I don't have anything really "new" to add to the discussion other than my perspective. I grew up on a farm At the tender age of 5 I could look out my window down on the pasture to the majestic scene of cows humping. I've de-tassled corn over summers as a young teenager. "Rowed" soybeans walking down them with a shovel and digging out weeds. Bailed and stacked hay. Did 4 years of FFA and attended national FFA conventions and various farm related contests.
I now live dead in the middle of one of the more densely packed areas in the country. I bike almost everywhere here. Grow plants in stock tanks along the 5' easement on my property. Enjoy hitting the river with my family on paddleboards/kayaks. Ect.
To cut through some hyperbole, no cities cannot exist without rural areas. They simply do not have the ground required to provide that much agricultural products to sustain food supplies. That includes space for dairy cows to produce milk/milk products. Chicken farms. Giant fields of wheat and soy that go into producing other products that are staples of other things we consume. Forests for lumber. And so on. Saying cities can exist without those being supplied is just flat out wrong.
That said, there's going to be a reckoning coming. We're already well on that path. Hell I'm part of it. The distributed and rural nature of small town America is going to continue to dwindle. The economy of scale of commercial farming/forestry/ect is rapidly reducing human resource requirements. Small farms are rapidly drying up. There simply are not many good jobs in rural areas. Employers are struggling to retain talent in rural areas. There continues to be a significant exodus from small rural towns to larger urban centers. Urban development will continue to be the heartbeat and economic centers for most states. The access to goods and services, jobs, airports, schools, ect is just objectively superior than rural communities can provide.
As we start to handle existential threats like climate change and decade long droughts, more consolidation is going to be the direction we have to go. We are going to have to start making sacrifices in what we consume. Things like almonds take a ridiculous amount of water to grow. We're going to have to take a long hard look at our consumption of high resource demanding products and figure out if the juice is worth the squeeze there. Fruits and vegetables will probably need to move to a more seasonal nature and where appropriate to the climate. We will have to change how we look at our supply chains and the endless buffet of choices we have now.
Same thing for travel/commuting. Eventually populations are going to have to accept the reality and start compressing into tighter urban cores. Individual houses will not be sustainable. We'll need to get more creative in building materials and planning. The way things were 50 years ago isn't going to work 50 years from now.
Now where does all that tie in to this thread? People like me have to be the envoys for this. People that have walked both sides of the isle. A city dweller that hasn't left their metro area has no idea how rural life is. Same for a rural person that barely leaves their bubble. They just see whatever Fox news tells them is burning down in Portland. As a country we are going to have to figure this out, and pretty quick because we are on a real bad trajectory of division. Cities are going to continue to draw young away from rural areas and keep them. Agriculture as we know it is going to continue to refine it's commercial efficiency and further reduce the need for human labor. That just further minimizes the need to actually live in rural areas.
Which is really the debate here. We need rural areas, but we don't necessarily need large numbers of people to live in rural areas. It's just an ever growing strain on existing infrastructure and support. The "last mile" costs to those communities for water, utility and deliveries lucratively high vs urban centers. There are counties here in Oregon with 1500 people. It's not possible for a county that size to actually sustain it's own weight without drawing from others. Their growth has been flat while others have seen negative growth over 20 years and those will continue.
We need to engage in good faith, and mature conversations about where this country is, where it's going, and how that looks in 50 years. But right now most born and raised rural Americans won't budge. A lot of people born in the city look down on them as backwoods idiots in a dying community and say good luck with that. The answer is somewhere in the middle. We are going to have to completely re-write how we align our agriculture infrastructure, and how we go about future urban development and addressing our dissonance to rural communities.
You're hardly the only one with that experience. There's some truths but you're way out of touch with 2010+ rural America.
That reckoning already happened. Farmers are already the true American Welfare Queens. They literally cannot exist without government subsidies, as they don't make enough to sustain a farm and harvest it without ruining it (via overfarming, nutrient depletion, or surviving drought and/or flood or a mix of those factors, which is why we bail them out and pay them not to farm their land to dust).
Don't need land when you can build underground facilities or skyscrapers to grow so the argument that we need rural land for that is going to be nonsense before you know it. That stuff isn't here yet, but it will come. There's already some operating, and it'll just be a matter of scaling. Those are already much more efficient than typical farms. Climate change is going to accelerate the need for those as traditional farmland gets ravaged.
We tried that. They didn't just refuse to partake or listen, they've decided they'd rather burn everything down than to even accept anything but their way.
They look down on them as backwood idiots because that's who they're saying they are and that they're goddamn proud of it. I grew up there, I know those people. They have become full on cultists. They're the ones declaring that they don't need anyone's help (when they've been getting help the entire time, rural areas have really never in the history of America been independent, be it the Pilgrims, Southern plantations, Texas, the various aspects of the 1800s be it cattle drives, the "old west", gold rush, manifest destiny, etc; never ever has rural America survived on its own, that's a complete bullshit fabrication of historical fact).
That's gonna happen regardless of whatever they think/say/do. Rural America is dying the same as coal. Its up to them to accept it and deal. The rest of America is going to move on with or without them. We already tried to help them transition. They said "fuck you".
They had some limited opportunity to thrive, by embracing immigrants and using them to bolster their numbers. Instead they've fought them and demonized them, while the dwindling "true 'Merican" population became more extremist. These are not the quaint little towns of Doc Hollywood, these are enclaves of religious nutjobs that have spun an us vs them mentality, while they poison their minds on lies.
I disagree with certain aspects of what you say. I don't think America has to give up individualism, but you're right we'll need to embrace a much more consumption aware and efficiency minded lifestyle, and also work to deal with climate change (its too late to do anything to stop it). I can even see technology decompressing the population and enabling move back to rural areas. You massively underrate how much people in cities do ag projects, or would be capable of it.
Truth is, I actually think we're deluding ourselves that its rural vs urban that is the issue. I know plenty of liberal hippies that are rural and plenty of right wing nut job city people. The real schism in America is something else and I think we're wasting time on this, just like we're wasting our time on Millennials vs Boomers, etc. It really is as simple as accepting reality or not. The real question facing America is if we can figure out a way to keep progressing around those that refuse to accept reality, or if they'll ruin it.