Thursday, April 2, 2009

Does History Repeat?

For a long time I have been interested in the American Southwest. It probably goes all the way back to the time I first experienced the scent of rain on the desert in 1944, but I did not get really serious about it until I was adult.

As I became aquainted with the "ancient" ruins, through first-hand observation as well as reading everything I could find on the subject, I was amazed by their quantity throughout the Southwest.

I thought that there must have been a fantastic number of people to have created so many permanent structures. I have come to realize rather recently in my life that these "permanent" edifices were not so permanent after all. They simply last a long time in the mild, dry climate of the area.

The many, many stone buildings, caves, and such structures would be used over a period of time, then, for varying reasons, among them the depletion of resources, or sometimes climate change, the people would move away to build other structures elsewhere, leaving the old buildings to fall into decay, but making a permanent mark on the landscape.

When I first moved to the town where I now live, it was a small town, under 10,000 people. The business area was clustered around the courthouse square, traditional for small county seats. Now the town has more or less tripled in population, but the number of buildings has increased much more than that. I will mention banks, because at first there were only a couple, whereas now they build at least that many every six months or so.

It's not peculiar to my little town, it seems to be happening everywhere. Big box stores seem to follow some sort of mathematically determined grid pattern. There seem to be far more than should be justified under the old standards we grew up with.

Shopping centers and malls are built, and used for a time, then new ones are built, and the shoppers are attracted to the new ones, leaving the old ones to deteriorate. The number of outmoded shopping centers seems to increase yearly.

I'm wondering if someday, some young man will be observing our towns and think that there must have been a fantastic number of people living here, but it looks all run-down and dead now. Where did all the people go?

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