It is difficult for many of us to imagine how desperate many suburban and ex-urban communities have become in the United States, but the truth is there for any to see if only we look. Entire communities in large swaths of California and other states have become utter wastelands, decimated by an epic housing bust and under continuous pressure from record gas prices. Some areas have become literal ghost towns populated only by squatters and the few who have not yet been forced out by foreclosure. Many of the squatters are nothing less than criminals who have opportunistically availed themselves of abandoned homes to engage in various sorts of nefarious enterprise. All in all, it's a rather appalling tale as depicted in the article at the link. Make no mistake, the trend toward suburban and ex-urban growth, a trend that had been in place since the aftermath of WWII has likely ended. Now suburbs and exurbs, which grew and thrived from New England to the the west coast at the expense of major city centers, are experiencing a tremendous reversal of fortune with profound implications for us all.