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.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Arc of Progress" Part III

Back to the "hood". Do you think that this library once held, the two volumes of "Decline of the West"? I'll bet it did....

I'm going to borrow the phase, "Arc of Progress" from my pal Nudge, and run off with it! I've been thinking about what I'm about to describe for about a year now. While I was on the search looking for examples of catabolic collapse (and there were many) on graphics, a strange thought occurred to me. Could the dynamics of decline that catabolic collapse is suggesting on the backside (right side) of say, Hubbert's curve, be somewhat of a reversal (or the opposite of) of the dynamics of the incline on the front side or left side of the curve? If we can describe the catabolic collapse process as decline, then partial recovery to be followed by even deeper decline, followed by yet another partial recovery not as great as the one preceding it to be followed by even deeper decline yet, etc., suggesting a downward arc.

Then can we describe the "Arc of Progress" as being, incline to be followed by partial decline to be followed by even greater incline, followed by yet another partial decline but not as deep as the one preceding it to be followed by even greater incline yet, etc., suggesting an arc of incline? Hope that's not too confusing! But, I think so.... That is, I believe there is a cycling process of progression that dominates the cycling process of partial decline forming an upward arc. Just as the catabolic process of the declining, dominates those cycles of progression forming the partial recovery, projecting the downward "Arc of Decline".

Oooh! That hurts, just thinking about it! However, I do believe this forward process was quite likely (but unimportant), as most of us are very likely thinking we'll be starting our slides down the backside of Hubbert's hill, if not now, soon, or so it seems, (once again for me)...

So at the conclusion of this "progress" segment of the series, I think it might be reasonable to conclude that it takes a very long time for civilizations to fall and ours is no different from the those in past history, as they had their own predicaments, as do we. That this process of decline (catabolic) does have a certain "order" or rhythm to it, was found in civilizations past, has already been detected in parts (if not the whole) of this civilization (perhaps Detroit, as a leading example in North America?) and will very likely continue as this Western Civilization wanes...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ever Progressing? part II

These are pictures of Lake Superior's ice taken at spring break up. Ever since I was a young boy this ice just amazed me. It would build and build, form huge "ridges" pushed up by pressure, some as 60 feet high. Then slowly but surely the lake would ice over and become a flat sheet of white, as far as the eye could see. To view something so large and vast is truly something to behold. When spring finally does arrive, the ice slowly melts away, the ice ridge breaks up forming icebergs that drift out into the lake and disappear. By summertime, there is little sign that the ice was even there, as the ice itself is completely gone.

Do you think that the great civilizations past, that walked the face of this earth, experienced much the same thing? I'm going to strongly suggest that they have, they slowly build up and form a great culture that evolves into a civilization and slowly declines, to disappear altogether. All of them were very distinct in their own ways, however they all experienced much the same dynamics of the build up and decline. None of them ended abruptly, all experienced at least 100 years of decline, some 100's of years. What makes us think that this present civilization would be any different? Because of peak oil, financial collapse, climate change? Sure, those will very likely play a role in this civilization's decline but it will not end abruptly, not in two years, not in ten, and very likely not even in a hundred. This would be like the great ice of Lake Superior disappearing over night! Not very likely... I can assure everyone, that the annual dynamics of the build and decline of this very large body of ice has not changed in hundreds of years, likely thousands...

