One thing that will change, along with the structure of our communities (more centralization, less sprawl) and our modes of transportation (forget about driving everywhere, or flying anywhere, get used to trains and buses), will be our food system. Grapes from Chile, apples from New Zealand, cattle fed on industrially produced grain and meat shipped thousands of miles in freezer trucks—all will become increasingly unaffordable to the average person. Likewise, goodbye to the cheap crap from China that stocks the shelves of Wal Marts and Costcos. This is bad, right? But as prices on these commodities increase, due to the costs of fossil fuels, things produced by human hands, closer to home, will become competitive, and will increasingly be viewed as values. Regional webs of agriculture, manufacturing, and culture may spring back to life. Perhaps it is fitting that the derailing of global capitalism in late 2008 may have originated in the most local of capital markets—housing and real estate. And maybe it is there, in the local soil, where we may find our true roots, and grow again—not endlessly expanding outward, but elaborating inward, not finding wealth in accumulation, but richness in cultivation, not in exceeding limits, but in working artfully within them.
I have been thinking a lot about food. This in itself is not unusual for me. As those who know me will attest, it is rare that I am not thinking about food. But I have been thinking of food in particular as it relates to our societal plight and our civilization’s future—as well as that of Detroit. Looking at item number three on the list above, I am not the first to notice that some of Detroit’s apparent deficits are things that might be assets by another measure. First and foremost among these is an abundance of vacant land located at the center of a major market on a navigable waterway that connects two major industrial countries. We also have an abundance of idle workers, thanks to the de-industrializing downshift of the previous three decades, as well as the most recent recession, and the bankruptcy and restructuring of two of the former Big Three automakers. Add to this a benevolent climate (most of the year) that contributes to some of the most productive and diverse agriculture in the country. Michigan and neighboring Ontario are both tremendous fruit producers, and almost any other food you can think of comes out of the soil here at some point in the year. --PD