The other day I was driving and listening to CBC Radio One, which I always do if I’m driving alone, and I heard an interview about a water crisis. But it wasn’t about people in Africa or Asia living without access to clean water. It was about people living below the poverty line in Detroit! I guess I was somewhat aware of the struggles that Detroit City was having, due to the economic downturn and the closure of so many auto manufacturing facilities. Unemployment went through the roof, crime and poverty are major issues, homes and commercial buildings are being abandoned and foreclosed. The bankrupt city was owed more than $90 Million in unpaid water bills, so they decided to shut off the taps to over 18,000 homes! Apparently a lot of residents who were unable to make ends meet, had simply stopped paying their water bill. Immediately, a huge percentage of residents with outstanding account balances came in to pay their bills and get their water turned back on. But when stories emerged of seniors unable to leave their homes and unable to pay their bills, relying on neighbours bringing them water in 5 gallon buckets for them to cook and clean with, it quickly became a human rights issue and the city of Detroit was suddenly in the hot seat for their choices in how they dealt with the problem. The city it seems, is at a fork in the road. Not only was this an economic crisis, but an identity crisis of epic proportion. How does a city the size of Detroit recover from such an extreme recession? How can any major US city redefine what they’re about?
In Canada, we continue to shift from a rural to an urban society. Most of our cities are sprawling like crazy while small towns struggle to keep their stores and schools from closing. But when you see the state of cities like Detroit or New Orleans, it starts to make a person wonder what the future could look like for some of our own cities like Calgary or Toronto if we ever had a major economic recession or depression. Creating change in any community, big or small, is never easy. I’ve been living for 5 years now in a town of less than 1,000 people in rural Alberta, and I love it. I am deeply committed to creating positive change for my community and planting seeds of opportunity for my children to thrive here. So when I see people taking on the transformation of massive communities like the city of Detroit, I get pretty inspired and optimistic about the future of humanity. Jason Hall’s “Slow Roll” movement also strikes a chord for me because I love cycling! This video may be an advertising campaign for Apple, but it’s still a really cool video.
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