Monday, January 26, 2009

Welcome to Yooper's Trails

Hello, and welcome to Yooper's Trails. Most people who come here are interested in my collapse views and the reasoning behind this. May I suggest by starting in the January archive with, "Catabolic Collapse: Detroit, Michigan." By reading your way upward, you'll be actually going along the trail with me, getting to know me along the way. I'll guide you through the Detroit neighborhoods and as we make our way along, we'll comtemplate John Michael Greer's, "Catabolic Collapse" and how it might pretain to this great city.

What will be the future of Detroit in 50 years from the present? I don't know. However, perhaps we can find clues in John Michael Greer's, "Adam's Story", where the setting is the rural Pacific Northwest during the second half of this century.






Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Spirit of Detroit

As a very young child, I asked my mother what this statue was? "Well, that's the Spirit of Detroit!" she proudly proclaimed. The 26-foot sculpture was the largest cast bronze statue since the Renaissance when it was first installed. In its left hand, the large seated figure holds a gilt bronze sphere emanating rays to symbolize God. In its right hand, is a family group symbolizing all human relationships.

People who know me well, would describe me as being a "die hard" Detroit Lions football fan. It takes a certain kind of loyalty, to stay with a team that have been thought to be losers for a number of years. I suppose, that my spirit cannot be broken and I'd rather die, than sway my loyalty from the city I've grown to love. It's this very same spirit that I share with many of the almost one million residents who call Detroit, "home". If there is one underlying theme in the detroitblog, I would say it is this, the people "believe" in this city and think it could turn around.

I think it will turn around, even though I'll likely not be around to see it... Detroit is a very old city dating back to 1701. The population of the city was only 1,422 in 1820, one hundred years later in 1920 the population had grown to near a million. Almost 90 years later the population much reflects that at the 1920 level, coming off a peak of almost two million back in 1950.

Detroit grew rapidly when coal was king. It soon became a "steel town" as the source of iron ore could be shipped by large boats and a source of coal was sent mostly by rail. As industry grew so did the population and by 1880 there were over 100,000 residents. By 1890 it near doubled over 200,000, by 1920 it boosted of having almost one million people. That was before the rural electrification of America!

Is it possible that oil as an energy source, depletes, that coal might likely fill the gap, for awhile anyway? I think so. As the world made by hand, becomes ever so nearer, could some cities such as Detroit with much resources readily at hand, become the great cities in the future? I'd dare say, that the Detroit historical record of population would suggest just that. Unless resources such as water, fertile land, coal, iron ore, and a forest nearby to build from, how will some cities survive in a future that is very likely to become more localized?

Could we have just witnessed a great fall of the population in Detroit during the past 50 years and just right around the corner see a partial recovery in population? I don't know, but I'd go so far to suggest that Detroit will see the catabolic process of decline well into future, even if some of us won't be alive to see it....

I'm going to conclude with this thought, living with the catabolic collapse that Detroit has seen over the years, has brought about a very rich experience for me, during my lifetime. I've had some very good times, lived a lot and loved a lot, in this great city of Detroit!... I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Instead of my presenting a futuristic scenario, I thought it best coming from the master of Catabolic Collapse himself, John Michael Greer. "Adam's Story", will be posted by links in order, in the concluding segment of this series. This is a story of Catabolic Collapse, set 50 years into the future here in North America. One of my favorites... I've provided you a glimpse of 50 years of catabolic collapse in the great city, that I love, Detroit, from more of a historical perspective.

At this time I'd like to thank, John Michael Greer, for his time and patience, introducing me to the theory of Catabolic Collapse. I'd also like to thank greenstatistician, for taking the time, introducing me to the mindset of Oswald Spengler, providing me a better perspective about civilizations past and present. And thanks to FAR and Nudge, for being my constant companions throughout this series.

Thank you all, yooper

Friday, January 23, 2009

Industrail Detroit

In the industrial areas very near the downtown area, is a vast wasteland and has been so for decades. Huge factories stand abandoned marking what had once been the birth place of the modern industrial complex. It was here that electricity was first coupled to power machines capable of producing interchangeable, uniform parts. This technology, in part, helped win WWII. Throughout the late 1800's and 1900's thousands migrated to work here. Detroit was the leader of innovation in the world, becoming the fourth largest city in the Nation, back in 1950.