Just the thought of the great civilizations or cultures past, would strongly suggest that there is no "ever progressing", correct? They didn't just build and build, continue to exist today, and if they did, where are they? They declined to the point of extinction, as they do not exist today. Sure, as they declined, people from one culture crossing over time, again hundreds of years, came to form yet another culture. But the people of one culture are very different than those of the other, as the culture defines "who and what" they are.
Oswald Spengler devoted much of his life in the study of human history and compiled a great work called, "Decline of the West." This book includes the idea of Muslims, Jews and Christians, as well as their Persian and Semitic forebears, being Magian, Mediterranean civilizations of the antiquity such as Ancient Greece and Rome being Apollonian, and the modern Westerners being Faustian. Each culture was unique in it's own way, though people's behavior and thought. Once a culture had achieved it's height, everything that can be done from within the worldview of the culture – everything religious, philosophical, intellectual, artistic, social, political, etc., has basically been done, the culture fossilizes into a civilization. That is, when works stop being creative and become just rehashes of the orginal art forms, it soon looses it luster and creates voids. Once the civilization begins to fall apart, it's basically, because nobody actually believes in it any more.
There we have it, civilization falls because nobody actually believes in it anymore. Do you suppose this Faustian civilization of to-day, is just about there? I think so. Cultures rise and fall slowly taking 100's of years in the process. Do you suppose that we (Faustian) who think we're striving for the unattainable (ever-progressing), just don't believe in it anymore? If this is the case and I highly suspect it is, then we can assume that this civilization will very likely fall much like the others before it and with very little intact. By that I mean, what we value today, everything religious, philosophical, intellectual, artistic, etc., much will likely be lost as we proceed to yet another culture, (IF there is to be one). As those who do carry on, will likely develop a whole new set of values, as we did from the previous culture.
So, I suppose, I'm suggesting we can all unpack our bags (as if we're going somewhere), because even if we reach to where ever we think we're going, we'll very likely not need what we've packed, when we get there.....
I just keep thinking whatever happened to that "Motown Music" that so dominated the city in the 1960's? I think Spengler, has answered that question for me... There is no doubt in my mind anyway, that what we're seeing now are just rehashes of the rich culture that Detroit once enjoyed at the peak of it's creativity....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Progress, part I

Progress: a proceeding forward; advancement or improvement in mental, moral, or physical condition. growth or development. source The Winston Dictionary, Advanced Edition, 1946

There has been quite some talk about the idea of "progress". Do you think the above photograph would in any way shape or form, imply "progress"? It's one of my primitive camps of 20 years ago. I'd dare say, that for me, it was a proceeding forward, was an advancement or improvement in my mental, moral, and physical condition, at the time anyway. That lead to my personal growth or development...

Even though, I believe we have declined here in North America for the past thirty years, we are becoming more and more a part of a global economy that hasn't. Hasn't this actually "masked" our true situation in this country? Thinking of Russia, without a doubt, they have come back and their standard of living continues to grow from the early 1990's when the former Soviet Union collapsed. Look at the growth of the economies of India and China!

Another notion my instructors had, is that there would very likely be a explosion of resources extracted and consumed toward the end of the "age of progress". I am certain, they were thinking in terms of 1930- 1970, however they could be still correct in that respect, only that there's a lot more resource than they dare imagined. Of course, this only makes sense as it would require more resource to maintain the population.

The instructors all believed that once the world ceased to progress, there would be a short pause and then we would start our descent. That this era will be short lived and marked by power outages, finally bringing down entire electrical grids around the world. That is, once electrical generation was decoupled with mass production of uniform, interchangable parts (one cannot happen without the other and this actually defines the modern industrial society), this present environment (age of progress) would end abruptly. At that point, the industrial society (age of progress) could not support the population it created. Once that happened, the die-off would begin in earnest, end of story (the instructors would not speculate what might happen after that).

There's just one insy tinsy problem that I have with the instructors about this notion as of to-day, they all believed it was going to happen soon (late 70's - early 80's). That I would not likely live the high standard of living they enjoyed, would very likely see a world of unimaginable collapse and so-on. Hmmm, kind of like what many of us believe will happen to the younger generation of today, correct? Well, I've learned a very good lesson over this, along the way, that much I'm certain of...

There's a concept that I'll borrow from Jay Hanson and share with you. Hanson's thoughts about why most people cannot come to terms with peak oil is that through out thousands of years of progressing forward, people can only think in those terms. That is, most people can only think "progressively" forward, they are incapable of imagining a tomorrow of decline, not there. They simply cannot "see" it. This isn't their fault, after thousands of years of conditioning, it's in the genetic make-up. Perhaps, an example of this might be, sheep following one another over a cliff.

