Rural Towns Today
Small rural towns used to work quite well, despite, or perhaps because of their remoteness. There was a time when these small rural towns were far more self-contained, and self-reliant. Many used to be thriving communities, but today, few would be considered so. Today, small rural towns are less isolated, have better roads, better transportation, and better telecommunications, yet problems now associated with small rural towns are quite overwhelming, and getting worse.
Some of these rural town problems are:
- many businesses and services are closing down or relocating in cities;
- rural bank branches are closing down;
- they cannot get doctors;
- high school students are required to board in distant cities to get educated;
- cyclones, floods, droughts and bushfires are intensifying and occurring more often;
- crop failures are occurring more frequently;
- water is now permanently in short supply;
- saltation and desertification of farmlands is increasing;
- the costs of operating a farm keep increasing;
- farm debt is increasing;
- income reliability from crops is becoming increasingly tenuous;
- farm failure is increasing;
- more and more farmers are selling up and pulling out;
- towns are facing increasing impoverishment;
- the young adult male suicide rate is amongst the highest in the world.
These problems have occurred for a number of reasons, most of which are traceable to people embracing a less sustainable lifestyle, and the subsequent loss of community functioning and spirit. Money that used to be spent and remained in the community to be re-spent locally, now finds it way to the cities very quickly. And people follow the money. The drift to the city has now become a very serious problem in its own right.
Under the current, left-brain paradigm, many rural towns need greater populations with higher income levels to be comfortably affluent, at a time when rural populations are decreasing, and towns becoming impoverished in a vicious cycle, spiralling downwards. A crop can fail through any one or more of: floods, fires, droughts, locust plagues, fungal damage and market collapse. Crop failure can mean town failure. What makes the problem so devastating for these towns is they do not know what to do about any of their many problems, let alone when all of these problems occur simultaneously and feed off each other. Nor does federal, state or local Government, nor the business sector, nor the churches, nor any other part of mainstream society know how to deal with these worsening problems. They cannot see what is needed, nor do they know what they could be doing for themselves and their towns right now. They can hardly be considered as an example or role model for remote Aboriginal towns to follow.
Return to Sustainability
Solutions for rural towns lie in past understandings. Get the farmers to diversify out of cash crops. Create a local economy by engaging the farmers to supply food locally. Put gardens in back yards, and live in all ways as sustainably as possible. Become more community orientated and community spirited, and do things that a true community would do. Develop community solutions. Become community, not a town of individuals whose common, cohering factor is impoverishment and indebtedness. When community spirit overwhelms people’s sense of individual selfishness, many community solutions spring up spontaneously. Wholistic and sustainable solutions are universal and can be applied on any scale, in any environment.