A hunter-gatherer who did not correctly conceive a solution to providing food or shelter probably died, along with his or her progeny, whereas a modern Wall Street executive that made a similar conceptual mistake would receive a substantial bonus and be a more attractive mate.
– Gerald Crabtree, Professor at Stanford University in California, who heads a genetics laboratory.
A sad but well written piece about the problems residents of Detroit face on a daily basis appeared in the Detroit News today. When I was young, over 20 years ago, my parents left the City. Not because they no longer loved it, but because they wanted my and my sister’s childhood to resemble theirs and the neighborhood we lived in didn’t afford either my sister or me the opportunities they had. Whether it be education or just as importantly the ability to feel safe when we rode our bikes down the street, raising children in the City is complicated. On an aside, I have always admired Charlie LeDuff’s columns since he came back here from his pulitzer prize winning career, which included a stint with the New York Times.
Below is an excerpt from his article:
After 62 years, two children and a life made on the assembly line, Paulette Bouyer is leaving Detroit.You might remember her. She became something of a cause celebre when she appeared in these news pages in February after her home was robbed in broad daylight.
She became a reminder that there is a class of person in this city who lived through the good times, stuck out the tough times and waited for the good times to return, only to realize she was doing time locked behind the bars of her own home.
So now, Bouyer is walking away from the mortgage on her home on Greenview Street on the city’s west side. Like a million people before her, Bouyer has decided to cast her lot in the leafy suburbs of Oakland County. She takes with her a box of photographs, her living room set, her Bible and her gun.
“I’m sad,” she said behind rose-colored lenses. “I always had hope for this place. It was my life.”
From Standish, Michigan (see the previous post) to Los Angeles. I have lived in Northern Michigan and also in LA. The Station Fire in Los Angeles is amazing and far larger and closer to heavily populated areas than any I saw when I lived there. Amazing pictures of the blaze are available, as usual, from The Big Picture. Thank God, Los Angeles wasn’t facing El Nino winds at the same time.
That is, are we at the cusp of a truly calamitous collapse of the entire economic and social order of the past couple of hundred years. Our economy has developed based, in large part, on the availability of relatively cheap energy in the form of petroleum. Some believe, with good reason, that the days of cheap oil are actually behind us. If cheap oil is over, how can we continue to support our highly decentralized life styles?
One of the best known proponents of this view is Dmitry Orlov, software engineer from Leningrad, who is to some the quintessential doom-and-gloomer. Whether he is right or wrong, he is always interesting to listen to and it is worthwhile to hear him out.
Dmitry Orlov has made a name for himself predicting economic and social collapse. He was profiled recently in The New Yorker, and here is a talk he gave in February, 2009, to the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. His blog is a must read.
If you liked Supersize Me, King Corn, Fast Food Nation, Our Daily Bread or any of the other recent food production films, you will probably like Food Inc., coming out in June. If it is recommended by Alice Waters, that’s good enough for me.
If you have never heard of the sinularity, you are in for a surprise. The concept is that humans, in the near future, will either become or create super-intelligent beings, biological or technical. Once this happens, humans as currently understood will not have the mental ability to even understand what these beings are doing and will become, essentially, lower level animals. It may happen so quickly that most (or all) people don’t even know that it is approaching. On first hearing, this may sound crazy, but some very smart people believe it will happen.
People are losing their homes. What does this mean in the real world? Newsweek takes a look at one sheriff in Cook County who will do no more foreclosures. Why did he stop?
It’s hard to explain; that’s why I always encourage people to come out with me. Until you’re physically out there, you can’t really get the magnitude of what you’re actually up to. It sounds like it’s an antiseptic process, and it’s anything but that. In the majority of the homes I was going into, there were always little kids around—I mean, really young kids, and we’re taking them and putting them out on the street. A lot of them were seniors, and a lot of them had issues with dementia. Once again—we’re taking them out to the street … Most of these neighborhoods are not good neighborhoods. Once [their belongings are] out on the street, we leave. While they’re off looking for transportation, the few things they own are being stolen.
I tried to work arrangements with landlords and mortgage holders to get me more information as far as who was in there, so I could try to get social services to them and somewhat mitigate this. And I had no luck.
Read this interview of a man on the front line. This is the real story of the collapse that many people in the middle or upper class simply do not know or understand. Yes, some took out mortgages they could not afford. But what about those who were assured by lenders that everything would be fine.? And what about tenants who had no clue that their landlords would not continue to make payments? Why does the federal government have billions for the bankers and essentially nothing for the people?
What would you do in this situation?
I got a bunch of stories. One in particular hit all the buttons. We went in, and standing in front of me is a young man, probably early 30s; he’s holding two 6-month-olds in his hands, in their diapers, both of them have colds; he’s got a 5-year-old, and an 11-year-old with his wife. And we’re there to throw him out.
He pulls out a lease he’d signed, which was all valid and notarized. The lease was entered into after the foreclosure had occurred—the case had gone through the courts, but this landlord was such a rotten person he kept renting the place out. If not for the steps we’d put in place, this guy was out in the street with these little kids.
One fine and sunny Saturday just recently, I visited a sparkly new Lowe’s home-improvement megastore to spec out a replacement oven for my apartment, an experience I was dreading not merely because it was the last place I wanted to spend a pristine Saturday, but because on weekends those places tend to be crammed and torturous and teeming and such crowds generally give me hives.
I needn’t have worried.
And not a single human in sight.
Check that: a handful of humans milled about, but most were sales clerks looking equal parts bored, lonely, confused. The few actual customers I finally noticed were barely visible at all, swallowed up by the gleaming mountains of unsold goods, like a few tiny ants in a farm designed to hold ten thousand.
It was, in a word, disquieting. It was, in six more, strange and dreamlike and unexpectedly sad.