A new book argues smaller cities like Peoria should prioritize resiliency, not growth
Smaller cities like Peoria shouldn't be eyeing growth so much as sustainability.
That's the contention of Alan Mallach, a senior fellow with the Center for Community Progress in Washington, D.C. He recently wrote the book Smaller Cities in a Shrinking World: Learning to Thrive Without Growth.
"We've got to realize that the world is changing around us. You see it every day in the papers, but we don't look at the overall picture, whether it's a slowing population growth, the aging of the population, declining economic growth, climate change, all of these things" he said. "And they're going to change the ground rules that we have to be using."
As that pattern continues, he believes megacities will continue to grow larger, and smaller cities will continue to lose population. But Mallach said he believes smaller cities can not only survive tough times, but still come out strong.
He admits it's not easy to sway leaders to shift their mindsets away from growth, and instead towards resiliency.
"It's gonna be a very hard sell, because it requires people to first completely rethink how they're looking at their city's future. And secondly, to start making some really tough decisions and making some really serious investments based on a projection of what's likely to happen in the future," he said.
Mallach said the main argument of his book is for smaller cities to diversify and localize, without cutting themselves off from the larger world. He offers up the example of Peoria using its fertile agricultural soil to shore up food security.
"If you took 2% of the land in Peoria County that's currently being used to grow corn and soybeans, and used that for intensive fruit and vegetable agriculture, you could grow all of the fruits and vegetables that the people of the city of Peoria could consume in the course of the year," he said.
Another example involves exploiting 3D printing and other distributed manufacturing technologies to build up a local industrial base for some goods that's also cost-effective.
"This is about not removing yourself from the global economy, but reducing your dependency on it and building up more of a resilient, sustainable local, economic and energy base," Mallach said.