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..


Nudge said...

It's still almost pinch-me unbelievable that we have so many homeless people coexisting in the same time & place as so many empty houses still standing.

What's going to happen first: will the law look the other way to benign squatting, when it happens? Will squatting become widespread? Or will the law become irrelevant in that regard?

yooper said...

Hey Nudge, yup, homelessness is so widespread and I fear it's about to get much worse. What can our society do to alleviate this?

I think to answer your questions, that "law" isn't law anymore once it becomes unenforceable. In Detroit,(depending on the property)I think, that benign squatting has been "tolerated" for decades. I think, it already has become widespread and is about to get much worse, if not now, then perhaps later. If squatting becomes much more widespread, perhaps law will have to change to make it relevant and enforceable?

I suppose, in the next segment, I'll splash some pictures of homes in this area. I do think, that a lot of those that are homeless now, do not find these homes as good structures to squat in. Many perfer the hulled out abandoned concrete factories, overpasses and such or something that doesn't go up like a match in the case of fire. Also, squatters are not welcomed by those that still live in the neighborhoods. That is, I wouldn't suspect all that many, that are searching for a place to squat, would look to these abandoned homes as their first choice...

sticker said...
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Atomicat said...

I think it may depend on the neighborhood. I've heard different stories over the years. We can see in some areas squatters moving into these dumps or abandoned houses and claiming them as their own. If there are drugs involved the neighbors may not want to get to involved for fear of retribution. Fear gangs or dealers is natural and healthy when living in Detroit, so it could depend on the situation.

I heard one story via the grape vine of a guy who was kidnapped and taken to a house in Detroit. The kidnappers were going to do who knows what to this guy. He was taken to a drug house and some neighbors called police who broke in and rescued the guy from these guys. This guy was just going about his business when a carjack kidnapping event happened. Had it not been for the neighbors in this neighborhood watching and reporting, he'd probably be dead.

There was a story some years back about a drug bust that went wrong and some of the customers inside were undercover cops, one was shot. I remember reading about it in the paper and hearing about it on the news. This perhaps 15 years ago. Drug dealers would take a house over, have their dope house and traffic would flow with buyers, some from the suburbs driving by to get their fix. I worked with a guy who was a buyer and user. He would disappear for days after payday and be broke the rest of the week or much of the month. These things fuel decay as well, a constant dragging down of the baser instincts like gravity pulling us to the grave.

A friend of mine was working with homeless and told me the story of a guy who was living under an overpass and one day he didn't want to leave, the next day some of the dealers had broken his nose, so he was in the mood to leave and find a place to live in. He had a drug habit.

The dealer was delivering dope to these overpass guys via bikeriding from one of the abaondoned houses nearby where they had setup a dope distribution network. The police caught the dealer on the bike.

There's a book called Feakonomics, that has some interesting theories based on statistical analysis and it talks about the average mentality of a drug dealer (in Chicago, from a gang of them that was studied by the author, who had a look at their books.) The average dealer lived at home with his mother paying the bills. They made less than a guy would get at McDonald's, but did it anyway, becasue if 30 guys saw that one guy in charge living it up with the good life, they all thought, they wanted to be that guy. So they basically lived making small profits selling drugs as small time operators, hoping to climb the ladder.

I heard a quote on a radio station that 12% of the people who go to the Detroit Public Schools actually graduate, if they stay in the Detroit system their entire life. Also 12% of those going die as children. So you have as great a chance at dying in school as graduating.

You have to ask yourself, who would want to rebuild and try to restore and live in a place with statistics like this. Also I had a friend who served on a Grand Jury in Detroit for the Federal government. He said most of the federal cases in that court were involved with drug selling. He said, perhaps the workload of the Federal courts would be cut by as much as 70% if drug cases were elliminated. This conservative Republican (at that time), surprised me by saying he thought it might be better if drugs were legalized just to reduce all the workload and folks going through the system. This guy was not a drug user and didn't advocate it, that kind of statement went completely against his nature.

Such is the nature of the sheer number of forces of moral and civil decay that are in some areas.

Some of this kind of activity and attitude (I'm not just talking about racial movement) moves into the suburbs around the city and you can see the decay spread into older poorer neighborhoods. As people age, the sucessful move out, you can see it creep over the borders into the suburbs. Where ever there's a huge buildup of population (a gift of large industry) and then a sudden collapse (when industry shuts down), you can see this accellerate.

You have to wonder how much of this is a construction and decay dynamic and how much is crime, vandelism, and just a bunch of gangs or ex cons rummaging through and pulling down the buildings that are emptied. Some decay is much slower, small villages up north that were abandoned as ghost towns when copper mining collapsed for example. Even in these rural areas, we see destruction and pillaging of the assets as houses are left alone. There's a certain number of criminals and scavengers in any area of course. In Detroit the activity is much greater.

The boom and building we see is actually quite amazing in some areas, which are targeted and probably mostly due to pressures from the Federal government and incentives to build. These projects are built and provide employment. But as one friend I know who works on some of these mentioned, they left a new project and 30 minutes afterwards one night a gang of four guys chased some other guy through the new construction and killed him.

So it's easy to look at the buildings, but there are so many variables happening. Money flows to the big projects and the big draws for income (stadiums) have police presence priority. If you go to a red wings game you'll feel like you are in a huge happy group of people, because they all have jobs, came in from the suburbs primarily and your in a swarm of sucessful folks happy to go to a game. That's the public image of Detroit or any major city people are given as the positive spin. In the local poor neighborhoods, the houses sit and jobless often fritter away their days. Decay is a result of slow wear of the elements as well, and without funds to repair the structures eventually fall apart.

Gravity vs. sweat and financial equity.

yooper said...

Hello Greg! I can't agree more with your assessment here, excellent! You bet there's a lot more going on that meet's the average eye! ha! Hopefully, when people read this series (or lesson)they'll come by your comments. Your eyes are of the experienced, that can only come from spending years in this environment. I can tell you're a season veteran of the area.

We share very much the same vision of Detroit, which can only come from the experience of boots on the ground!

Thanks, yooper