Forget about urban sprawl; the new menace facing the U.S. landscape is rural sprawl, according to some experts. In seeking refuge from city life, Americans started by moving to the suburbs; then they started building beyond the suburbs, creating “exurbs”; now, they’re gradually expanding into some of the country’s most remote areas. Growth rates of small towns are outpacing those of big cities, a trend that’s presenting Anytown, U.S.A. with new challenges, ranging from the disappearance of natural areas to radical alterations of local infrastructures, economies, and characters. Chief among these problems are loss of wild spaces and agricultural land, increased traffic, and a lack of adequate sewage systems to filter increasing quantities of waste. As the challenges become more pressing, some are calling for strategic thinking to prevent the kind of unplanned development that led to urban sprawl. But, for the moment at least, such voices are in the minority.
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