As the factories closed within the city, many moving to the nearby suburbs, much of the population followed them. Today, the Metro Detroit (including suburbs) area has a population near 4,500,000, ranking it 11th in the Nation.

Many of these mammoth giants are being torn down today. I was just shocked just how many have been dismantled and hauled away during my last visit there. Notice the construction trailer parked on the lot in the picture above? This abandoned factory will very likely be gone by the time I make the next trip down there. I very much suspect the ground around these complexes are likely to be somewhat contaminated, and there have been times I've had to dress in a class 2 safety suit during removal operations of such material, in the past. However, many of these places will be capped over making them safe once again. Sometimes my work cloths were so dirty, I'd often take them to Laundry Mats like the one pictured below and have them washed there... Daring not, to bringing them home! Sometimes it takes industrial strength detergent to remove industrial dirt...

I can't agree more with JHK's thoughts about industry not coming back to such structures, as they are hulled out, very, very few of the old machines left in them, if any. Besides they would not fit the needs of the newer industrial factory of today. Of course taking down such structures costs money, however more times than not, the steel structure that is salvaged often helps substantially in covering much of the demolition costs. Perhaps in the no so distant future, as the price of steel rises, that will speed up the process of demolition? I hope so, as they are sooo ugly.

Not so long ago, when I was posting on MSN treads, it'd be often that I'd relate that Detroit or Michigan still leads the economy and that places like Los Angeles or California would be next to decline. Most would scoff at such an idea, thinking Michigan only lags behind in the recovery of the early 2000's recession. I suppose now, this idea isn't so farfetched...

Detroit being the birthplace of the modern industrial complex, doesn't it stand to reason that as the jobs it once provided were being shipped overseas, it would be one of the first to decline? I must say, I was very, very disappointed driving around the downtown area, I had thought that more improvements would have been made since the twenty years that I worked there. I had put a lot of heart and soul into it, and a lot of sweat! Can Detroit stage a comeback? I think so, it'll very likely never be what it once was, but then again, if the suburbs are to go next, where are those people to go?
There are those that are suggesting that as this civilization wanes, it'll become more of a world that is made by hand. I can't agree more, as it appears our energy might wane in the process also. If Detroit is to be a viable city in the future, it'll have to have the resources enabling it to be so. I'm going to strongly suggest it has and think that by the will of it's people, this great city could once again marvel to those that come upon it.

50 years of Catabolic Collapse

50 years of Catabolic Collapse:Detroit, Michigan... There we have it, the historical population on a graph I made, the figures I found here towards the bottom of the page. Gee, it appears that I was wrong in assuming that Detroit's decline started around the time of the 1967 riots. Actually as the graph suggests this happened around 1950 as this is when the population peaked and started it's decline. Detroit has lost nearly half of it's population within 50 years. A very troubling aspect about this graph is it appears much like Hubbert's oil production curve or another similar graph shown here . It appears that Detroit has already completed close to 3/4 of these bell shape curves. Now imagine if you will, if we took a magnifying glass and closely inspected the downward part of the line showing 50 years decline, and see the catabolic cycles of descent in it, all over it, from the peak to where we are now. That the line is not straight down but has a series of "bumps" all the way through it.

Now believe me when I tell you this as I was in Detroit often (throughout my near 50 years) and experienced the ups and downs of this process, first hand. I lived through some good times and some bad times , there. As suggested in the graph above, times just didn't get bad, stay at that point for awhile and then get worse (suggesting a staircase effect). No, there were bad times of decline that were followed by the good times of incline that lead to times of even further decline (suggesting somekind of saw tooth or triangular effect), downwards.
Back to the population graph, it's suggesting that the population almost doubled every decade (very roughly) between 1900 (286,000) to 1910 (466,000) to 1920 (994,000) and then again from 1920 to 1950 (1,850,000). That the decline in population (again very roughly) has lost 200,000 per decade from 1950 to 1990, then tapered to be at 917,000 as of 2007, to closely resemble what the population had been back in 1920. At least, the population slowed it's descent by only loosing roughly 50,000 per decade between 1990 and now. Could this slowing down indicate a possible rebound in the near future? I don't know, perhaps, doubtful though as it would be suggesting a break from a 50 year downward trend, that's a lot of time.
Could this graph be seen as some kind of bubble? That the population inflated to 1950 and will deflate to the levels of say, late 1800's or early 1900's? My friend Nudge, suggests this is a lot like taking a breath and then exhaling it... Could this likely happen in the next 50 years?
At this point, I can't think of a better example than Detroit, of what decline might look like for those suggesting that we'll likely loose 50% of our population in this country, 50 years from now... Can you?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Future apartments?

