Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Broad concerns on the bridge in Detroit

I want to address some very broad and very specific and fantastic questions that were raised by Matthew in response to my previous post on the new bridge being proposed between the US and Canada, the focus of our time here in Detroit. Matthew and I generally agree on most things, yet there are differences in approach that makes discussion with him great...

His broader concerns are the following:
Most of your specific criticisms seem to be condemnations of our society as a whole more than specific problems with the bridge (i.e. choose your battles wisely so you can be sure that you are addressing the main source of the problem). 
Agreed. My criticisms are condemnations of our society as a whole. The main source of the problem as I see it is the very foundation of society that leads us to make choices that do result in injustice towards the environment, and consequently towards people. Ours is a society of tradeoffs and compromises, in which those that lose lose, and those that gain gain. What I mean is that many times, regardless of how you might do the accounting of "costs" and "benefits," the costs are born by people who have no other choice. What the bridge is is a manifestation of such an ethic.

I think the best strategy for building momentum in the environmental movement is to attack the very worst offenders first. By choosing battles that most people can agree on we get to solve some of the most important problems without giving fuel to distracters who accuse us of being anti-progress. 
Absolutely. There are so many easy targets for this - polluting incinerators, mountaintop removers, fracking companies. The list goes on and on. There are so many targets, though, that rather than providing a hit-list of entities to take action against, we are overwhelmed by how ingrained ecological degradation is in our behaviour, and how our choices encourages and patronises their existence. We may also convince ourselves that we are trapped with their existence, that there is no way out. For example, many people probably don't like sitting in traffic for many hours each week along their fifteen-mile drive to work, but we have do bear it because work is fifteen miles away. Now, we can try to take down the very worst offenders, of course. As much as I support it and advocate for it, I feel that this won't adequately address the foundational problems that result in such industries. It will only allow others to come up with new ways to harm nature, and consequently people. I agree with Matthew that maybe my writing can serve as fuel to distracters who accuse us of being anti-progress; I am hoping that by trying to address his concerns, I may be able to straddle this line a little bit better than I do.

I will address more specific concerns of his in my next post, with some very interesting material from a discussion with Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision and Southwest Detroit Business Association today. 

1 comment:

  1. Really terrific post! I found your arguments quite compelling and I don't see any fault with them. I think you have done a great job of highlighting where the cultural battle has to occur and why we cannot just ignore that aspect. In regard to addressing the "worst offenders," I have a project I have been thinking about on and off. Maybe we could discuss it sometime in the near future?