This thought of "ever progressing" is not only limited to some people. Continuous growth is the basic assumption, driving our economy. Investment is made in hopes of future growth. Loans are made in hope of growth. Interest is only realized after growth. Without real growth, how can our financial system survive? Suppose, we're almost there? Could it be, that after this last expansion of growth this country has experienced from the housing market, employing perhaps a quarter of Americans, there's nothing more to grow?

When the resources that products are made from become to scarce or too expensive to profit from we can expect those products will no longer be made. No company is going to make them for nothing, not for long. Perhaps, this has been happening already? When a product costs more to make and transport, than what the market will bear, that product becomes "worthless". Could we be seeing this now with the McMansions that are in the out-laying communities far from employment centers?
I suppose, this might be enough for today. Later, I will discuss "progress" again and what this might mean in this civilization and compare it to civilizations past. I'll attempt to discuss what role catabolic collapse might have had concerning matter.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Where in Catabolic Collapse?

Ok, we're back in the same neighborhood that we started in, exactly where all those abandoned, burnt buildings and other pictures of decay that I was focusing on earlier. On the last post, Far questioned, if we're only seeing the start of the catabolic process? I thought, by showing the rather large fields and meadows that replaced where old busy neighborhoods once stood, was portraying perhaps a view of an end to the catabolic process. Now, I'm not so sure, especially in areas such as this one. One thing I did not see in my travels near that part of town along Chene Street, was the new little sections of homes like the one pictured above. I'm not saying there were none there, but that I did not see them...

As I've suggested before, perhaps we'll learn together what might be actually happening here, by viewing these pictures. Is there some kind of plan or intent, being followed? I'm going to strongly suggest there is and once again what resource is left, is being concentrated in areas deemed more viable in the future. I'm seeing little clusters of new homes (so people can keep an eye on the neighbors property?) Certainly, or well lets hope these new homes won't be capped over in another thirty years! Perhaps, the capped over areas are designed to be the garden plots of the future? If this is the case, and the infrastructure (mainly water) can still support these newer homes, might this become a more attractive area in the future?

I thought at first, what a waste of resource! To build something new among ruins!! However, isn't this the same kind of thinking that would "let go" whole neighborhoods (like the one next to Chene Street), to concentrate more effort and resource to the inner city of Detroit? Will these larger areas that are meadows now, better serve the city in the future, by not being occupied with new homes? See the connection here, only on a smaller scale? Perhaps, these ruins that surround the new cluster of homes will be "permitted" to fall and be capped over to better serve them in the future?

If this is the case, perhaps, in the not so distant future there will be little clusters of homes, surrounded by much more land of gardens and woods? That is, there will likely be no need to have rows of houses, block after block, if there isn't the population there to demand it. Perhaps, in this new arrangement these new homes will become more self sufficient? I would tend to think so, it's a lot easier supporting a family on a large plot of land than from a yard that was the size of a postage stamp, as was in the past...
So in view of this, I think, that catabolic collapse is an on going process, that certain neighborhoods are in different stages. Some in serious decline, some on the up bound partial recovery, and in the whole reflecting an "overlapping". A city that will see partial recovery, more deeper decline, on and on, in our foreseeable future.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Magic Bus

This bus caught my eye and was pictured in the far background on one of the photographs on the last post. Lets go for a ride! I just had to loop around driving through the next block to get a closer look. On the trip around, we came by what looked like the ruins of an old apartment building. The catabolic process suggests, if resource depletion continues, all capitol (such as this building) will become waste.
On another tread, entropy was being discussed. Notice how the bricks are strewed across the lot? This would suggest that this is a very different time as when those bricks were neatly stacked making what was perhaps a beautiful building in it's day. Those bricks just didn't fall in the reverse order that they were laid, but "unraveled" (thanks Mrs. M!) in such a way, that perhaps years from now, may become indistinguishable to what their former use might have been. Do you think, that many of the building blocks that form our society today, may see the same kind of fate?

