The following was posted to the Urban Permaculture Yahoo Group. It exemplifies what i call rhizomatous development, happening all over the place but not readily visible to the casual observer. It is what will save us. When the climax forest which is the current industrial model fails and falls, the underground will spring up in the clearing, converting its detritus, to take its place and establish a new biome.
Ah,.. Detroit. where do I start?
Tillon's video referenced by Carey below (http://vimeo.com/2371774) is interesting. If I didn't know better, I 'd think there about 15 people living in the city which has nothing but abandoned buildings. The blight is certainly part of the story, and the abandoned train station is a particularly sad story of a grand building gone to ruin. (The wild life is true. I always hear, and frequently see pheasants when I'm on the east side. We have had possums, rabbits and raccoons in our yard- a vibrant and well maintained neighborhood on the west side)
But of course there is more; and I find the "more" quite interesting - really that makes it tolerable - well even fascinating and almost- dare I say "enjoyable" to live in the City.
For a slightly different view of the city and what's going on see: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/faultlines/2009/05/200951413480165428
Yes- this is Al Jazeera. I understand they came to Detroit to do a segment on the collapse of GM/ auto industry, and found some more interesting things going on. The urban gardening/ farming may be what saves the city. I think over 1/3 of the total square miles of the city is vacant land. Lots of room for community gardens and small scale farming. I recently heard about one guy that is giving up his day job to be a full time urban farmer. He has a double lot, with a lot of rows of veggies and a greenhouse- I helped set up a bee hive there a couple of weeks ago. I believe he will begin farming an entire city block near his home- about 7 acres- and will have bee hives - dont' know about other animals (bees and chickens are technically illegal, but they are sprouting up all over)
Much of this has been "instigated" by Greening of Detroit. Founded 20 years ago, it was initially known for planting trees/ shrubs in the city. in 2003, they expaneded to include urban agriculture (along with Earthworks Farm, MSU extension they are the Detroit Agriculture Network (www.detroitagriculture.org) From about 80 community and family gardens 6 years ago, there are now some 800 across the city. Organic, that is. Gardens may sell their surplus at several Farmers Markets through "Grown in Detroit". It's about organic, local food, community building, training youth, entrepreneurship, etc. Future plans include opening a Market Garden near Detroit's Eastern Market, and developing small scale (3 acre or so) urban farms.
Food security is an important issue, quite apart from recent economic issues. There are far more party stores and gas stations that sell "food" , than accessible grocery stores in the city. Food stamp purchases go disproportionally to those businesses. On the East side, Earthworks Garden has started a mobile market to bring fresh, healthy food to the neighorhood. We need more locally grown and locally distributed produce. This is about more than good food, it's intertwined with economic justice and environmental issues
All of this is NOT the John Hantz - Urban Farming in Detroit plan- which made news all over a couple of months ago. His is a commercial, for profit enterprise- and he is not interested in organic farming. It's an interesting concept, promoted by a businessman whose goal is to make money. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but his approach does not sit well with me. (He is currently making a lot of money in the financial services industry)
As to homes/lots --- I saw something on the web yesterday about a couple who bought a Detroit home for $100 (bidding started at $5). This home was solid structurally, but had been totally stripped on the inside. Everything removable- all things metal, and even some flooring had been taken. So, they will be spending 10's of thousands of dollars to rehab. But, still a liveable place for relatively low cost- as homes go. Detroit has a lot of foreclosed homes, some of which are being stripped and will not be sold. Hopefully some will be saved, and those that are not can be deconstructed. This is just starting in the city- rather that bull doze down the homes - many of them are brick- and taking to a land fill, folks are being trained and employed to deconstruct the buildings so the materials can be salvaged and used again. Makes much more sense to me.
The Hamtramck factory- I should know, but not sure what that is. Until some one gets serious about re-claiming the structures, I don't think many will disappear. Too costly to tear down and bring to a land fill, too little money. (Hamtramck is a city within the city of Detroit. Initially was settled by mostly Polish, now with a variety of ethnic immigrants)
The city (and that's a WHOLE other story) spends money (and wastes gas) cutting grass on many vacant lots. I understand it bills landowners if the lots are not city owned, but I doubt they collect much. The city/ state would be far better off selling the lots and collecting a little in tax money. Someone I know recently bought 2 or 3 lots- for just a couple of hundred dollars each. Think: gardening/ farming. We will really have no choice, I believe, if we (in Detroit and elsewhere) are to survive. We need local, healthy food. We have the space and ability to grow our own food- even in our northern climate. Eliot Coleman ( Four Season Farm / Winter Harvest) was in town this weekend describing how he is set up to harvest a LOT of produce all year long in a northern climate (Maine) and do it on a small scale - just over 1 acre. He's invented the wheel, we just need to copy what he is doing.
.... and lastly - Bill Wilson, co-founder of Midwest Permaculture will be on a Michigan Tour July 21-24. He will present a 3 hour Introduction to Permaculture seminar in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint and Ypsilanti respectively on those days. A host of local sponsors are working on this including in Detroit: Greening of Detroit, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Detroit Evolution Laboratory. This is a preamble to his visit next spring for a 4 day intensive Urban Permaculture training in Detroit. For more information about these trainings see: www.MidwestPermaculture.com
Happy Father's Day to all dads. Happy Summer Solstice to everyone