When I worked in the Detroit area, it was often, that I'd find myself living in an apartment, rather than a single family house. I thought at the time, gee, this is easy living! I didn't have to cut the grass, maintain the building and if something happened to the toilet, I just called! Of course, this was very convenient as I was working for the most part 60+ hours a week, if not more. For me, there just wasn't the time to own a home, have a garden, and the like, I was working that much. Adding in the time it took me to commute back and forth, well...

The history of tenements or apartment buildings in this country date back to 1839 in New York City and by the 1860's tenement squares were popping up all over the place. In more urban areas, apartments close to the downtown area have the benefits of proximity to jobs and/or public transportation. Also, in areas that are limited in space, they can house more people on a plot of land as many are multi leveled. I suppose, Detroit is no New York City, in that respect as there are very few high rise apartment buildings in the neighborhoods, the vast majority being two or three leveled...

In my travels around the inner city neighborhoods, I didn't see any new construction of apartment complexes being built. Again, I'm not saying there were none, just that I didn't come by any... In fact, there was very little new residential construction period of any kind or new commercial or industrial construction, for that matter. That really shouldn't surprise anyone because the city is declining in production/population. Very near the inner downtown area there is a very small area where apartment complexes sprung up over twenty years ago, but besides that, I know of not any... These apartments are nice but not exceeding so and were very expensive when I worked the downtown area, then.

(gee, wish I had recognized that car in the parking lot before my nephew took the picture!!! I very much suspect that this could be drug related, either waiting for a pick-up or drop-off. It's a damn good thing these people didn't likely notice the picture being taken, as if they did, well.... that is how careful one must be in these neighborhoods!)

The population in Detroit has almost halved since 1950. Perhaps, it's not done deflating? Will it likely half again in the next 50 years? I don't know, but we'll take a look at the history of Detroit's demographics to see if there are any clues, as to what may happen. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, however trends do exist and unless something changes are very likely to continue. One thing is certain, these apartment buildings were built during the build up or production years of incline. They were heated with cheap fossil fuels and I'm going to strongly suggest most were not heated with coal, as they are not that old. They were heated with oil.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Duplexes on the FARside

I must say, throughout my tour of the inner city neighborhoods, this was an uncommon site.
Not all the homes appeared in disrepair, some had been maintained, some like the one on the corner sure could use a new roof and some fresh paint. No where in my travels, did I see the evidence of new city water or sewer, which would be marked by new sidewalk, curb and gutter, and roadway...

This was a very common site. There were literally, junk cars everywhere. "Lawn ornaments" abound, some even on the roadways. Tomorrow, we'll look into apartments...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Industrial sized homes

Industrial sized homes in industrial sized neighborhoods. Just how many city neighborhoods throughout the country look very much the same as the picture above, but without the decay? What grew these enormous homes? Perhaps resources and PRODUCTION. It wasn't all that long ago when many people thought of Detroit as being synonymous with production. It was through the use of cheap fossil fuels, and the production of products that enabled a workforce to live in such homes.

Without question, if we replace the word "progress" with the word "production" in our inclining arc to the left or front side of Hubbert's curve, there might be very few who would disagree with that notion? So, instead of "arc of progress" we'll try on "arc of production" for size, just now? So we have an inclining "arc of production", that comes to a peak and then after, a declining arc of production, when the resource base cannot support it. As Detroit's industrial production grew, so did the population. When much of the resource base left the city, causing it to decline in production and was used at near by suburban areas, much of the population followed it. This process can be seen in many of our Nation's cities and towns, today. This process lead to what many call the "doughnut hole" effect, causing the the inner city to lose population while surrounding areas or suburbs, gained it.

If the resource base is declining, making further gains in production impossible, then perhaps making things such as houses smaller and more efficient, using less resource, only makes sense in the future? Is it possible that Detroit could return to it's former glory of being the center of industrial activity in this country again? I don't know but think, if it does it'll likely be much smaller in size comparable to the the home at the bottom than the one at the top. It would take considerably less resource to maintain the smaller house. One thing is certain, if Detroit is going to have any substantial recovery at all, much of the resource base must return to it, causing production to rise, so the people can return to it.