Back to the magic bus, what about the values we have today? Do you think that many of the same values that we regard as "wealth" today, will mean anything at all, on the other side, if there is to be one? I certainly have my doubts...
What do you think the artist had in mind, painting the bus in such a way? It appears to me, that all those poka dots are arranged in order to form the background of the message GOD+WAR. Do you think that through entropy, when all those dots that form our society today will be scattered about to form the society of tomorrow, could still support the value that might be, suggested here?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Across town, twenty years later

Ok, lets leave the neighborhood that we've been focusing on and go across town to Chene St., just down the road from where the gun shop is located that was featured on the last post from detroitblog (I'll list it again). The above picture shows this "overlapping" that Far was talking about. Twenty years ago, this neighborhood did not look all that different than the neighborhood we've been focusing on. Back then, there were many more businesses and homes in this area some abandoned, some not. This area was "permitted" to fall, it fell so far into decay there were few attempts being made to try to restore it, in a way...

Lets really take a close look at the picture above, notice the "openness"? This is where businesses lined the edge of the street and behind them, homes. Notice the piles of "fill" or earth that have been dumped there? This was a very common practice back then as it appears is today. When buildings fall much of it goes into the basement (if there was one) and with this "fill" would be "capped over" making the appearance of the lot never lived on...

I was just shocked to see how much this part of town had changed! It was the first time that I've visited the area, since my leaving Detroit over twenty years ago. I had the feeling that this part had gotten much more "tamer" than what it was back then. Maybe that was because, there were a lot fewer people that could be seen in the area now, than before.

(click to get a larger image)

Even along the "business strip" almost nobody. There were very, very few businesses that appeared open, most either boarded up or gates and bars drawn for good. Oh, I remember the gates and bars, twenty years ago, but many of the businesses were open and the sidewalks had people on them. Truly, a modern day ghost town.

I can very well remember driving through this part of town with the owner/contractor that I worked for, "looking for a hole" or a place to unload the dump trucks that would be coming loaded with fill. I can remember almost pleading to this man, can't anything be done to stop the decay? The owner replied, "We're doing it, we're gonna bury it."
Never did I imagine at the time that capping over one or two lots between homes would become vast areas of fields and meadows, as those homes fell over the years. I suppose I should have, as sometimes burying the past can provide a new opportunity in the future, at least that was the intent...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A higher education? "Street Wise, 101"

The building above, is directly across the road from the high school pictured below, one can see part of the metal post on the far bottom right to confirm this. Can anyone imagine this? What happened to the culture here? I suppose, if one were to ask 100 people, that you'd likely get 100 different responses. There were two men that were approaching me while I was photographing the school and this building outside the vehicle. "Hey! What are you doing there?!" one man screamed about 50 yards away. I turned to quickly bolt for the vehicle, as these men were now approaching towards me very quickly and again I heard, "What are you doing?!!"

I got into the vehicle and speed away, the rest of the entire photo shoot was conducted inside the vehicle and for good reason. I want to make it very clear, that this neighborhood and all others that I'm about to show, are very dangerous and filled with dangerous people. Some of these people have nothing to loose and perhaps a trip to jail, is better than the life they have now? I suspect, that many of the homeless people that are roaming the streets of Detroit today, would rather not risk confrontations such as the one I experienced, looking for a place to squat. Not twenty years ago, not today and likely not tomorrow, either. As for those that have lost their homes recently, perhaps the water, gas, and electric had been shut off? Perhaps, even before they actually left the home, the utilities have been shut off (could not be maintained) and they were then forced to leave the premises? If people are expected to stay in their homes, isn't it reasonable that the utilities not be shut off and other "maintenance" be made, in making the home livable? What about the maintenance of the people, themselves? Where would the money be generated to make such a notion possible? Catabolic collapse, is not a pleasant concept to contemplate... Isn't this what catabolic collapse is all about, the attempt to maintain the unmaintainable, until all resource is gone?

