Reviving Our Abandoned Small Towns
Across the U.S., our rural communities have become littered with boarded up shops and decaying homes. Many communities that were once centers of manufacturing are now known more as centers of unemployment and opioid addiction, with little to offer their current citizens, let alone the next generation. What would it take to revive the spirit of innovation, hard work, and dedication to making things that are built to last—in other words, the values of craftsmanship—that once built these communities? Could this spawn a kind of American Renaissance? We dedicate our first issue of 2022 to investigating these questions.
Two small-town Cold War facilities—one in Maine, another in South Carolina—each attempted to chart a peacetime future. One became a hub for green and high-tech industry; the other turned into a corrupt, nuclear boondoggle trapped in the past. What made them take such different paths?
By TAYLOR BARNES
The town of John Day sits in the middle of Oregon’s High Desert country, threaded by an abused river, surrounded by a dying timber industry, and getting hotter and drier every year. Enter Nick Green, a new city manager, with grand, out-of-the-box ideas about rural sustainability. Can his vision survive?
by JULIET GRABLE
For generations, the Isbell family of Arkansas has been tinkering with innovations in rice farming. They were the first American farmers to grow elite varieties of rice for sushi and sake, and have pioneered rice cultivation methods that can conserve water and slow climate change.
Story by DAVID RAMSEY
Photography by KAT WILSON
For a brief time in the mid-1970s, a British economist named E.F. Schumacher changed the conversation across the Western world with a daring book entitled “Small Is Beautiful.” Schumacher argued that the push for endless growth was destroying the foundations of meaningful work, and it was doomed to fail. Although Schumacher died before he could develop his ideas, a center founded in his name has tried to continue his legacy. Might his message be even more timely today?
By BRYCE T. BAUER
Other Topics In This Issue
An homage, in film, to a third-generation Italian artisan who is the last maker of the traditional, handcarved wooden shapes used as hat blocks.
Story and Film by LUISA GROSSO
More from this Issue
Written by JACK SHULER
Photography by ANDREW FEIGHT