Monday, May 30, 2011

The Buzz about Detroit for the week ending May 28, 2011 from Model D Media

A few hours ago, I wrote:

As for the post I promised based on Model D Media's Buzz page, I'll do that after midnight.
It's after Midnight; time to follow through--finally!

First, I'll give you all something that was a big hit on my LiveJournal, to say nothing of a politics community there and a friend's journal. I find it gratifying to spread a meme, especially one favorable to Detroit that mentions a sustainable practice.

In case you can't read the entry by Detroit, it says, "Street cred; Something vague about hopeful post-apocalyptic gardening."

Full-sized version here.

Model D Media had the following to say:
Sociologists know that hipsters, that particular breed of 20-something cultural "vanguards," cannot survive in merely any city. Any healthy and happy hipster needs dive bars that serve PBR, vintage shops, grimy music venues, post-industrial art spaces and other habitat features in order to thrive.
Detroit and some of its suburbs have all of that to spare, except the dive bars serve better beer than Pabst Blue Ribbon--and it's local, too.

Next, the article I described as:
a really juicy article from the New York Times that Model D Media has linked to that deserves its own post. It also happens to be exactly the kind of red meat article that Kunstler's readers seem to love.
Nearly all of my most popular articles here seem to the ones in which I comment on a New York Times article about how Detroit and its suburbs are dealing with contraction. This one fits that mold, except that it's more optimistic.

Imagining Detroit

But after spending some time here, I saw an alternative view of Detroit: a model for self-reliance and growth. Because while the lifeblood of Venice comes from outsiders, Detroit residents are looking within. They’d welcome help, but they’re not counting on it. Rather, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, they’re turning from seeing things as they are and asking, “Why?” to dreaming how they might be and wondering, “Why not?”
As I've written before, this place is not ready to die yet, and is picking itself up after hitting bottom. Mark Bittman is seeing the residents do just that.
Food is central. Justice, security, a sense of community, and more intelligent land use have become integral to the food system. Here, local food isn’t just hip, it’s a unifying factor not only among African-Americans and whites but between them. Food is an issue on which it seems everyone can agree, and this is a lesson for all of us.
The author is absolutely right; food is central to the future of Detroit. It's why this city is the literal center of urban agriculture in North America. He's also right that Detroit, which suffers from some of the worst racial residential segregation in North America, needs a unifying force. Food as a focus of urban renewal might be just that force.
“The idea,” says Malik Yakini, a school principal who runs the two-acre D-Town Farm, “is to help black people stand up, to demonstrate that creating reality is not the exclusive domain of white people — without pointing fingers at white people.” The farm, located in Rouge Park — the city’s biggest — will soon double in size.

Yakini, the chairman of the Detroit Food Policy Council, which is holding its first conference this week, gave me a tour on the eve of spring planting while a dozen African-American volunteers steadily raked a sizable plot. “The farm can empower, drive the economy, reduce our carbon footprint and give us better food,” he said. “And we’re influencing young white people too, because they can see that.”

And how. During the 48 hours I spent in Detroit, I met enthusiastic black, white and Asian people, from age 10 to over 60, almost all of whom agreed that food is the key to the new Detroit.
Yakini is someone my colleague and I need to have speaking to my Global Politics of Food class in the fall. He looks like exactly the kind of person the students should be hearing from. Also, I'm glad I'm not alone in my thoughts about food and the future of Detroit. The sustainability-minded here seem to be reaching a consensus on the issue.

Also, I'm not alone in my optimism without relying on business as usual. Bittman has it, too.
Read the paper, and you see a wasted landscape; go there, and you see the sprouts emerging from the soil.
If anything, the local TV stations are worse than the local papers. At least the papers try to be boosters of the city, while the TV stations play up how scary the place is. It got so bad that I stopped watching local news on the TV more than a decade ago (YouTube clips are another matter).

The article concludes with the following.
“Imagine a city, rebuilt block by block, with a gorgeous riverfront, world class museums and fantastic local food. Everyone who wants one has a quarter-acre garden, and every kid lives within bike distance of a farm.”

Imagine. If the journey is as important as the destination, Detroit is already succeeding. And we can all learn from what seems to be the city’s unofficial slogan: “We can do better than this.”
Looks like an upbeat version of "A World Made by Hand."

One final note--Model D's title for its summary of this article is Detroit's journey from mean to green wins admiration from the Times. I'm used to Detroit being the place that even New Yorkers are scared of. Having them find the place inspirational is a pleasant change of pace.

One final Buzz item for tonight: Nain Rouge added to paranormal "Most Wanted" list. Even Detroit's paranormal activity is becoming cool. That written, you don't want to see the Nain Rouge. He's an ill omen that shows up once a generation, if that. Here's to the Maybe of never observing that creature!


ETA: Those of you coming from Kunstler's blog, the next post I'll be linking to there is up.

Detroit as a travel destination? The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times think so

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