Cloning America Part II

Reproduced below is part II of an essay that sheds some light on current agricultural issues that no doubt affect the bees. Part III will appear later.

Cloning America: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Rewrite History Part II

“Approved by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors in May 2000, NH 2020 was intended as a community-based, participatory effort to respond to the perceived risk of ‘losing the natural and scenic qualities that distinguish [Nevada County] from other more urbanized regions of the state and country. In a country dominated demographically and economically by exurban immigrants who came for just these qualities, NH 2020 might have been expected to raise little controversy” (Walker and Fortmann 470).

However, conflict and backlash over real estate and existing natural spaces emerged. The conflict showed itself in the papers and in public meetings. Residents didn’t want their county government interfering with a mandate disguised as a blessing. They were disgusted at the thought of their landscapes morphing into suburbs that would squelch pre-existing rural industries such as timber, mining and fishing under the guise of environmentalism. This concept of taming wilderness for a more harmonious co-existence with nature couldn’t be more paradoxical. NH 2020 was sold to Nevada County as a makeover in the name of historical aesthetics. It concerned itself only with the visual beauty of days past. In other words, the exurbs to be erected would be outfitted with suburban staples like waterfalls, fountains, iron gates, supposedly traditional architecture and perfectly sculpted sod. (It should be noted that one factor affecting the bees is the suburban tendency to compete for best lawn and landscape. Pristine lawns, tailored and groomed with pesticides and all appear like deserts to bees). A Each new exurban lot and house would serve as a monument to misconceptions, misunderstandings and romanticized history.

“Many ‘locals’ feel a sense of loss of their community, and accuse in-migrants of a lack of understanding and respect for traditional culture, property rights, and livelihoods. One particularly divisive issue, for example, is the question of harassment of livestock by exurban pets. Many in-migrants purchase ‘working’ dogs as part of their rural visions (border collies are a popular choice). Ranchers bitterly complain that exurbanites fail to understand that unless they are given work, these dogs ‘find their own work’ by harassing livestock” (Walker and Fortmann 479).

It wouldn’t be long before monuments of convenient shopping and global capitalism appeared in intentionally zoned juxtaposition to these exurban landscapes. Wal-Marts, Targets and Starbucks seems to be the only traces of urbanization that these new, ambitious residents yearn for. The plan completely ignores the practicality of rural spaces and seeks only to build new borders; more physical and economical partitions for residents to know where exactly they are and further mutate their own identities.

Ironically, the opponents of NH 2020 are the ancestors of American pioneers that executed a takeover of landscapes from the Native American population. The westward migration tackled new frontiers at the expense of entire civilizations. They built their own edifices, planted their own crops and implemented their own European ideas of industry. But, does recreating this pattern in a postmodern context somehow wipe away the ghosts of the past or the sins of our fathers?

The pattern is hardly isolated in Nevada County. As we catapult into the 21st century, almost every major American city is experiencing exurban migration and, therefore, urban gentrification. New York, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, Orlando – the list goes on. At one time, all these locations boasted bustling downtowns with vibrant and diverse culture. For better or worse, these cities were the great American melting pots. Now, they resemble ghost towns. Every skyscraper is like a hatched eggshell waiting to be occupied by some gargantuan national bank. As racism and bigotry towards the lower classes persist, the affluent whites are leaving their beloved urban spaces for a more customized reality in the exurbs – erected just for them. Fearing they will be relegated to the dreaded lower-middle class by remaining in the cities, families are fleeing to exurban paradises. There is a stigma attached to almost every postmodern American couple that doesn’t enjoy a house, two cars and 2.5 children by their early 20s. Meanwhile, the homeless and the remaining ethnic concentrations still inhabit the metropolis, which affects aesthetics, tourism rates and revenue.

So, gentrification is the only option left to the baffled suits responsible for urban planning. Millions of dollars are poured into a city center or some other specific region. They get new restaurants, new walkways, new billboards and new monuments for convenient shopping that curiously resemble those exurban mega-marts mentioned above. Once again, the America of old is cloned. Its only upgrade exists within the realm of capitalism. Meanwhile, the familiar signs of poverty and inequality stretch from the point of gentrification to the cities’ outskirts. It’s as if the powers that be only cater to certain American citizens. Then again, it’s always been that way.

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