Excerpts from my journal while in Detroit, moving backwards, last to first.
About deindustrialization, depopulation, residential and commercial vacancy, corruption of capitalism—and the rise of urban gardens, local resistance and activist organizations—ending with news about the US Social Forum, Allied Media Conference, and the first public national gathering of anti-Zionist Jews in the United States.
In several parts, with photos and videos.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
In northwest Detroit
Along Grand River Boulevard
July 1, 2010, Thursday
Biking thru parts of Detroit, this time the industrial southwest that Grove [a friend from Boston who’d come to Detroit for the US Social Forum and Assembly of Anti Zionist Jews] discovered on her bike. From the haunted cavernous boulevards and wide roads of much of Detroit to the beehive of activity in the SW, on a cool cumulous-shrouded day, trucks rumbling up and down roads, oil refinery stacks thrusting their phallic presences into the clouds, huge electricity-generating complexes with their space ship-like designs, and the Ford Motor Company Rouge River plant, scene of vigorous union activity, anchoring much of this region, I, on my little bicycle, pedaled about, photographing and videoing when I could, which was often.
No one stopped me, ever. I thought surely I’d be spotted and suspected and questioned and prohibited: a potential terrorist. But no, never. I ranged freely. After all this is a “free” country. I wasn’t entirely sure which was the tar sands aka oil sands refinery so I phoned Grove. She explained. I also stopped in a lunch spot where workers were eating, asked the counter woman where the tar sands refinery was, she didn’t know, but an eater-worker knew. He was working on the expansion and instructed me how to find it, virtually around the corner.
Marathon Tar Sands Oil refinery expansion
Is it now refining tar sands crude? I inquired. No, he answered. This is an expansion. Grove thought they were currently refining the filthy black gooey mass, piped in from Alberta in the NW region of Canada.
It is highly polluting, from mining to transport to refining to use. I’m reading now an excellent article detailing the entire operation, “How the oil sands got to the Great Lakes Basin: pipelines, refineries and emissions to air and water,” by David Israelson [link below]. The truth is upsetting, British Petroleum, BP, is involved, and the recent Gulf oil spill from the exploded under sea well is a harbinger, an early warning, a clear signal that much of the earth could be destroyed by one catastrophic incident involving the tar sands process. Or the ill effects could accrue incrementally, eventually overcoming human and other life forms. Are we smart and sane enough to realize this and ditch the tar sands system? Unlikely I’m afraid.
In Michigan, more than 800,000 gallons of oil have leaked into the Tallmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River after the rupture of an underground oil pipe. The spill has been described as one of the worst in the history of the Midwest. The pipeline is owned and operated by the firm Enbridge based in Calgary, Alberta. Meanwhile, another oil spill has been reported in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Early on Tuesday, a barge slammed into an abandoned oil well, causing a shower of water, natural gas and oil to spew about 100 feet into the air.
—Democracy Now, July 28, 2010
One has stated, we all make mistakes, but those who repeat the same mistake can be considered insane. Is human kind insane? Greedy beyond our own health?
United States Steel Corporation, along the Detroit River
I was very tired returning home. The wind had slightly abated from the day before, and switched from northerly to northwesterly. I stopped off in a park in which the estate of Henry Ford is located, biking the trail, enjoying the reverence for nature demonstrated by the park. I’d hoped to cruise thru Arab Dearborn and possibly stop for Arabic treats but I found none [on this trip, later success]. At the Henry Ford museum complex I ate my lunch, packed from the kitchen (smoked salmon on green tortilla, cheese on those same tortillas, and carrots dipped into the last of my chunky peanut butter brought from home). For $30 I could have visited the museum, toured the factory, and strolled thru a village that brought together elements of the US’s industrial past, including the transplanted home and workshop of Thomas Edison.
I declined—lateness of the day, fatigue, and the expense. Later, Karen [my Detroit host, in whose home I resided for 3 rich weeks] informed me that it would make a good outing, and might be spreadable over several days. Maybe for a return visit.
Last evening, at Karen’s request, we scouted the industrial area for night photography [coming in the next installment of photos]. She claims to have a good camera for this. Her battery ran out. My high ISO generates too much noise to be of much use, without a plug-in noise reducer which I hope to purchase in time for this summer’s workshop I teach about night and low light photography.
We zipped along some of the same roads I’d biked during the day, now mostly empty. Lights flickered, flames shot out of stacks burning off excess gas, most workers were probably home or out drinking. I was fascinated with the scene.
Earlier in the evening I finally wrote a response to GC’s letter fostering our dialog. He’s claimed I’m suffering under-developed self-love. I said, maybe, but it would be big news to those who know me most intimately, esp P and Y. He mentioned projections, always a factor. But overall I felt—and wrote him—that much of his analysis serves to allow Quakers to muddle along in cognitive dissonance: the chasm between belief and action. In particular around being anti war while paying one’s income taxes, half of which go to military exploits. I also propounded the strong connection between esthetics and ethics; the first is empty without the second. He feels I do not sufficiently honor the and/both approach, while favoring the either/or. Which might be true. Aren’t there some positions and attitudes that are categorical? And he reminded me that John Woolman befriended slave owners. Who are the equivalent in Israel-Palestine?
And so it goes, on my last days and nights in Detroit.
Jarvis, fishing along the Detroit River–“been fishing here for 30 years and never seen so few fish”
From 2008 to 2009, the Yale Project on Climate Change found that the percentage of doubters [in global climate change] had doubled in size to 16 percent of the American public, while the percentage of believers had dropped to 10 percent, from 18 percent in 2008. The current heat wave might reverse that trend, says Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz.
—Stephen Kurczy (The Christian Science Monitor) – July 7, 2010
TO BE CONTINUED