illusion. This according to an article (accessed 13 May 2011) on the Institute for Security Studies’ website, a pan-African applied policy research institute.

The global hot spots

Economically ravaged countries, such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique

From Major urban centres, such as Tshwane, Johannesburg to small ‘weekend’ or ‘holiday’ towns such as Clarence, Rosendal and the garden route.

‘Particularly college towns are the hot real estate market of the future’,
Leonard Sweet, The Dawn Mistaken for Dusk, 2000

And in 2010 topping Forbes’ list of the best places to live and work, are guess what, college towns.

By: Pierre Du Plessis

About Pierre

Pierre is a communicator, a dreamer and a troublemaker. He loves how we are all connected in more astounding ways and more than we ever thought. He is completely obsessed with life in contemporary culture and he wallows in new ideas and marvels at how they can restore and re – create our world.

Image credit: Gallo Images/ Getty Images

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