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The Distribution of the Population and Energy in Nonmetropolitan Areas: Confluence and Divergence

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Social Science Quarterly, Number 61, p.568-580 (1980)



Societies have reacted in two stages to the greater friction of space historically characteristic of low-density, rural areas.^These areas were first vacated as changes in agricultural technology permitted the release of labor.^Nonagricultural activities were concentrated in space in order to reduce this friction.^Later, as other technological changes reduced the time and cost of crossing space, these areas began to be repopulated for reasons unrelated to their original desertion.^If we now allow our petroleum-dependent transportation systems to reassert the traditional frictions of rural space, we will likely face a period of reconcentration.^That reconcentrating tendency may be minimized and present patterns of population dispersal maintained by reducing petroleum dependency through capitalizing on the decentralized character of alternative modes of energy production.^This will result in some sacrifice of locational freedom.^Destinations would be chosen for the confluence of their residential and environmental qualities and their suitability for energy production from alternative technologies.^Some greater degree of physical concentration at the destination seems inherent in the acceptance of these alternative technologies.^But, with abandonment of the illusion of limitless petroleum resources must come the recognition of the passing of an era of limitless choice.^Choices do remain, although the range may be reduced.^Failure to make appropriate energy choices now may well constrain that range of choice much more sharply in the future.^38 references, 1 table.