"greenstatistician" asked a question that I've asked at least 100 people that have lived in Detroit their entire lives, "When did Detroit start to fall?" That is assuming that, indeed there was a time when the society stopped "progressing" upwards and started proceeding downwards or declining... I think that perhaps shortly after my visit to see Santa at Sears, this may have come about. Most people, that I've talked to, think the riots that Detroit experienced during 1967, was the turning point. So might have Detroit experienced 40 years worth of Catabolic Collapse, already? I'm going to strongly suggest, it has.

It seems to me, that every time that I visit Detroit, it seems to have slipped further and further into decay... Sure there have been periods of recovery and I've witnessed this too, but these were only partial and could never again reach the heights experienced perhaps a decade before it. The pattern of decline is also the same, always reaching new lows. The neighborhood that I've been focusing on wasn't this bad 20 years ago! Furthermore, I'll be so bold to suggest it wasn't a "bad neighborhood" to live in 30 years ago. No, sir! I would not have thought twice about driving the main streets here 30 years ago. Now, here I was catching myself not spending "too much time" in one particular area in the neighborhood and moving on to another, was perhaps the way to go. There were very few vehicles on the streets and some of those vehicles looked like they came out of a "Mad Max" movie. One that passed by didn't even have a windshield in it! "Back then" the houses and yards were neat, orderly, and many of the driveways had Cadillacs on them............. I cannot tell you, how jolted and sad it was coming away from this experience...

Friday, January 9, 2009

What the Hell is going on here?

This photo was taken just down the street from the where the yellow van sat. It's a damn good thing that Mayor Young is not around today to see this site! This would have been enough to make his blood boil, as he despised using resources in such a wasteful matter... "What the @#%*&#$!!! hell, is going on here? %#&^%#$@!!! One was very wise not to shy or sleek away from such a rant, as this infuriated the man even more...

Let's really look at this picture, as this describes a society deep into catabolic collapse. Surely, the new pavement of the approach to the nonexistent driveway, that would lead to the nonexistent house, is a waste. That nonexistent house today, probably looked like the two at the other end of the block, not all that long ago? I wonder how long it will take when it is very likely that those two abandoned house's lots will look like the lot were viewing in this picture?
When resources become so depleted, that production falls short of the level needed to maintain the capitol stocks or homes/driveways, those homes/driveways eventually become waste. Not only is this very evident in the picture, but if that new blacktop was made from old existing blacktop that was salvaged, that too became a waste in an effort to try to maintain the unmaintainable.
During the photo shoot, I was just appalled at how much resource went into a feeble effort in making the "face lift", in areas so far into decay. That this would soon become not only a waste of time and resource, but could impede an effort on a project that would be more sustainable? Some project, that could be maintained in the foreseeable future?
I'm going to strongly suggest that Mayor Young, knew the catabolic process only too well. Certain neighborhoods were "permitted" to fall under his watch and that the dwindling resource base, was put forth on efforts to projects that could be maintained in the longer run. This is the "vision" that he had, that I was referring to earlier, that is so obviously lacking today in Detroit....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Detroit, A World Class City

Detroit's crown jewel, the Renaissance Center, or "RenCen", I spent my wedding night there in the wedding suite, back in 1980. I've had many of fine meals at "Coach Insignia" the rooftop restaurant, while gazing down upon the city. That seems almost like a lifetime ago....

Hmmm, where to start? I want to make this as personal as I can, my relationship to this once great city. I suppose, I'll start with some very fond memories and experiences that I had as a child. On a couple of occasions my mother and the next door neighbor took their broods to see Santa Claus, at the Hudson Building, "downtown" on the bus. This was no ordinary experience that you'd see at the local mall, no it was much more than that, it was "Santa Land". I can remember passing through three full floors, the lighting was rather dim but not quite dark, of snowy cotton spread out on the floor and with sparkles that would shine of every color that laid softly upon the snow. Life like wildlife figurines were scattered about amongst a pond with skaters, hills with sledders and scenes of Christmas at the farm. It was almost like following the yellow brick road of "The wizard of Oz" and at the end was a jolly old Santa, where a boy of five could whisper the dream of having a horse in the old man's ear.... Never again, would I see such "splendor" as it was long ago that the store had closed.

