Green opportunities for Gateway Cities

Will vacant land end up saving the economies of Lawrence and New Bedford? Catherine Tumber writes in the Boston Review that smaller cities that were once industrial centers (such as the Gateway Cities in Massachusetts) offer some unique advantages in a new green economy. In "Small, Green and Good," Tumber points out that many of these cities have large parcels of land suitable for the development of new energy sources:

Meet the Author

Alternative energy technologies are in various stages of development, but one thing is already clear: if they work, they will require space that dense metropolitan areas cannot provide. Solar power, which among alternative energies has come closest to achieving grid parity, can make use of rooftops and awnings in big cities, but offers far greater potential when staged on ground mounts on polluted brownfields, suburban greyfields, or open land…. Wind power, unless sited offshore, also requires large tracts of land.

For similar reasons, Tumber writes, smaller cities could be instrumental in developing "local, sustainable agriculture" that is closer to population centers and thus costs less energy to transport. Regional agriculture could also help to supply increasingly popular farmers' markets in major cities, as well as Boston's hypothetical public market. (Tumber cites Holyoke as a pioneer in the urban agricultural movement, and CommonWealth wrote about that city's farming community in 2006; see sidebar to "A Tale of Two Valleys.")