Motor city goes rural

Going forward, Detroit looks to pre-auto era


When you think of Detroit, you probably think of cars—or, at least some heavy industry. But that might change. Today’s Detroit is desolate: a grey grid of abandoned streets fanning out into urban sprawl. And that desolation has city officials eyeing a dramatic urban renewal plan—one that would scale back the city, tearing down houses and replacing washed-out neighborhoods with the fields and farmlands of yesteryear. Imagine vegetable farms and fruit trees growing on the very land the fed the heart of 20th century American auto industry. Some city activists are already raising fists, but others think the plan is a pragmatic way for the stale city to enter the new millennium. Says James Hughes, dean of the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, “There is now a realization that past glories are never going to be recaptured. Some people probably don’t accept that, but that is the reality.”

Associated Press

Filed under:

Motor city goes rural

  1. Not enough. Don't just tear down, retrofit. Use those foundations to build vertical farms and renewable energy generation facilities.

    We're going to need them.

    • Vertical farms are a dumb idea. Why waste all that steel and concrete to build a stacked greenhouse when you can build one just outside of town with far less materials? It's not as if saving 30 miles of transportation is worth all that extra investment.

      • First, you should take a look at exactly how much farmland a city the size of Detroit actually uses to keep it fed.

        The ongoing resource costs. Built correctly, vertical farms can use a fraction of the energy and water that a traditional farm uses, and has the benefit that it can be located directly in the city. Additionally, vertical farms require their own climate control.. something typical farmland currently doesn't, and as a result, doesn't have. This means that as the climate goes increasingly haywaire, traditional fields are going to become less dependable. Ditto with pest control.. it's simply easier to do it in an enclosed space. Again, the changing climate means more pests will be coming up from the warmer areas.

        • You're pretending a vertical farm is the only option. I propose that anything a vertical farm (call it a stacked greenhouse, which is way more accurate) can do, a "flat" (more traditional) greenhouse can do better. For one thing, it wouldn't need hundreds or thousands of tonnes of concrete per acre equivalent. Also, if you think intensive greenhouse production of food does not face problems with pest management, you're not very familiar with the industry. One plus side with greenhouses is that pesticide use can be much more targeted, allowing orders of magnitude less to be used per unit of food produced.

          And realistically, this will only be remotely feasible for relatively high-value vegetables. It's pure fantasyland to think about growing corn or rice in a greenhouse as an efficiency measure.

          • Oh you're absolutely right.. but this is why it's great for putting into an inner-city.. those hundres or thousands of tonnes of concrete have already been put down.

          • In a convenient, vertical-farm shaped structure? What are you even talking about?

            Even beyond the structure issues, what about the heat-load of artificial lighting and humidity load of plant transpiration? A vertical farm would need a monster cooling/ventilation system, as well as large amounts of power to supply both the lights and vent systems. Then there's the problem of growing exactly what is demanded in the catchment area (for the vertical farm fantasyland idea of selling all food through a grocer in the base) on sight, with not transportation. None of it makes any sense. Vertical farm proponents are trying to jam a square peg in a round hole because vertical farms sound cool. Frankly, they are suboptimal uses of resources, and I don't think we can afford to be wasteful for the sake of geeking out.

Sign in to comment.