A city in ruins

Here’s a fascinating aerial tour of Detroit from the New York Times. The last picture is especially haunting—close-in suburbs of the city have been all but grassed over, as the city has sought to cover the rubble of abandoned and decayed buildings. The result is a strange, “urban island” setting for downtown Detroit, seen best in the last photo of the collection.

Check out the Google Maps view of Detroit, and you’ll find that the prevalence of grassed-over lots truly is widespread. You’ll all notice the sheer volume of single-family home surrounding the downtown area—massive neighborhoods that don’t seem to be broken up by shopping centers or other non-residential zones.

The author-photographer accentuates these photos with some interesting thoughts:

I think that the inner ring of Detroit will win out in the long run, as cities are and will continue to be the greenest places to live on a per-capita basis. This is made only more striking when I fly over the suburbs and see the inefficiency of single-family homes. They are dependent on cars, for one thing, and are connected by miles of paved roads to single-use zones of office and retail developments. These areas will not fare well, if we begin to mitigate climate change through measures like a carbon tax.

Quote of the Day: Matt Ridley on “Carrying Capacity”

Matt Ridley has a great column in today’s Wall Street Journal combatting ecologists’ “carrying capacity” beliefs about earth’s resources and, by implication, political efforts to regulate resource consumption.

“What frustrates [economists] is [ecologists’] tendency to think in terms of static limits. Ecologists can’t seem to see that when whale oil starts to run out, petroleum is discovered, or that when farm yields flatten, fertilizer comes along, or that when glass fiber is invented, demand for copper falls.”

He continues later:

“This disagreement goes to the heart of many current political issues and explains much about why people disagree about environmental policy. In the climate debate, for example, pessimists see a limit to the atmosphere’s capacity to cope with extra carbon dioxide without rapid warming. So a continuing increase in emissions if economic growth continues will eventually accelerate warming to dangerous rates. But optimists see economic growth leading to technological change that would result in the use of lower-carbon energy. That would allow warming to level off long before it does much harm.”