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Detroit: an empire of ruins « Previous | |Next »
June 21, 2009

Over at Open Democracy Ross Perin says that Detroit is dying. With the erosion of traditional manufacturing Detroit is a shrinking city.

GMbankrupt.jpg

As the US auto industry sinks---the manufacturing isn't coming back--the industrial city in Michigan becomes a site of ruins. Ross Perin observes:

The city's thousands of homeless wander the few parks; thousands more squat in vacant buildings. A little farther out, the authorities have lavished less attention; whole districts of the city molder half-empty, and condemned towers of public housing await demolition. This may be the ultimate stage of inner city blight: grassy, silent lots and the peaceful ruins of stately homes. No gun-toting criminals, no noxious industry, no overcrowded housing projects--in fact, no one in sight at all.

Like the decline in mass media newspapers Detroit 's decline signifies the end of the model of economic security and widening prosperity for structured around the industrialization and manufacturing dependent on cheap fuel. It indicates that those nations with the highest percentages of their working populations able to do symbolic-analytic tasks will have the highest standard of living and be the most competitive internationally in a warmed up world.

But there is also an ecological fallout from the old industrial age. The self-regulating mechanism of the earth system means that the myriad feedback mechanisms and processes are coming together to amplify the warming being caused by human activities such as transport and industry through huge emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Inaction---Kyoto was 11 years ago and virtually nothing's been done except endless talk and meetings---- has meant that it is now a question of surviving what is an inevitable hotter climate than it is today. This is working to secure energy and food supplies in the global hothouse, and build defences against the expected rise in sea levels.

This is relevant to Australia because it already has extensive arid and semi-arid areas, relatively high rainfall variability from year to year, and existing pressures on water supply in many areas. Rising temperatures will mean agriculture may become nonviable in certain areas, water supplies may fail for some cities; rising sea levels will destroy low-lying coastal areas whilst modern urban infrastructure will face risks from powerful extreme weather events.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:04 AM | | Comments (3)
Comments

Comments

Robert Reich argues that too many of American kids:

especially those from lower-middle class and poor families, can’t get the foundational education they need. The consequence is a yawning gap in income and wealth which continues to widen. More and more of our working people finds themselves in the local service economy -- in hotels, hospitals, restaurant chains, and big-box retailers -- earning low wages with little or no benefits.

My impression is that the same thing is happening here in Australia.

Reiterating Peter and Gary, I'd add that the mindset problem exposes itself in all sorts of unlikely places at unpredicted times.
The Rudd email farce, Rudd himself and his social conservatism, a "Message Stick" aboriginal affairs segment on the Intervention just now on teev, the "developers" crazily killing the goose laying the golden egg implacably Gadarene march ing onward , the inability of the real protagonists to read the cognitive land scape in places like Pakistan Afghanistan and Palestine; all these seemingly unrelated events come together as examples of the current reactive human mindset to identify the real issues and problems and move forward to dealing with them.
What is needed to salvage something from the human project: where and how, if it is even possible this late in the day and what cost must come relative to proposed gains?
To me it's as tho the species, confronted by the Toffler-esque psychic overload, has sort of curled up into a foetal ball in the facile hope that it all goes away.
Do we then do survivalism and discount the collateral damage, or fight this proposition on the basis that the project is intact despite all the superficial (at least) damage, that the Good Fight is still worth fighting despite the flight of seemingly key elements from the metaphorical battle ground of Now?

Ya, but in the end we still all consume stuff that is made. For better insight look at the end of any empire and the rise of the next. The rising empire is the one making more stuff, doing it cheaper faster and better than the last one. It's all happened before.