environment sustainability transition towns

Bulldozing your way to sustainability

What do you do if your US suburban sprawl of a town is beyond redemption? That’s a question facing the run-down city of Flint, Michigan. Their response is both innovative and controversial – ‘shrink to survive’.

Flint was the original home of the beleaguered General Motors, and is now in serious decline. As jobs at the car manufacturer have gone, the population has gone too. Unemployment is now at 20%, and the population finds itself spread out across street after street of unsaleable houses.

Now, the city’s police and waste disposal services are still trying to serve an area of 34 square miles, but with only half the people. There aren’t enough people to pay for a service that dispersed, and the city is going bankrupt.

To make the city viable, it needs to contract by 40%. Hence the bulldozers. The council has bought up whole streets in richer areas, and invited people to move, bulldozing the poorer districts that have been left behind. Estates have been returned to meadows and woodland.

It’s a fairly radical step, but the ‘shrink to survive’ approach may be a vital way to re-invigorate the excessive sprawl of American towns, and it is now being considered in 50 different cities.


  1. Love the idea of returning suburban sprawl to meadows and forest. Apparently this has happened naturally in some parts of New England where the original forest has re-encroached on no longer farmed land.
    Sadly I don’t think it is going to happen in London – although I can think of plenty of it outside the North Circular which would benefit from a bit of bulldozer work.

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