If you were lucky, you caught Requiem for Detroit on ABC2 last Thursday. It was a stunning documentary that looks at the demise of a once thriving, major American city to a husk of its former self. Buildings are abandoned, collapsing in to themselves and slowly are being returned to the earth with plants growing up amongst the ruins. The population has shrunk to less than half of its former size.
Coming from a country with a housing shortage, it is bizarre to see hundreds of abandoned houses- and there are many thousands of abandoned houses across the US as a result of people defaulting on their home loans during the GFC. And they don’t just sit there neatly with the windows boarded up quietly waiting for the next tenant: copper pipes are stripped, doors and roof tiles are taken, vandals trash them and they are set alight.
Detroit has been rocked by a number of events from race riots in the late 60s, with heavy-handed police tactics; the surge in fuel prices in the 70s; the arrival of crack cocaine in the 80s and then the GFC in the 00s.
What struck me most about this documentary, is that it seemed to be a symbol for the collapse of Western civilisation if we don’t heed the signs. It seems we are on a tipping point in relation to the environment, water and population and we can dither & choose to ignore it, or we can take on the challenges and see if we can make a difference.
Interestingly, in Detroit, some of the most interesting projects have come from individuals and community groups, rather than the government. In 1986, Tyree Guyton, started The Heidelberg Project and turned an abandoned suburb into an outdoor artwork.
Goodwill Industries has established the Goodwill Deconstruction Project which involves providing training for former prisoners and recycling materials from abandoned houses and then pulling them down. Some of the land is now referred to as urban prairie.
Speaking of doing something positive, don’t forget to bring your unwanted shoes to uni this week for recycling as part of the In Your Shoes program. The collection bin will be on the South Lawn from 12-2 from the 11th to the 15th of October. De-clutter your wardrobe, feel good about yourself & improve someone else’s life to boot.
*Requiem for Detroit will be available on iView until Saturday, 16/10/10