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






4 comments:

FARfetched said...

Yay, I found the other Lions fan online! You, me, and my dad…

I also believe in Detroit, but not so much Detroit by itself but in Michigan as a whole. Maybe it's just the people I grew up around, but it seems to me that Michigan folk like to spend more time outdoors than they do here. That might be a function of the climate here — it's usually either too hot or "too cold" 9-10 months of the year — but when electricity starts getting scarce, I know who's going to find summers unlivable and who will just keep enjoying it.

The other thing Michigan has going for it long-term is abundant water supplies. I know Lake Michigan is way down right now, but I suspect that will be a blip. As the southwest gets swallowed by desert, people will bring themselves and their businesses to places where there's water. You might find yourself having to keep people out like California during the Dust Bowl years.

Not just Michigan, but the entire Great Lakes region, should start booming… I think it will happen in our lifetimes (barring accidents).

yooper said...

I hope your right Far, about people wanting to bring their businesses here, they'll have to, for now anyway. You bet, without water, well....

Detroit is a very large city and perhaps not suitable in the near future and that others areas up river or down river might become more favorable? I don't know.

That's the thing about electricity, without it, many people will be forced to migrate where there is aboundant water that is much more accessible. Not only for their own personal use, but for many industries that demand it and a lot of it...

In the 70's, I used to love water sking the Detroit river, but it was dirty! By the late 1980's I couldn't believe the difference! So much cleaner, even though I'd be hard pressed to drink much water or eat much fish from there, a vast improvement. As industry left, the water became cleaner, no doubt about it. One can just imagaine what might happen to places like China if the power should go down for any lenght of time...

Gee, I don't know if I've ever seen a "boom time" except when I first moved to Houston.. That last company that hired me there, pick me out from over 380 appilcants! From boom to bust within three years! Glad I left, as you said, I couldn't imagine what life might be like there, without ac.

thanks, yooper

Nudge said...

Far, you are dead-on about how water is going to be critical. Part of it will have to be the freely-falling kind of precipitation, unless enough farmers live close enough to standing/running water that they can irrigate easily.

This is why I tell people I'm staying right here in this part of New England if at all possible. We have all around us the remnants of an older energy economy that ran on water power and steam-powered trains. Many of the buildings are still standing. Somewhere, perhaps in a textile museum in Worcester or Lowell or Fitchburg, I hope to find one of the power looms from before the age of grid power. This region of the country is only getting wetter as time goes on, but it was that way even before global climate weirding gained traction.

If Michigan has good soil, the people there should be all set. Probably anyplace that was prosperous in the pre-fossil-fuel era will once again be prosperous. Forget about places like Phoenix or Las Vegass or most off southern California .. those places are reverting to desert quickly enough. We're about to have Dust Bowl II in California's central valley.

The next big failure in agriculture (beyond the shock of the loss of artificially-made fertilizers and pesticides) will be the failure of the Ogallala or the failure of energy needed to pump up water from so far down. Either way, we're screwed when mechanized mega-farm production comes to an end. We'd all best be getting gardens started as quickly as possible.

yooper said...

Hey Nudge, Yup much of soil in southern Michigan, as for Ohio, Illinois, Indiana is quality soil enriched by left over from deposits of the last ice age. However, after years of industrialized farming methods have left much of this soil sterile. The soil now only supports the plant to grow upward, that's pretty much it.

It's the soil itself, that supports X amount of people.......