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Could Bulldozing 50 US Cities Boost Economy, Green Up Urban Sprawl?

We’re all glaringly aware of the economic status here in the U.S. It hurts, and no one appears to be exempt. Individuals are strapped for cash and losing their homes left and right, banks and big businesses are faltering, and even cities and states are buckling and filing for bankruptcy. So, what do we do to improve the state of the nation? Where do we begin?

While some of us may have flippantly thought, “Let’s just level the place and start from scratch,” others are seriously considering this course of action. It may seem a bit extreme, but delving into the topic actually provides some insight into what could happen if we revert some of our deteriorating, money-sapping cities back into natural expanses of earth.

The idea originated in Flint, Michigan, former home of General Motors, where unemployment is at a staggering 20 percent. Areas of the city are thoroughly depressed, and local politicians have estimated that if they don’t reduce the size of the town by 40 percent, they’ll need to file bankruptcy in the very near future. The plan, which has become known on a more national spectrum as Shrink to Survive, would involve razing major portions of the city where nothing seems to be thriving but unemployment, poverty and crime. The newly created void would then be reverted to natural land - open expanses of fields or manmade forests.

Dan Kildee, the county treasurer who oversees Flint, Michigan, has been approached by President Obama’s administration to see if their method of resolving the local economic crisis would work in other areas of the nation. Many of the cities Kildee is focusing on are former industrial hotspots that have since grown cold and dysfunctional. They are places where major industries once thrived but have long since shut down operations. The empty factories are now surrounded by depressed neighborhoods with severely decreased populations as former workers relocate in droves to find employment.

Some of the major cities that top the list of possible Shrink to Survive projects include Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Memphis. The size reduction plans for these cities, if they are indeed chosen, would not decimate them completely, but take major problem areas of the metropolis and return them to their natural state. Officials and environmentalists say that this could not only be an answer to some of our nation’s pressing economic problems, but would also help increase the quality of life of the city’s nearby residents, giving them cleaner, cooler air and providing them with more green space and less urban sprawl.

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