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In the year 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville, a 26-year-old French nobleman with a genius for observation, visited the U.S. In his account, Democracy in America, one of the greatest of travel books, he characterized the citizens and their New World as "that continent [which] still presents, as it did in the primeval time, rivers that rise from never failing sources, green and moist solitudes, and limitless fields which the plowshare of the husbandman has never turned.... The physical position of the country opens so wide a field that man needs only to be let alone to be able to accomplish prodigies.... Such is the admirable position of the New World that man has no other enemy than himself."
In the year 1959, only 128 years after Alexis de Tocqueville's visit to the "primeval continent," a distinguished American, General Omar Bradley, surveyed his native land. "Year after year our scenic treasures are being plundered by what we call an advancing civilization," reported the general. "If we are not careful we shall leave our children a legacy of billion-dollar roads leading nowhere except to other congested places like those they left behind. We are building ourselves an asphalt treadmill and allowing the green areas of our nation to disappear."
And in the year 2000, after a visit to the U.S. (there were 51 states at that time, including the Virgin Islands) under a study grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (there were eight Rockefeller brothers), Bagamsa Dankwa, a 26-year-old candidate for a doctor of philosophy degree from the Free University of Ghana in Africa, wrote in his resulting doctoral thesis, Men of the Concrete Jungle: "Within the past four decades the population of this teeming country has almost doubled. In 1960 there were but 179 million Americans; there are some 325 million today. More than 35 million of these people are over 65, and the life expectancy of the average male citizen is 74, that of his wife 79. The average family income is $15,000 a year, which is double the 1960 figure. The national average work week is 28 hours. There are 220 million cars on American roads."
After a brief discussion of comparative data in Ghana, Dr. Dankwa continued: "To the American his leisure time has become his most treasured and sizable personal asset. His choice of a job and habitation is primarily influenced by where he will find life most pleasant." Here, in one of the many footnotes that annotate his scholarly text, Dr. Dankwa cited a passage from an article entitled Amenities as a Factor in Regional Growth published in 1954 by the American economist Dr. Edward L. Ullman: "For the first time in the world's history, pleasant living conditions—amenities—instead of more narrowly defined economic advantages are becoming the sparks that generate significant population increase.... In spite of the handicaps of remote location and economic isolation, the fastest growing states are California, Arizona and Florida."
But in the year 2000 prosperity had become a two-edged sword-pleasant living conditions and the amenities of life were not to be found easily. "Eighty-five percent of the American people live in cities," reported Dr. Dankwa. "Ten great supercities, boasting 5 million or more inhabitants each, dominate the land and shelter one-third of the total population.
"Four of these supermetropolitan areas, New England City, New York Supermetro, Delaware Valley City and Chesapeake and Potomac City (the nation's capital), are located in the Great Atlantic Metro Region, a 450-mile stretch of densely populated coast line known as the Megalopolis," Dr. Dankwa continued. "The Great Lakes Midwest Metro Region boasts three supermetros: Chicago Supermetro, Detroit Supermetro and Cuyahoga Valley City (formerly Lorain, Elyria, Akron and Cleveland). The California Metro Region has become almost as densely settled as the East Coast, with two supermetros which daily creep closer to each other: San Francisco Bay City (incorporating Oakland and San Jose) and Los Angeles Supermetro ( San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Oxnard, Hueneme). The Floridian Region has one supermetro, Southeast Florida City ( Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach).
"The forecast from the Mid-Southwest Region is that Dallas- Fort Worth City will soon pass the 5 million mark. It now incorporates 4.3 million people. Other important metro areas sheltering 2 million people or more are the metroports of San Diego and Houston. Then there are the industrial metros of Atlanta Metro, the leading metro of the Southeast Region; Buffalo Metro; Pittsburgh Metro; Cincinnati Metro; St. Louis Metro and Milwaukee Metro of the Great Lakes-Midwest Metro Region. Minneapolis-St. Paul City is the great center of the Midwest Region; and Denver Metro, the crux of transcontinental air routes, has outstripped Seattle Metrominor and Portland Metrominor to become the dominant metro of the West.
"Two other areas which have passed the 2 million mark and are still growing," Dr. Dankwa noted, "are the 'leisure metros'—Tampa- St. Petersburg Leisure Metro in the Floridian Leisure Belt, and Phoenix Leisure Metro in the Southwest Region. This uniquely American phenomenon of the leisure metro perhaps needs some amplification.
"The leisure metro is the most extraordinary urban development since man built his first city thousands of years ago. Historically a city has come into being either as a trade settlement adjacent to the mouth of a river, or a bay, or as the 'commercial agent' of a large surrounding area. But Phoenix Leisure Metro, isolated in a desert region with all of the traditional disadvantages to urban growth of inaccessibility, shortage of water and arid land, has a population in the year 2000 which exceeds that of the entire Southwest Region 50 years ago. This is almost entirely due to the leisure opportunities of its natural setting, the 'desert way of life.' Here is to be found the most striking example of new natural resources in leisure-oriented America: sunshine, open space and a dramatic landscape are greater population magnets than coal, oil and industry. The Leisure Metro of Phoenix now overshadows such traditional population centers as Seattle, Spokane and Kansas City."
INTERVIEWS WITH MR. SMITHWICK