Other former popular attractions of downtown, was the ferry ride over to Bob-Lo Island where there was an amusement park and small zoo that featured seals, penguins and walruses in a water park equipped with slides and pools... Trips down to Michigan and Trumbull, brought the excitement of Tiger baseball.

The Detroit Zoo is still a popular destination but now is threatened of being closed, features 125 acres of naturalistic habitat in near by Royal Oak. Even the Henry Ford Museum, at nearby Dearborn, has lost a lot of it's luster of the "hay days" before the city lost half of its population......

My family moved, "Up North" back to the "family farm" just before the riots of 1967. I can well remember my father stating, "Glad, we got the hell out of there, just in a nick of time!" I did get my wish of getting that horse, guess that Santa Claus guy, was able to drop off one further up north, before he ran out...while coming to the city.

In, the late seventies, I moved back to the Detroit area to work construction, as an heavy equipment operator. There were times when the asphalt paving company who I was working for, had jobs in the inner city constructing fast food restaurants, loading docks, factory roadways and such. It was ALWAYS the practice to haul the machinery back to the yard everyday while completing projects within the Detroit city limits... As theft and destruction of equipment was common... It wasn't long, before the economy tanked and I found myself working elsewhere, along with thousands of others.

It wasn't until 1984 when I found myself back again in Detroit. The city was just beginning to pull out of the recession of the time and the Detroit Tigers baseball team was on the way to the World Series. It was almost as if the city became alive once again! Very upbeat and the construction "boom" was on. I cannot understate the pride and enthusiasm found in making this city "great" again... The Detroit Grand Prix and the Detroit River boat races, were also considered, "World Class" entertainment.

I found employment as a foreman/operator for one of the largest minority contractors in the city. Here, I started work at Chene Park, the pride and joy of the city at the time and also doing work within the low income projects around the inner city. Working at the park was almost a reward for under taking the jobs at "the projects". However, there was an "overseer" at the park that demanded attention, that could have been another reason...

It was at the park that I came to meet Mayor Coleman Young. While being prepped for this event, I was told to never cross this man and to do EXACTLY what he told me to do, to the letter, whether it was "our" job or not... One should not speak of Detroit without mentioning this great man's name. He was the mayor of Detroit spanning from 1974 to 1993, 5 consecutive terms for a total of 20 years. He ruled Detroit with an "iron fist" and it was his vision of the city, that carried it through the rebounds or "partial recoveries" of the era. It was his character and charisma, that made it so! He "willed" it, anyone who disputes this, didn't know the man... Mayor Young, was not an easy man to please, there would be many, many times I would do a job over and over again, until it met his satisfaction. Not only at the park, but Cadillac Square and "the projects", he was personally involved in them all (and didn't seem to mind if he got his feet dirty doing it). He did get to know me on the first name basis, for me addressing him it was always Sir, or Mayor Young... I can't say, that I knew this man well, because I didn't. However, I learned a lot from him just by the way he walked around. This man walked, like he had an invisible shield around him and that nothing could touch him. I cannot say if I've ever met a man more admirable, maybe not respectful. He had his worries, and it was on more than one occasion, I'd seen him, lash out.

I think, in retrospect his vulgarness, stemmed from his vision of the future for the city, once he left, that it'd "fall apart". I even went to the extent to switch jobs, so I could help complete the work at the park as well at the projects. Detroit, is a "hard" city, and what is so apparent to me anyway, it lacks this kind of "hard" man to manage over it today... Mayor Coleman Young was a "World Class" man.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Anybody home?

Do you think that this home fell victim to foreclosure? I wonder what has become of the people who once lived there? I'll just bet, that this home could be a case in study of catabolic collapse, just as the neighborhood it is in, just as the city and state, all represent stages of this process.

