Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ReNew, ReVision, Redesign Detroit - A Permaculture Design Course

The ReNew, ReVision, ReDesign Detroit - A Permaculture Design Course

March 27th - April 8th, 2011
Larry Santoyo and Keith D. Johnson, Instructors
An Invitation to Mutually Assured Succession
The concept for the ReNew, ReVision, ReDesign Detroit - Permaculture Design Course is inspired by Detroit's efforts to re-imagine itself after decades of slow, steady decline. In Detroit, real green shoots arise in once-empty lots as individuals and organizations create community and market gardens as ways to beautify, create green spaces, provide fresh, nutritious food to city residents, create or recreate community, and pursue self-reliance as entrepreneurs in the food system. While some pursue food justice via gardens, others pursue racial and economic justice. Some do all three, many of them via a garden, or urban farm.

On some streets a rooster may crow, a goat bleat or a duck quack. Pheasants, raccoons, opossums and deer can be seen in various places. But this is not chaos and ruin, it is edge meeting edge, which is where magic happens. This is nature saying, "Join me. I haven't forgotten you." This is opportunity to design a regenerative, sustainable city. But the city is more than fallow fields and squawking chickens.

Old meets new as the Motor City becomes a city with a growing reputation for attracting entrepreneurs, artists and wanderers looking for niches, and filling them. Some are wary of the new, some embrace them. Tension like the surface tension of a bubble stretches until boundaries burst and edges blend creating magic and conflict. Techno whizzes bring the whiz-bang of new frontiers while social media rides a wave of enthusiasm for ethereal connectedness. Grace Lee Boggs sings a song of resistance to powers tangible and hidden while schools descend into chaos and overcrowding, and a new style of education seeks to rise from the ruins of industrialization.

Into the political crisis following the fall of Kwame Kilpatrick rises Mayor Dave Bing, bringing a new game, far from the basketball court, one where the stakes are very much higher. Assembling a cadre of corporations, experts and advisors, the Mayor and his select group set about the designing a future for Detroit. A Detroit from a corporate, growth-oriented view in which the citizens are engaged in meetings without dialogue and are asked to respond to pre-selected questions out of context and without any data, information or expression of what assumptions they are expected to consider. The claim is transparency, but little is known and less stated openly. The city is told people will be incentivized to move to renewed, walkable neighborhoods, but there is no money to make it happen - and they will be left behind with reduced or absent city services, but may do as they please in these left-behind "green" spaces.

An equal and opposite reaction is the response to every action. Not from the top, but from the bottom. Not behind closed, corporate and governmental doors, but in city squares, school auditoriums and neighborhood meeting places. Not in the name of growth, power and profit, but people, sustainability and community. Perhaps the people populating Detroit Works can create a Perfect Possible Future, but sound principles of ecological engineering suggest this is unlikely. How can sustainability arise from a profit motive? How does a community grow when torn from its roots and transplanted without them? How can a city be the sum of only some of its parts?

An equal and opposite reaction, this is a call and an invitation to all to engage in a discussion and a design process where all are equally empowered and the process is open and interactive. We hope this process can lead to an alternative to the current Detroit Works process, or help create a realignment and redesign of the Detroit Works process, that has as its primary concerns community and sustainability. 

A regenerative system is an inherently just system where all inputs and outputs, all elements, are connected, nested, creating a robust, yet, highly efficient whole where all is, and all are, equally valued. 

The ReNew, ReVision, ReDesign Detroit PDC will fulfill all content requirements of a PDC, however, it is, possibly, unique in its goal to apply permaculture principles to produce a workable design for a major city as the course Design Project. Detroit's difficult past, it's vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, under-utilized workforce, abundant water, vacant land, and it's industrial past all combine to make Detroit the perfect candidate to be the first large, post-industrial, post-carbon urban area.

The Detroit Works project to redesign Detroit provides the teachers, staff and students with a unique opportunity to apply permaculture at a breadth and scale perhaps never attempted in a PDC. We hope to encourage persons involved in Detroit Works to collaborate in this process and consider the resulting sustainable design elements as the Detroit Works project moves forward.

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