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News ::
The Extinction of a Town
16 Aug 2001
Modified: 22 Aug 2001
A plea for help. My way of life is being destroyed!
A plea for help. My way of life is being destroyed!
Creamy sunlight peers through my blinds as I wake, each part of my room bathing in a soothing white light. It's noon-time, because I like to sleep in, and my house is already hustling and bustling. Downstairs, dishes rattle as my brother cooks up lunch. I can hear the low hum of a computer running in the office, occupied by my diligently-working mother. Outside the sounds of nature fill the air, and the faint noise of cars driving by on Route 110 sounds like the waves of the sea.

It's a normal day for me, really. I live atop a green, forested hill overlooking the town square in the center of town. Along with the squawking of bluejays I can hear as much human activity that a small town of six-thousand people can create. Living close to the square, the occasional fire-horn interrupts the peaceful setting from time to time, and church bells chime routinely at certain hours of the day, but even these small alterations to the music of nature eventually find their place like the sharps and flats of a musical piece.

My olive-green house, an example of Greek renewel architecture that was popular during the Industrial Revolution in my area, is the last house on the left on my dead-end street, leading entrance to a trail system that covers the entire Eastern forest of my Town of Merrimac. Being born in raised here, it almost feels as though I share the same roots as the tall oaks that protect my house like stately guards, reaching down deep into the land. Everything affects me, be it a rock that is there that was not before, or a new color on the trim of the town buildings, not much escapes an eye that could only come from nearly seventeen years of enjoying every single bit of life in the oaken woods, wild fields, and bustling square of Merrimac.

There is something sacred about one's connection with one's land and community. This sanctity and innocence is, however, being destroyed faster than I could have ever imagined in the most horrible of nightmares. The growth rate for my town has been 25% since the 1990 census. Year by year, forest by forest falls to the indiscriminate hell of urban sprawl, as so called middle-class, suburban people move away from the city, invading my community, changing its energy and its feel and its everyday routine. The feeling could only be described as shock that eventually turns to anger, then slowly to resentment, and finally hopelessness.

We the members of the community that have grown roots in this beautiful land together feel this stress, this pain that never leaves our minds, for every time we partake in the normal activities of the day that once filled us with a feeling of place and contentment, we are but reminded of its imminent doom by the sights of subdivisions, condos, apartment complexes, and ramshackle homes with 1-year warranties thrown up on half-acre grandfathered lots for $125,000.

Perhaps it would be a different story if these newcomers cared for the community they were clearly invading. There seems to be no sense of modesty in the sprawler, the young, urban profession (YUPPIE) who builds a boxy sky-blue family home on a cornfield you used to wistfully admire during times of passing. How are we to extend our heartfelt welcome, as we are accustomed to, if our guest is not a guest but a rude individual that busts through our door and parks his belongings on our living room floor? It is a sense of assimilation that makes me feel scared and threatened. I am stuck in a hellish paradox where my entire way of life is being destroyed so people can enjoy my way of life.

The relentless, indiscriminate, unplanned destruction of my town and community is but one example of the sprawl that is destroying all of Massachusetts and the United States. The activist community is focused in the cities, forgetting the rural areas that make up three-forths of this country. Here in the country we do not have the resources of the city. We cannot march, we cannot distribute flyers, we cannot post information, we have no web sites, no catchy slogans or chants, no colleges or nearby campuses to fuel our needs. I certainly cannot, I am only seventeen.

But as a fellow human being, I make a desperate call for aid. I really do not know what exactly it is that I can do, or that anybody can do, to stop the destruction of my way of life, of the small town. It would mean the destruction of the meaning of so many peoples' lives. This is a call-to-action for any rural brothers and sisters who may read this, as well. We must come together, we must fight this assimilation of our lifestyles into middle-class, SUV-driving, lawn-watering, sod-laying, pool-partying suburbanites that treat our very land as the next hip vacation spot! Our way of life will not be traded on the market as a commodity! All I wish is that this cry for help does not fall on deaf ears...
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hopeful futures
22 Aug 2001
It was refreshing to read Aaron Schlosser's impassioned plea for the preservation of the Earth and community (The Encroachment of Suburbia on Wilderness: The Extinction of a Town) . I hope that he is not too discouraged because it is people like him, young as he is, that will encourage conscious awareness of the environmental ecocide currently in progress globally. It is through this awareness that hope for our future as a species lies. Aaron Schlosser seems to be an unusually intelligent and sensitive young man who is a gifted writer with the ability to evoke strong feelings in the reader. His article is provocative, insightful, challenging, sincere, and intelligently written. I hope to read more of his work.