I'd like to suggest, that such homes as the one shown above (click to make larger), as being not common, in the Detroit inner city neighborhoods. Certainly, this house has seen some upkeep throughout the years, however, what are the chances of it being sold (no for sale signs could be found), before it takes on stages of the ones pictured down below? I would suspect, not long... My friend Nudge, is looking for a new home, what would be her first, do you suppose that someone like her would be interested in this property, if it were selling for less than $10,000? $5,000? Many of them are...

What about the home that is pictured at the bottom? This does have a "for sale" sign in the yard and is only blocks away from the houses pictured above. Again, there are more structures like those than the ones actually being lived in and the very few of the ones like the one pictured atop. I would estimate that almost half of the abandoned homes viewed during the picture shoot, showed signs
of fire. I can't image, how busy the fire department around there must be these days... What happens when the resources that make that service available become so depleted, that it must cut back, or be eliminated altogether? Just as it was very likely, the resources of the homeowner of the above home became so depleted, they could no longer afford the upkeep and were likely foreclosed upon? This is the idea of "catabolic collapse". This is a vicious cycle we're talking about here and unless resource depletion (jobs lost) can be stopped, driving down the maintenance costs below that what production (jobs created) can meet, then this catabolic process will end. I just cannot see this as a possibility at this time, here. However, there will very likely be periods of partial recovery, (maybe the next four years?), the house at the very top, may be bought, the maintenance covered for awhile until the next "slide" is encountered...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Part II Catabolic Collapse

When I was going through the photos, I wanted one that presented the best example of catabolic collapse. This is it, it shows new homes that are nestled among the ruins. These little pockets represent the "partial recovery" that makes this theory so unique. Such new housing (however far and few between) are scattered throughout most of the inner city neighborhoods. Like this one, new homes are built right next door to abandoned houses, this was very common. Not only that, but fresh blacktop was recently laid on many of the streets around such projects.

Perhaps a better way to illustrate the catabolic collapse cycles of descent is shown in the graph that I've drawn on the left. This again, is very much like the one that is depicted in John Michael Greer's, "The Long Descent", however, I've added a thinner line that might suggest other scenarios projecting "Long Emergencies" that have no periods of partial recovery, just maybe periods of staying the same or ever so slightly declining. Both lines drawn show a staircase effect, however, the catabolic line (the thicker line) captures the eye showing this staircase effect better, when viewed diagonally. When viewed diagonally, the thinner line more represents some kind of saw tooth effect. This is very important, as I've heard both kinds of scenarios described as having the staircase effect, however the dynamics are not the same. Also, by viewing graphics or abstract models at different angles and by inverted them, can express ideas better or perhaps in a whole new light. More about this later...

Back to the graph and a society in catabolic collapse, each period of crisis (shown by the fall in the thicker line and the period in time is shaded) causes losses in infrastructure, social organization, information resources and population. This period can be described as a "bust". What follows is a period of stability and recovery or "boom" , but only PARTLY (the recovery cannot reach the level as obtained before it). This period will be followed by another period of instability and decline and so on. This trajectory suggests a downward arc. As John suggests in "The Long Decline" and elsewhere, the industrial world has already experienced a mild crisis during the 1970's and also a period of recovery in the following decades. The same process is likely to have more severe crises and briefer pauses, to shape history in the next 200 years..

What I really want to get across to readers, is this pattern or rhythm that John is suggesting in catabolic collapse. It's a period of decline to be followed by a period of partial recovery to be followed by even deeper decline, etc..

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Part I, Catabolic Collapse

This photo was taken very near the 94/Livernois location, this house is
typical of those in the area. Almost entire blocks are dominated by structures
such as this one. Once a placed called, "home"....................
(Just think of the stories, that the tree from behind the house could reveal...)

What is Catabolic Collapse? It is a theory describing the dynamics of how civilizations decline devised by John Michael Greer, in 2005. Since that time, this theory has captured the imagination of thousands throughout the intellectual world. It certainly has mine. It can be found on the side bar from his site .

