A Proposal: Page Five
Urban dwellers increasingly gaze upon the countryside with a sense of entitlement. It is conceived, in important ways, as a resource for relaxation and leisure. A respite from the efforts of work. To that end, a new dimension of the landscape that fulfills an aesthetic vision that is largely urban, though not entirely, has evolved. With political power located primarily in large population centers, the near certainty of the urban view prevailing is compelling.

The hard work on the land, with its inevitable unsightliness, spills and smells, is barely tolerated in the 21st century landscape. Neighbors of large hog farms have little trouble convincing modern legislators that the operations are unsightly, odorous, and a nuisance. Though that may make common sense in today's legislature, it's questionable that the argument would have prevailed in an earlier time.

The significant change in the ownership and operations of farms from family proprietorship to industrial ownership and management has accelerated these trends. In the past, the social fabric of the countryside rested upon reciprocity. Despoliation such as pollution draining from a neighboring farm were dealt with in a local environment of church, schools, and neighbors. Though there were always appeals to the legislature and the courts, the issues were resolved in terms that were usually agreeable to the rural residents. City dwellers looked to the countryside for food, fabric, and fuel. Additionally, the 19th and 20th century rural values of simplicity, self-sufficiency, hard work, neighborliness and religious piety were enshrined as overarching national values. In those times it was the cities that stank, from the rural point of view.
Women and children clearing brush, Union County.Morris Library, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Collected by Jane Adams, 1991.
Slack Pile (coal spoils) Herrin, Illinois, Arthur Rothstein 1939 FSA/OWI, Library of Congress.
Unemployed miners on a street corner. Johnston City, January, 1939. Arthur Rothstein, FSA, Library of Congress.
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