Perhaps the best way to describe catabolic collapse, comes from John himself in his book entitled, "The Long Descent" A users guide to the end of the industrial age. I strongly recommend this book, as in my opinion, best describes the predicament that this civilization now faces. More about this later... In it John uses a metaphor in describing catabolic collapse. It goes something like this: Using home ownership instead of the fate of civilizations, this concept may come to light. Until recently when most people bought homes, they did so within they're means. During the housing bubble of the last few years, many people bought much more of a house than they could actually afford, on the assumption that the appreciating value of the property, along with other advantages of home ownership, would make up the difference.

However, many of these people didn't realize just how much it would cost to own, maintain and repair the new home would be, and that the soaring real estate prices made it difficult to comprehend that with every boom, follows a bust. Soon, many of these people who thought they could get rich off the investment of their home(s) found themselves in an awkward predicament, as they no longer cover the costs with their income. One popular way to cover this gap was through home equity loans, however that option was removed when housing prices began to fall and credit began to tighten. Once the opportunities began to narrow and every option, taking on more debt, left repairs and maintenance on that investment, unpaid. In time, the rising costs overwhelms available income, resulting in foreclosure.

This process of booms and busts, represents cycles that are repeated over and over, again and again, throughout history. It can be reflected in the business cycles, market fluctuations and if I may be so bold, reflected in one's own life experience.

To visualize the cycles of descent that this model (catabolic collapse) suggests, the descent of this civilization, (as with most others) will likely display a gradual arc downward, much like that of a "roller coaster ride", viewing it from a distance. Imagine for a moment, a roller coaster cart (representing civilization) going down the tracks, lasting for 200 years of decline, in time. At the peak (when the civilization is at it's height and begins to decline), the roller coaster cart begins it's descent, it falls for a period of time, comes to a "bottom" then proceeds to make a climb to the next level or hill. The coaster cart then crests that peak (at a lower level from the one preceding it) and begins to make another fall, bottoms, climbs (there may be little "bumps" along the way) to another peak at yet another lower level, and on and on. Another example, may be that of a sledder, starts the slide at top of a mountain, slides into a gully, proceeds up the next hill. The sledder crests that hill and slides through the next gully, through some bumps and up the next hill and back down again and proceeds through this process (or series of hills), all the way down the mountain...

In Part II of Catabolic Collapse, I'll attempt to elaborate more on the cycles of descent.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Catabolic Collapse: Detroit, Michigan

this vehicle was "parked" not 10 feet from the roadway and
the picture taken inside my vehicle.........


As promised, I beginning to start the "Catabolic Collapse: Detroit, Michigan", series. What's happening in this "world class" city, has been at the attention of the main stream media as of late, last night, there was a piece on CBS's "Evening News".

I suppose, this project that I'm ready to embark on, actually started in the spring of last year just shortly after Michael Nystrom, came out with his article, "Second Great Depression in Detroit", found here . At the time, I was deep in the study of John Michael Greer's theory of "Catabolic Collapse" and searching for examples, when it dawned on me, what better an example? In the days and weeks to come, I'll attempt to describe what catabolic collapse might mean and how this might relate to this "once" great city.

In that respect, I want to be ever so mindful and respectful to the people who have, are and will likely have to endure this process, in the future. Most come from proud hard-working backgrounds and I should know, as I was born there, (Wayne, Mi.) in 1959 and have been apart of the city/suburbs, off and on, pretty much my entire life. Having actually worked and lived there over the years, has enabled me a perspective that spans for over 40 years. Up close and personal. I'd like to provide windows of this perspective coming from me, to you.

My posts will likely come fast and furious, as is my style, so be on your toes! In the mean time please enjoy this site, as I find it very complimentary of what I'm pertaining to . I'll very likely pick out a story(s) from detroitblog to accompany my own, each time, to better familiar you with this great city and it's people. So, here we go again, down yet another trail of endurance...(Hope your heart can take it....)